Have you ever heard of the spoon theory?! The spoon theory was created to help give a visual picture to help illustrate the energy limitations on people who live with a chronic illnesses ( which included chronic pain). The spoons represent a unit of energy. Every task you work at during the day uses up a spoon – depleting your energy reserve. Some tasks use more spoons then others. This theory not only helps people living with the chronic illness, but also helps those living without a chronic condition understand those who live with chronic illnesses.
The spoon theory is usually based on a 12 spoon count. You begin each day with 12 spoons. If one doesn’t get a good nights sleep, forgot medications or even skipped a meal immediately take a spoon away. If you have a cold or are sick automatically take four spoons away. Imagine starting your day with limited spoons. How would you function?! For example, you have a cold bug, were too exhausted to eat supper the night before, forgot to take your evening medication and did not sleep well. That leaves you 5 spoons left for the day.
I was introduced to the spoon theory in the fall of 2022. Before this I had never heard of this theory before. I wish health care providers would have shown me this theory long ago. We are often told to pace ourselves during the day, but most of us struggle with what pacing looks like when factoring in chronic pain. When given the visual aid of the spoon theory, we are able to understand how to be economical in how to spread and use our energy ( spoons) through out the day! I try to refer to this theory so I remember to pace myself everyday.
To “replenish” spoons a person needs to rest or take breaks between tasks to allow energy reserves to build back up. Keep in mind, just because you rest between tasks, does not necessarily mean your energy will rebuild. If you are like me, once I hit my limit for the day, no matter how much I rest, my energy does not seem to rebuild. Example. If I clean the floors in the morning and then rest for a few hours, my energy is still not replenished by the evening. Even though I use pacing the day, I still find myself exhausted. To help replenish spoons practicing self-care can help restock your energy.
Here are a few examples of what helps me replenish my energy ( your list will look different)
2. Resting in bed
4. Time with pets
6. I recently found a few guided meditation sessions that relax me so much that I am almost asleep at the end of them.
There are many websites out there explaining the spoon theory in greater depth. If you need more examples of which tasks use how many spoons, I found looking under images on google have a lot of different visual aids with different tasks. For more information on the spoon theory visit: here.