If there was just one thing I would like people to understand about fibromyalgia, it would be the profound fatigue that defines us. Sure, everyone gets tired. Everyone has a limit to what they can accomplish in a day. The thing that’s unique to fibromyalgia is the degree of our fatigue and the fact that resting doesn’t restore us.
Here’s what I mean: Typical people can do a physical activity until they’re tired, rest for a while, then get up and do some more. Not us. We can do a physical activity until we’re tired. However, no matter how long we rest, we just can’t muster the strength to get up and do any more.
When our energy tanks for the day, we’re done. Kaput! I’ve had to call my husband to come pick up me many times after an enjoyable walk, a rest on a bench, and an inability to make it home.
In order to live our lives to the fullest, there are two important factors to consider about fatigue. The first involves knowing our limits. The second involves pacing.
Of course, there’s a difference between knowing our limits and respecting them. Disappointing as it might be, we may need to modify or even opt out of a particular activity. I, for one, rarely hesitate to do that anymore. The consequences of overactivity, such as increased pain and fatigue for at least the next day or two, are just not worth it to me.
Knowing our limits is not as easy as it sounds, however. Those limits are constantly in flux. During, and shortly after, a period of increased symptom severity, our bodies may be greatly deconditioned. Those are the times when we are most limited.
However, if we’ve recently experienced fewer symptoms, we may have regularly stretched and exercised. In that case, we may be much less limited. At those times, people we know often have difficulty believing the severity of our illness.
The second thing to consider is pacing. In many ways, this is even more challenging than knowing our limits. For someone with fibromyalgia, pacing means resting before becoming tired. Knowing that it’s time to rest and actually doing it requires a great degree of self-discipline.
The challenge is that there are always things that need to be done. These things can only be done when you have energy. Because that energy is so precious, there’s a natural urge to finish them so that you can move on to the things you’d rather be doing.
Therein lies the problem. By the time your “must-do’s” are done, you’ve no energy left for the “want-to-do’s.” It’s frustrating, for sure.
One technique I’ve adopted to improve my pacing and avoid increasing my fatigue is to keep two lists. One includes all the things I need to do that require physical activity. That list currently includes declaring war on the dust bunnies under the furniture and removing the “Danger Zone” warning on my refrigerator. Each of these tasks will require some serious pacing.
The second list includes sedentary activities that can be done while resting. That list includes bills to pay, appointments to schedule, and financial issues to resolve. It does not include playing Words with Friends or reading my recent library book. Those are things I’d prefer to be doing if it weren’t for the necessary items on the two previously mentioned lists.
The goal, of course, is to find the right balance of each type of activity. I wish there were a secret formula for how much of each to do. But my abilities are different from yours. And they vary from day to day. The best we can do is to listen to our bodies — and forgive ourselves when we don’t always heed what they tell us.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.
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