Pacing: Learning My Limits, Honoring Them

I have a history of finding myself spending days alone, doing next to nothing, constantly worrying about what’s going to trip my brain and make things worse. Or making plans and wanting to pack everything in, completely overextending myself. Slowly, but surely, I’m doing less of both. I’m getting better with the idea of pacing, though I still have room for great improvement.

Before I talk about what has been working for me specifically, let’s refresh us about the concept of pacing and how it fits into an overarching personalized behavioral pain management program.

The idea of pacing is to stay within a reasonable range of pain and exertion at any given moment so you don’t drive yourself toward a crash. The way The Lemons Center illustrates this is an idea they refer to as “checking your gauges.” Just like when you’re driving a car and monitoring the gauges on the dashboard for speed, fuel, oil and other messages the car gives you, pay attention to the messages your body gives you. Pacing involves adopting a mindset of not allowing yourself to become overwhelmed and stressed out by your limitations, instead of respecting them and consciously living within them.

Pacing on Vacation

In September you might remember that my husband and I went on a vacation to San Diego. I did a good job pacing on our vacation. We didn’t make it see everything on our list of ideas, but we did everything we felt was a must. Even better, I didn’t kill myself trying to fit everything in and go, go, go.

I took naps in between activities and gave my husband the okay to do things without me. Our hotel was on the beach, so it was a perfect set up for allowing him to go enjoy the ocean and beach and people watch while I got the rest I needed to enjoy myself on the trip.

Pacing at the Holidays

We were lucky enough to host two gatherings during the 2011 holidays. I love entertaining but know it drains my energy quickly, so planning ahead was extremely important.

In November my husband and I hosted his family for a Thanksgiving meal. I made the potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pies completely ahead. My husband took lead on the turkey, and almost everything else was heating and mixing. It was great. I really enjoyed the meal, but I was also able to enjoy time with everyone after we ate rather than immediately crashing the way I did last time we hosted them for Thanksgiving.

I handled it largely the same way when we had some college friends over right after Christmas. My mom helped me with some things, and I spent the week before the party making something every day so I wouldn’t be too overextended the day of the party. I could have done a better job with not bustling around like a madwoman the day of the party, but overall it was great. Lots of good food and catching up.

Pacing with Physical Fitness

I’d come to believe a few years ago that I just wasn’t able to exercise anymore because of my chronic migraine attacks. I used to be an athletic person and was always fit despite being a larger girl. Unfortunately the worse my migraines got, the less I could do. And because I stopped doing anything I felt like I was stuck there, doing nothing.

I had to start out very, very slow and do only a little at a time, but I’m pleased to report that I can do some of the things I used to do. I have to listen to my body, and I can’t get ahead of myself by thinking that because I can tolerate 20 minutes means I should push myself to 40 minutes. But it’s better and I feel good about being able to move my body some.

Related Posts:
Pacing: An Important Tool for Coping with Chronic Illness
Your Chronic Pain Toolbox: Personalized Pain Management

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Content by Diana E. Lee.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain, and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.