Deciding When to 'Overdo It' If You Have Limited Energy Supplies


With any form of chronic illness, and particularly with conditions like fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, it is hard to keep within the boundaries of a very limited energy supply at the best of times. A quiet weekend at home for most people can still be an effort for a chronic-lifer, so what about when something special comes along? A wedding, an important work event, a special celebration, or just something super awesome?

Well, here’s the thing. Truly participating in special events and social occasions will always exceed the energy restrictions of spoonie-dom and it becomes a trade off between the payback, the flare afterwards and the time to recover, and the overall personal benefit of taking part.

Choosing when to overdo things is not easy, but here are a few tricks I’ve found help me in deciding whether or not to take the plunge:

Do you have a choice? Sometimes you don’t and all you can do is try and prepare ahead and plan for recovery as best you can. A lot of the time there will be a choice and you need to decide whether it’s sensible to take part. And even if it isn’t and you desperately want to, then maybe you should anyway. You know what the consequences will be and if that isn’t enough to put you off, then maybe the right thing to do is do it anyway. It’s kind of a “just because you could, doesn’t necessarily mean you should” situation.

Can you plan for extra rest in advance? Choice or not, you’re going to have to plan ahead to give yourself the best chance of being well enough to participate. Rest is just as important before as it is after. Eat and drink well, don’t neglect yourself and be kind to your body.

Do you have time for recovery after? Your body will most likely enforce this on you anyway, whether the day after or three days after (cheers post-exertional malaise [PEM]*). Don’t fight it. Give in and let yourself rest. You may have to postpone other plans, and some tasks might not get done for a few days. That’s OK. Your health is more important.

Do you have exit plans? So, you’re definitely going to get involved but are there some logistical considerations that might help reduce the payback you face afterwards? Plan in case you need an early exit if you start to feel bad, and don’t be afraid to use it.

What are your coping strategies? Think about how you can manage your energy, too. Maybe you can sit somewhere quiet to recover a bit, get outside and breathe some fresh air. Take pain relief and any other accessories that help: TENs, heat patches, anything that helps keep things bearable. And tell some trusted friends who will be with you if you’re struggling.

Savor the memories. Most important of all, make the most of the occasion. Savor the memories, soak them all in and put them somewhere safe so you can call on them when you’re struggling later. No matter how bad the payback is, as long as you had the best time, it won’t feel quite so bad.

* PEM – Post–exertional malaise (PEM) is one symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but is itself more complex than a single symptom. Patients experience fatigue, pain, cognitive difficulties, sore throat, and/or swollen lymph nodes after physical or mental activity.

How do you decide when it’s worth overdoing things? What coping strategies would you use to make the most of a special event?

This blog was originally posted on Dancing Through Rainbows.


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