How Do You Know When to 'Push Through' or Rest When You're Always Tired?

In day-to-day life, everyone hits a point when they need decide whether to continue what they’re doing or to just stop. To be finished. To be talk to the hand, walk away and crawl into bed over it. We know that’s not possible all the time, but sometimes it’s really necessary for our health and our sanity. So how do we choose when to push ourselves to get stuff done and how do we know when to rest or just stop?

images1 And I truly mean this as a question as compared to most things I write. You know, the stuff giving away snippets of my wisdom as an (ahem) older (ahem) person who’s autoimmune. Nobody has all the answers and with autoimmune, everyone’s experience is so different it’s truly mind boggling. And our individual experiences change day to day as well, so it’s no wonder we are confused about what we go through. So I’m asking — how do we know when to push through and when not to?

It would seem obvious to say stop when you get tired. Except I am always tired. I wasn’t like this just a few years back. Now I am. So, do I wash a dish and then sit? It will take an entire week to do a single load of dishes this way. And with four people in my house, I will have dishes on my floor before I finally get the dishwasher full.

I used to stop when I got overheated. Now, I get overheated in my sleep (though I might be teaching Jazzercise in my dreams) I have fans in every room. Even bending over can cause me to sweat. So picking up dust bunnies has turned into an aerobic event that lasts all day. It’s like: “One and breathe and sit and wipetheforehead and…”

Of course, pain can also be a signal to stop. But honestly, I’ve been in pain for so long that I usually ignore it. Otherwise, step vacuuming would be a thing. I have very long arms so it would work like this: Step, Stretch, Vacuum back and forth, and Rest. I will have a clean carpet in 4-foot strips. Fortunately, I have area rugs so it’s more feasible than with full carpeting. Unfortunately, I tried this approach with a steam cleaner. Much more difficult. And wet. Really wet.

A less common issue I’ve had is random trouble breathing. This is one of my more pressing signals not to push myself. But that’s been getting worse lately and more frequent, too. I have recently been given an inhaler for when I exercise. So do I get to call house work exercise now? Like seriously, scrubbing stuff is really hard for me. Do I wear the inhaler around my neck or just create an inhale-o-mask to wear while cleaning the bathrooms? And the kitchen counters. Oh, and the stove. The fridge. Maybe the dog…

And then there’s the fact that I just get really weak. Sometimes I even lose the feeling in my legs when I stand too long. Or for five minutes. Or when I cook. And I’m the queen of single pan quick meals. So my choices are to sit randomly during the 10-minute prep time, or, more excitingly, finish prepping my meal and put it in the oven while feeling as if I have no legs and am floating around the kitchen like a ghost. (I admit that one is a bit cool.)

But back to the original question: When should we push through and when shouldn’t we? I have outlined that in my case, it can be done. But should it? I pushed through yesterday. I made my boys a home cooked breakfast, cleaned the kitchen, did some laundry, made the family an old recipe from my childhood for dinner, and cleaned out the filters for our water unit. I pushed. And because I pushed, today, I am paying for it. So should I have pushed? I guess only I can answer that. And it can only be answered at that time. Just as only you can answer for yourself at the time when you face such a situation. A situation when you must push through or sit.

I still don’t know if did the right thing yesterday. And maybe that means I really did do too much.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Illness

Legs of sportswoman during training on treadmill

What Fitness Instructors Need to Remember About People With Physical Limitations

As I’ve written about before, despite my chronic illness and several surgeries, I try to keep a regular fitness routine. I don’t always feel up to it, but when I do have enough energy to work out, I try to pick classes that I’ll have fun with, such as dance. Now that I am living [...]

How My Disease Helped Me Find My Self-Worth

I have been shy my entire life. Not just shy, but excessively so. I am uncomfortable in most social situations that involve talking. Especially large groups. Ironically, I earned my degree in education and became quite good at presentations and trainings. But that’s not what this is about. This is about breaking out of my [...]
woman sitting with back against wall

Why We Need to Stop Comparing All Illnesses to Cancer

The day I received my chronic illness diagnosis still ranks among the worst days of my life. It solidified my worst fear during the years of testing and misdiagnoses and uncertainty: that my life would never be the same. Friends and family rushed in with loving expressions and compassionate words. And, inevitably, as many newly diagnosed [...]
drawing of woman with long hair and bangs

No, Chronic Illness Is Not 'All About Choice'

I was in a shop with some friends when the subject of jobs arose. For a lot of people with chronic illness, including myself, this is a loaded topic. I briefly mentioned that my aspirations had needed to change due to illness and I wasn’t working. It prompted a lecture from one of the store’s [...]