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How to 'Power Up' Using Strategic Rest in Life With Chronic Illness

Superheroes and video game characters sometimes have to charge up before they can unleash their signature powerful move. As a nerd with a chronic illness, this very much resonates with me.

At the beginning of my “horizontal years,” I had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that sitting hurt and standing hurt, which doesn’t leave very many options for how I spend my time. I can lay on my back or one side or the other side or my stomach. That’s it. I’d try to push my physical limits and ended up paying for it with extra pain. I could stand for five minutes per hour and sit for five minutes per hour, then needed to lay down to let the pain subside before doing it again.

I don’t know exactly when or why or how my mindset changed. I started viewing my laying time as recharging my sitting time and standing time. Once it was recharged, I now had the thought of “I have five minutes I can stand now, what do I want to do with it?” and made good use of it. After that, I had to recharge my standing time.

A superhero has to charge up their power move. I have to charge up standing and sitting, but now, in my mind, it’s heroic. My standing time is a gift that I should use rather than squander, or I’ve wasted it for that hour. Same with my sitting time. But even if I don’t make great use of it, I can recharge and view the recharging time as a gift too. It was a total shift: before, I viewed rest as a necessary evil, something I had to do because pain made me do it but I didn’t really want to. Now, rest helps me do the things I want. It’s a strategy I can employ on purpose and it gives me a sense of control back.

Sometimes superheroes have to unleash their power move before they’ve had enough time to charge up, especially if stakes are high and the situation is dire. But if they do, they pay for it. Maybe they’re weakened for the rest of the fight. Maybe they need extra time to recover back to normal, or extra time to charge up if they want to do it again. It’s something they can do but generally won’t.

Same with me: sometimes, something is important enough that I can’t wait until my standing or sitting time are fully recharged. Meals are one of those things; I can’t finish a meal with only five minutes of standing and five minutes of sitting, so I need more laying time to charge back up. Or, maybe one particular doctor’s appointment is a longer drive and so I use more of my sitting time, and the rest of the week I might have less sitting time each day because I depleted that reserve (kind of like overdrawing your bank account and you get dinged with lots of overdraft fees). Was it worth going to that doctor’s appointment? Yes. Did I need to account for having less sitting time the rest of the week? Yes. But I know if I’m diligent in resting, it will recharge.

Think of your life, your situation, and what’s affecting you. What’s your power move you need to charge up? How do you charge up for it? What happens if you don’t charge up enough, and what are the situations where you’re most likely to do that?

By making rest a strategic part of your day, you can make sure you’re all charged up for the times you need it most.

Getty image by DanielVilleneuve.