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The Chronic Illness Checklist I Use for Deciding Whether to Rest or Push Myself

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On most days, I am able to hold it together and push through the task of the day. Today was not one of them. When I woke up I had to ask myself, “Should I rest or push myself?” Ultimately I decided to rest and that led me to feel lazy. I am finding that there are consistent irregularities with my energy levels. Sometimes it is my fault and other times it comes out of nowhere. If you are in this situation, I have put together a small list of things I ask myself before pushing myself. Most times, I try to skip over the list but inevitably, I regret it.

  1. Did I eat something that’s difficult for my body to tolerate?

If yes, start day after 3 p.m.

About two years ago, I did an elimination diet and it revealed that I have three main food sensitivities (wheat, dairy, corn). What that means is that if I eat high concentrations of these foods, there is a high probability that I will be in a flare up for two or so days after. As a cook, sometimes eating these things are unavoidable, but I know what it will mean for me the next day.

  1. Did I wake up exhausted the day before?

If yes, rest in bed!

I learned this lesson the hard way. Who am I kidding? I re-learn this lesson about once a month. I have found that when I wake up exhausted for two days in a row, it is time to take a rest day. Sometimes I do not notice and inevitably that leads me to crash. The worst one I had landed me catatonic on the kitchen floor for about an hour.

  1. Do I have time to recover if I push right now?

If yes, push through!

In recent times, I have been scheduling physically tasking activities for the day before my off day. The reason is because I know it will lead me to a crash, but at the same time, it has to be done. I am still unsure if this is the best way to approach it, but I force myself to feel “normal.” Sometimes, doing things I used to do is the only way I show myself that I am still capable.

  1. Did I make a commitment?

If yes, push through! (Only if it is really important.)

Until last year, I always felt bad canceling plans, but now I do not. For that reason, it seems like I avoid some of my friends. This is not true. Instead of canceling, I prefer to not commit and disappoint. This sometimes means missing out on some important events and watching them over social media. I only make exceptions for my good friends, and when I arrive, the first thing I do is find a chair and stay seated till the end.

  1. Will this activity restore my energy?

If yes, push through always!

We all have those activities that make us feel better. When the opportunity comes up, you should always make an effort to participate. For me, child’s pose in yoga and dance always make me feel better. Because driving has been taking too much energy from me recently, occasionally I get invited to dance by friends who drive. Though I know it will leave me drained over the next days, I always go. That one outing can keep me pumped for two weeks after. We all have these activities and we have to prioritize them.

I am finding that dealing with a chronic condition is a fine balance between energy and tasks that need to get done. What you need to do day-to-day does not change much, but you have to find pockets of energy to use to get them done. Answering the question “should I rest or push myself?” is hard and your criteria will be different. What is important is that you have rules you follow to protect your health.

Take it one day at a time, warrior.

Originally published: June 4, 2020
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