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Life With Chronic Illness and the Importance of Pacing Techniques

Moderation is something where we learn about this pain, fatigue and life balance. It is about pacing and limits. It is also about still managing to do things we want to do in our lives. For example, I have a family event coming up this Sunday and I want to go to it, so I will. I will pace myself and I will plan for a migraine that may happen and for the pain that also may become worse while I am out and about. I will make sure not to exceed my limits. Then, I also scheduled the next day off from work because due to the extra fatigue and expending of energy, I always account for one recovery day. Again, another pacing technique.

This is also used on vacations. I account for a recovery day when I arrive, and I account for recovery when I return. The way I see it is just moderation in all things. I do events and activities but I may not be there for as long, and I may not be as socially active as other people. I take the time to recover and de-stress. I actively do things to de-stress, like meditation. Society is the hare and I am the tortoise. I will, and do, turn down things I know will exceed my limits in pain or fatigue – or if there is no recovery time. And I am fine with that. Pacing is very important to chronic illness management. And I feel so much better when I pace.

I know isolation. I know “hermiting.” I know not doing anything because I was in pain and doing things would aggravate it. I know how this leads to can’t-ing ourselves right out of things we want to do…but don’t have the energy or feel it will trigger pain so we decide just not to do it. I’ve been there. And in the end, you just don’t do anything as a result.

I do it. I think many of us do it. Here is the warning: I “hermited” for a few years. More than a few when my pain wasn’t being managed. And it isn’t good for a person, even an introvert. We need to get out and about once in a while and socialize.So sometimes we have to get out of that comfort zone a little and find ways to engage more in the world.

Here are some things I do:

1. Go for walks (get me out of the house).

2. Coffee with my mom.

3. Coffee with a an old co-worker.

4. Game night with friends.

5. Karaoke night.

6. I did paint night one night. Going to try that again. It was a blast.

7. Getting together for dinner, or shopping with my mom.

8. Family events.

9. Fires pits gatherings at our house with friends and/or our neighbors.

This weekend I plan on going to a fire and BBQ with friends in the city. And next weekend to my uncle’s 50 anniversary party event. So in the beginning, I was doing nothing. What helped was a little pain management. Then some acceptance, like having awareness that I’ll be at pain at home as well. I’ll have pain either way. As long as I go prepared I can enjoy myself. And by enjoying myself, I get rid of that sense of isolation and I boost my mood. I don’t need a lot of social contact being an introvert. Just a little and quality time, not quantity for me. When I go out, I get:

1. Decrease in isolation.

2. Boost to mood.

3. A great time and laughs.

4. Visiting people I enjoy being around.

5. Doing things I enjoy.

6. De-stressing.

7. Taking my mind off things.

I started really slow. I was just initially going for coffee with mom every couple of weeks or so. Just to get out of the house, which was starting to get to me. I  slowly added to it from there. And going for walks, also to get me out of the house and my initial exercise program.

To do similar things, it depends on your pain, fatigue and comfort zone. It likewise depends on the activities. Sometimes people invites me to concerts I’d love to go, but I can’t go. Migraines can’t handle the noise and lights. They’re just not something I can do. But a game night? Yes, I can do that. Or movie marathon. Or a small pub karaoke session, I can handle that. Going out for coffee or inviting someone to my place, or inviting a few people over for a fire at my place is also something mellow I enjoy. Going to a loud, packed bar or club? Nope. Tried that one night with a live band. Migraine in less than three seconds and it was a bad one, so off I went. So, it depends on the activities to engage in.

You have to know when to say no or what to suggest. Also, sometimes you should meet new people. When you hermit for years? Not many people stick around, I’ll tell you that. We had to meet new people to hang out with. Two introverted people meeting new people? Hard stuff, man. But we did. Slowly but surely, and it was worth it to me. It was valuable to do. It made me feel connected and engaged with the world again.

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