The Mighty Logo

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

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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?


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

Originally published: January 31, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home