Pace yourself

This one's hard for me. Pace yourself. Right. You gotta be kidding.

 A multi-tasker and workaholic from way back, I generally work at warp-speed trying to get it all done. I wear many hats both at work and at home, so to get it all done, I have to move fast.

 Earlier this year, 2007, I asked Gil to help me walk the dogs on a day when I was in a particular fibro-fog and really wiped out. I walked out the door with Hobie, while Gil brought up the rear with Hector. Hobie, Hector and I walk really fast for the purpose of exercise, as well as to get the chore of walking done quicker. Hector started pulling Gil so as to keep up with me and Hobie who had shot out ahead of them. Gil is a slow mover (ask anyone who has ever been driving behind him on the road, or walking behind him down the hall at work). He moves slowly. He and I, we are like the tortoise and the hare. (I also frequently say that we're like Jack Sprat and his wife, too -- sound it out in your head, you will now chuckle.) And what was the story of the tortoise and the hare? Wasn't it that the hare was hasty and ended up getting all messed up, whilst the tortoise just plodded along and somehow won the race? That tale of childhood days is more applicable to a fibromyalgic's situation than perhaps any other.

 We need to learn how to slow down, to conserve, not expend, our energy. We need to savor the moments, and have our fibro-fogged heads on straight so we can concentrate.

 Slowing down will make us able to concentrate better.

 Some of us have mitral valve prolapse (very common in people with FMS), that extra cup of coffee to give you the jolt of energy, coupled with your inner dialogue laced with anxiety will inevitably cause your heart to race, adrenaline to rush, and the next thing you know, you're crashing.

 Fibromyalgics (and those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well) often fall into the trap of "pushing and crashing." Sound familiar? There is a way to curtail your use of "push and crash" to get it all done -- by setting a moderate pace, and sticking to it throughout your day.

 Since that day, when Gil and I took the dog walk, and he hollered from behind that I should slow down, I've been trying it on for size. I started with the dog walks. No longer do I run at high-speed down the block, the dogs dragging me as if I were driving a chariot. It's not a race, it's supposed to be fun. I wasn't having fun anymore. It was becoming a chore, and worse still I'd end up in pain for the rest of the day and totally exhausted.

 Now, I pace myself. Slow and steady she goes. Walk up the road at a nice leisurely pace. Hey, this is a lot better! I think the dogs like it too.

 My anxiety level has dropped considerably, and this translates down the leashes to them. I take a shorter walk, and therefore I haven't used up all of my energy before I've even left the house for work, and the shorter and slower walk means I've saved even more energy.

 Bringing this strategy to your job is easy. Apply it in the same way. Guess what? I did, and nobody seemed to notice. And you know why? Because I'm actually getting more done than I was when I was in "hare mode." Surprised? Me, too. I never in a million years would've thought that slowing down on the job would mean I'd get more done, but that is exactly what occurred, and it feels so wonderful I now try to do it every day.

 Prioritize: If you're a self-starter, then you need to prioritize your workload. Start with the stuff that has to be done "today." Then, sort through that list from most important to least important. Concentrate on those items first and do each one slowly and thoroughly before moving on to the next. If you have time to add something that doesn't have to be done "today", great! Add it to the list after you've done "today's" tasks. Do one at a time, and do it thoroughly and methodically. Take breaks in between to stretch, move around the room, get some fresh air if that's permitted, have a drink of water, go to the bathroom and move on to the next project. And so on.

 If you're not a self-starter, your boss has probably already prioritized your workload for you. Your job is to set a steady, moderate, comfortable pace and keep yourself balanced while doing so. Do those stretches, drink that water, and take that break. Eat a healthy snack or lunch and try to get some fresh air and sunlight.

 A word of advice: don't "drag out" your daily tasks in the name of fibromyalgia or in an effort to prove to others that you're too sick to continue working. That's not what we're trying to accomplish here -- we don't want to make our bosses angry by radically changing how we do things, thereby becoming "slow" when once we were the fastest kid in town. No. The objective is to lower your inner stress level, anxiety level, and your own expectations of yourself -- but not to lower the opinion or value of yourself in the eyes of others. If you spend your day trying to prove to your boss and colleagues just how sick you are, that just wastes even more of your very precious energy.

 So, set a steady, moderate pace for yourself in everything you do (not just on the job), and you will find you have more energy and less pain overall.

 This web site is intended for educational and informational purposes only and does not promote medical advice nor substitute for treatment by a licensed physician. Readers should not try any of the methods described here themselves without consulting a professional.