Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pacing: An Important Tool for Coping with Chronic Illness

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How many times have you had a good day only to drive yourself right back to bed by completely overdoing it and tackling everything on your to do list and then some? I can't count the number of times I've done this to myself. One of the great ideas I learned about at The Lemons Center for Behavioral Pain Management is pacing. It's a simple concept, but powerful and often hard to put into practice.

The idea of pacing is to stay within a reasonable range of pain and exertion at any given moment so you don't drive yourself toward a crash. The way The Lemons Center illustrates this is by an idea they refer to as "checking your gauges." Just like when you're driving a car and monitoring the gauges on the dashboard for speed, fuel, oil and other messages the car gives you, pay attention to the messages your body gives you. 

On a scale of 1-10 rate your pain, fatigue and emotional state in that moment (these numbers can change rapidly). If all your numbers are at a 6 or below, keep doing what you're doing, but continue to check your numbers from time to time in case you need to make adjustments. If any of your numbers are a 7, 8 or 9, slow down. Your body is telling you you're overdoing it and you need to address the way you are feeling. Continue to check your gauges as you make adjustments. If any of your numbers are a 10, stop what you are doing and take care of yourself. Don't keep pushing yourself or you're in for even more trouble. Keeping track of your numbers can be helpful in tracking patterns in your pain, fatigue and emotional health and for illustrating your symptoms and their impact for your doctors. Checking your numbers also keeps you honest about how you're actually doing. As sick people we often tend to minimize our symptoms, which doesn't do anything to help how we're feeling.
  • 1 - 6  Continue your activities; keep checking your gauges.
  • 7-9   Slow down; keep checking your gauges.
  • 10    Stop and take care of yourself.

Bottom line: Check your gauges and listen to the information they give you. It's truly as simple as that.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.