Monday, March 28, 2011

Pacing: Just Three Things


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From time to time I find myself having trouble keeping my head above water. It usually starts when I'm unable to do anything for a day or two (or longer). Nothing around the house, no errands, no writing. Nothing. When I come back to a more manageable level of pain and energy I feel completely overwhelmed by all the things I feel I need to do. Being overwhelmed makes me shut down because I feel as though there is so much to do I'll never catch up. I don't know where to start and feel like there isn't any reason to bother.

To combat this overwhelmed feeling and the resulting panic I have instituted what I call a "just three things" rule.


Pacing is an incredibly important part of managing a chronic illness, but it can be hard to put the concept into practice in your day to day life. Pacing encompasses the idea of checking your gauges, which I've written about in the past (see Pacing: An Important Tool for Coping with Chronic Illness). But it also involves adopting a mindset of not allowing yourself to become overwhelmed and stressed out by your limitations. 

The "just three things" rule is this: Every day pick out three tasks that are manageable given your limitations that day. Some days it might be something bigger, such as grocery shopping, while other days it might be something as simple as brushing your teeth. We're all at different levels of pain, stress, fatigue and depression, so your list may not look the same as mine. That's the beauty of this kind of individualized approach.

Adopting this rule takes away that tendency to say "but what about that and that and that" into infinity, as well as that "OMG I feel so horrible this has to wait until tomorrow" desire. Yes, some things will have to wait, but if we work within our limits we're treating ourselves with respect and kindness. Life is far too short to waste time berating yourself for having limitations due to your health issues.


It also helps me roll with the punches of never really knowing from one day to the next what to expect of my pain or energy levels. This approach treats every single day as a new start and keeps me from trying to impose too many expectations on myself without taking reality into consideration.


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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.