If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see my little friend I accidentally uncovered in my garden a couple of weeks ago. When I plant my carrot seeds, I cover them with a sheet of cardboard for a week to protect the tiny seeds and allow them to germinate. Once they come up, I remove the cardboard. Imagine my surprise when I took up the cardboard and saw this little guy! There he was, all comfy and cozy tucked into his little toad bed, isolated from everything that might cause him pain. Just in case you’re worried about him, I made him a little stone toad house where he now resides….
Sometimes, I’m a lot like that little toad. When I’m in pain, all I want to do is bury myself under the covers and stay there, and some days, that’s exactly what I have to do. The only problem with that is that if we’re not careful, this can start a vicious pain cycle that’s hard to get out of.
See if any of this sounds familiar to you: I wake up, and for once, I don’t feel as if I’ve been hit by a truck, so I decide while I’m feeling good, I’d better take advantage of it and get some things done that I’ve been neglecting. I try to get as much done as I can while I feel like it, because I don’t know when I’m going to run out of energy. Fast forward to the next morning, and even my hair hurts. It’s obvious this is going to have to be a recovery day. Recovery days can be a great way to rest and recharge, but if I’m completely inactive on those days they seem to cause more harm than good.
My recovery days used to consist of lying or sitting around all day, doing as little as I possibly could. What I noticed, though, was that when I did that, the next day, I was even more sore and I felt even worse than I had the day before. This was the beginning of what I call the Pain/Inactivity cycle. The cycle would start with a bad pain day, whether from overdoing it or just one of those unpredictable flares, and the next thing I knew, I had spent a couple of weeks doing nothing but lying around in so much pain all I wanted to do was cry. That just wasn’t working for me. I knew I had to find a better way.
Of course, the best way to get out of this cycle is to avoid it in the first place, but as you know, sometimes those flares just hit you out of nowhere, regardless of how careful you’ve been to avoid doing things you know might cause them. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful for preventing and/or breaking the pain/inactivity cycle and maintaining my mobility:
- Don’t try to do everything in one day. Divide your your “to-do” list into different days of the week. Unless it’s something time-sensitive, I don’t decide which days I’m going to do what; that way, I can do what I feel up to doing on any given day as my energy level allows.
- Listen to your body. If you need to rest, rest. Don’t keep going until you’re completely tapped out. If you do, it will take much longer for you to recover.
- Take a recovery day if you need it. With fibromyalgia, you can only “push through” for so long before your body completely rebels. If you’re listening to your body and it tells you it needs a recovery day, by all means, take it!
- Structure your recovery day so that you get up and move around a little every couple of hours or so. I’m not talking about exercising; I’m just talking about getting up and moving around the house for a couple of minutes as you can tolerate it.
- Do a “test run” each day. No, I’m not suggesting that you get up and run :o)…. What I’ve found is that often I wake up in quite a bit of pain, but as I get up and start moving around, everything loosens up a bit and I start to feel better. I’ve learned not to assume that just because I wake up feeling bad that I’ll feel that way all day.
- If you’re trying to increase your activity level, do it slowly. Don’t try to drastically increase your activity level all at once. Take it slowly and make incremental increases each week.
Following these guidelines has helped me stay mobile, even on those days when I think I’d rather not be. I hope they’ll help you as well.
As my friend Kim over at I Tripped Over A Stone says, you have to find what works for YOU. Please share your favorite tips!