“I’m running on hot chocolate and willpower right now,” I said to my husband. It was Monday morning and we were on the way to the store to pick up a couple of items I needed for baking. I said I wasn’t going to do it this year, but once again, I found myself just trying to get through “the next thing.” It’s not that I was doing all that much; it’s just that with fibromyalgia, you have to space out what you do to try not to cause a flare, and I didn’t really have that much time between things so that I could space them out. I was starting to feel stressed that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done and I could feel the fatigue starting to set in. Each day I would pray for enough strength to get through whatever the day held. I’m happy to report that I’ve got everything done now except for some gift wrapping and the couple of dishes I have to fix for Christmas dinner. Now I can sit back and enjoy the next couple of days, reflecting on the reason we celebrate and enjoying time with family.
I usually do a pretty good job of guarding my schedule and pacing myself so that I don’t overdo it, but sometimes I just have to push through and hope the price isn’t too steep. Of course, this is a choice I make. In this case, baking cookies to send to our kids, knowing how much they enjoy them each year, was worth it to me. I managed to bake three kinds of cookies Monday, and because I did pay attention to what my body was telling me and gave myself time to rest between batches, I wasn’t even that tired by the time they were finished.
Living with fibromyalgia (and I suspect any other chronic illness) is a continual learning process, and progress is definitely not linear. As I talked about in the post Lessons From the Grandpa Tree, sometimes you may be getting stronger without even realizing it. Learning to pace yourself is one aspect of living well with fibromyalgia. How do we figure out how to do that? By listening to our bodies. I used to tell my personal training clients that you have to listen to your body. This takes on added importance when you live with fibromyalgia or other chronic illnesses because by paying attention to what your body is telling you, you may be able to detect the early warning signs of a flare and do what you need to do to lessen its severity.
The bottom line is that you have to find what works for you, and paying attention to what your body is telling you can help you figure that out. I talked about my “pushing through” some of the things I needed to get done but for some people that might not be an option. I have only learned how much I can push and what I need to do to lessen my chances of a flare by trial and error. It continues to be a learning process, but I’m able to read my body’s signals better now.
Maybe you’re still in the learning process too. If you are, I’d like to encourage you to be patient with yourself as you learn about your illness and how your body reacts to things. You may not be able to predict how things are going to go, but by learning to pay attention to the subtle signals your body sends, you learn what you can and can’t do, and you learn the best way to manage your energy and pain levels.
Have you learned to recognize the “early warning” signs? How do you handle busy times like this?