Secrets to Successful Pacing with Fibromyalgia
Updated: Apr 30
Fibromyalgia is known for its disabling symptoms, pervasive chronic pain, and severe fatigue. If you have Fibromyalgia, you know how intense these symptoms are.
However, the degree of severity of symptoms may significantly fluctuate day-to-day. Therefore, some days you feel better or worse than other days.
There is an effective way to help manage Fibromyalgia symptoms, a strategy for having more good days than bad and making your bad days less intense.
Good symptom management always needs to include an element of pacing. Pacing is extremely helpful in managing pain and fatigue and is probably the most challenging thing you need to learn.
Pacing means not waiting until you're exhausted to stop what you are doing. Instead, it means setting a schedule of productivity and rest. Sometimes only a few minutes at a time.
Then, you will gradually increase your activity until you find the right balance between productivity and rest. The most important point is learning to do this for everything you do, even when you feel well.
Now, let's look at what usually happens. You're having a good day, and what do you do? You zoom around the house trying to catch up on all the housework, right?
You stay a little extra at work to finish that project. You go out with your family for dinner. Or maybe a trip to the mall to do some shopping. You plain overdo it!
Then what happens? You CRASH BIG TIME. You spend the next few days in bed or with a severely reduced schedule.
It's time to stop. You can't manage your symptoms this way. Pacing your activities by alternating between rest and action is a better approach to living with Fibromyalgia.
Now, this doesn't mean just when you are feeling unwell. The key is to pace yourself when you feel at your best! This way, you won't cause a Fibro flare-up by doing too much.
So how do you do this? Here are some basics you can implement today and improve your symptom management through pacing.
USE AN ALARM OR TIMER
Learn to pace your activities by using the clock. Set your timer on your phone for five minutes or a little longer. When the timer rings, change positions, stretch or rest.
You will be able to gradually increase the time for activity and reduce rest breaks as you learn what your endurance level is.
If you are sitting, stand for a few minutes and vice versa. Walk around your room for a minute before sitting back down.
Do a little mild stretching at least hourly. Be cautious about overdoing it with stretching. By this, I mean intensity rather than frequency. Our muscles respond to extreme stretching by contracting even more. Avoid this is by stretching just until you feel the muscle extend. Easy does it is best.
A physiotherapist can recommend some good stretching exercises. You can do a lot of stretching while sitting or even from bed.
SET A SCHEDULE
Plan your activities for the next week. Be careful not to overbook your schedule. Plan out time for rest, personal time, family time, and work if you are still working.
Remember, your schedule doesn't have to be set in stone. You can always change it. Now that you have a plan, try to stick to it. You might find it best to make a schedule one day at a time.
If so, try to create your schedule the night before or first thing in the morning. If your symptoms are relatively stable, you may prefer to organize your schedule a week at a time.
Set aside some time on Sunday evening or Monday morning to plan your schedule for the next seven days.
Your daily schedule may be too much to keep up with. Don't worry. There are ways to manage. Think of this as a learning opportunity.
First, list what you want to get down and order each task according to urgency and importance. Then, when you allocate tasks to your schedule, you can spread the tasks out according to priority.
Don't try to do all the essential tasks all at once. Also, don't put too many strenuous tasks together—plan for rest breaks. Remember, you're pacing yourself.
SPLIT TASKS INTO SMALLER BITS
It's time to allow yourself to take your time. You don't have to wash all the dishes at once. You don't have to put them all away right after washing. Same with cleaning the floors.
Instead of doing the whole house, do one room each day. Learning to split household chores into smaller chunks is an integral part of pacing.
LEARN TO DELEGATE
Delegating can be challenging. Asking for help is not always easy. But for many people with Fibromyalgia, it's a necessary part of symptom management. Try to enlist the help of family members.
At first, delegating chores or errands might cause a little friction, so it's best to explain why you need their help. First, get some information on Fibromyalgia and print out some copies. Then go through it together. Once they fully understand the situation, they may be more willing to help.
LEARN TO SAY NO
Saying no is tricky. We often feel guilty when we have to refuse someone's request. An easy way to say no gracefully is, "I'm sorry, but my schedule is full right now. I don't like to say yes and then not be able to fulfill my obligation and let you down."
They'll understand that your refusal is because you don't want to disappoint them, and it's not against them.
You may be wondering how you can pace yourself at work. Granted, your boss may not like you to take a 5-minute break for every 5 minutes you work! However, it may just be that your symptoms are so severe that you might have to reduce your work schedule or even stop working altogether.
It can be a tough decision. You might want to consider working from home as an alternative. Now more than ever, employers are open to this.
You may also be able to find work-from-home opportunities through the internet. Working from home is not for everyone, though. You will need some computer skills and the self-discipline to stick with it. You also might well enough to work from home. But it may be something you can work towards.
As you learn to pace yourself using the strategies outlined above, you may find you can manage a couple of hours of work at your computer each day.
However, planning your pacing schedule and using the above strategies becomes even more critical if you must work outside the home. You will need to delegate more, learn to say No to many things, and not overcrowd your schedule.
Managing your symptoms of Fibromyalgia through pacing is not always easy. Still, if done correctly, you will find that you will reduce the amount of downtime and get more done. Remember, easy does it!