By: Elisabeth Deffner
Reprinted from FMOnline
Each of us is given 24 hours to spend as we choose—every day, rain or shine, flare or not. How do you spend your time? How can you make the most of it? Following are some of the top tips we received from people with fibromyalgia who have discovered the best ways to manage their time and conserve their energy.
Just Say No!
This can be a hard skill for anyone to develop. What helps? Practice!
“It’s okay to have made plans and then not feel well and not go. It does not make you a bad person if you don’t go or don’t do something because it’s a bad day,” says Dianna Johnson.
When you do have to cancel plans, be sure to explain that it’s because of a health situation—not because you changed your mind. A cancellation can turn into an educational opportunity for your loved ones; it will be easier for them to understand what you’re going through if they learn more about fibromyalgia and your experience with it.
Choose Your Top Task
What are the most important tasks you need to accomplish today? This week? This month?
Make a list of all the tasks you would like to complete. Then rank them in order of most important to least important. You can’t be sure when your energy level will dip, so attack the most important tasks first.
Roxie, an FM patient in Oregon, plans to complete one chore each day; it might be as big as mopping several rooms and shampooing the carpet or as small as washing a few dishes, depending on how she’s feeling that day.
If you are in a group situation—in an office or at home—make sure you take advantage of teampower to accomplish what you need to get done.
“My kids always wanted to help do the chores, so I let them, and slowly progressed into more detailed duties,” says Marci Kelly. “They sort and match their socks. They put their laundry away (including hanging shirts up). They can load and unload the dishwasher—with supervision—to put the dishes away that they cannot reach. The two of them can also wrap presents, use tape correctly, sort their laundry, put it in into the washer, add the soap, and start the washer.
“Right now it’s still for fun—it’s not a chore yet. With all their help I don’t have to do as much, and it cuts down on my fatigue.”
Whether you are driving around town doing errands or taking care of chores around the house, give some thought to where you need to go, and what you need to do there. Try to plan a route that leads logically from the closest location to the next closest location and so on. Why waste extra time en route?
Try to make it easy for yourself to do the chores you need to do. For instance, Johnson keeps a container of Lysol wipes in the bathroom and in the kitchen. When she’s in those rooms, she periodically grabs a wipe and wipes down counters, faucets, the sink, drawer pulls, etc. Cleaning a few times a week just takes a few minutes—and it prevents big build-up that will require lengthy cleaning sessions.
Check Out Resources
You’re already one step ahead by reading this story! You can find additional tips on the National Fibromyalgia Association website; click on NEWS/EVENTS, then Fibromyalgia News and search for Household Tips.
Ask people in your support group what they do to manage their time and energy. Ask your healthcare providers for suggestions. Check out other websites, too, like flylady.net.
Jennifer C. Wyatt is a full-time student who also works full-time. She has budgeted $40 per week for a housecleaning service that helps her keep her home in order—and allows her to keep some of her precious free time free of time-consuming chores. forget to check out resources within yourself, too. “Find another way, take another tack, adapt, be resourceful, look for more options, more possibilities than you originally dreamed,” says Rev. Janet Ewing.
“I can’t go to church without having an asthma attack, but I am involved in ever Sunday service. I put together the PowerPoint announcements.”
One Day at a Time
“I learned that planning certain things in advance just isn’t realistic for those with fibromyalgia,” writes Jodie Gannetto in her Fibro Friends Forever newsletter. “We just don’t know what each day is going to bring us. Will it be a good day or a bad day? Will I be able to drive? Get out of bed? Or even get out of the house?”
You can break this suggestion down into smaller time increments, too. For instance, try setting a timer or a stopwatch when you start an activity. When the timer goes off, take a break and rest. Bonnie Ewing does this when she’s going for a walk; she walks for five minutes and rests for five minutes. “You will be able to walk further and not feel exhausted if you set your watch to alert you when you need to stop and rest,” she says.
Kristen Jo Gonzalez developed a schedule that fits her needs: she works for several hours in the morning, takes a lunch break and rests for several hours, and then resumes activity in the evening. Kat Foote schedules just two things each day, which helps keep her from undertaking impulsive chores or additions to her schedule.
Shelley Echtle, who leads the North Texas Fibromyalgia Meet-Up and Support Group, recommends following the 20/30 rule: work for 20 mintues, then rest for 30.
“We also use points like Weight Watchers does for food,” she says. “We decide to start with that we have 10 points to use each day. We then decide how normal activities filter away our points. When 10 are gone, that’s it for the day. This might include a shower, a trip to the doctor, grocery shopping, and cooking dinner. Maybe it’s as simple as two loads of laundry and getting dressed for a dinner out with friends, which means putting on our makeup. Whatever the activities, we manage to use our points wisely.
“I suggest they write in one fun activity a week and give it up to three points for self-appreciation!”
Do you know when your high- and low-energy levels fall during the day? Try keeping an activity journal for a week. Write down each task you accomplish, the amount of time it required, and when you did it; also write down when you took a break—or when you felt like you needed one. After a week’s worth of entries, you will have a good idea of when you have more energy during a typical day, and when a good time to schedule a break would be.
Making plans can be tough on people with FM—but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare a little bit. For instance, do you ensure that you’re taking your medications at the right intervals? That can help you maintain a steady flow of energy—or reduced pain—throughout the day.
Do you practice good sleep hygiene? Experts recommend going to bed and arising at the same time every day; this helps your body get accustomed to a sleep schedule, which should make it easier to fall and stay asleep. It can also be helpful in maintaining consistent energy.
Do you incorporate exercise into your schedule? You don’t need to take a high-impact aerobics class to get the relaxation—and increased energy—that benefits people who do regular exercise. Try an adaptive yoga class, or go for a walk around the block. Work your way up to longer bouts of exercise several times a week—perhaps walking a mile three to five times a week. It will help you feel better physically and will help you maintain a steady energy level.
When you’re having a very good day, resist the temptation to take on too much. Successfully managing your energy means not draining it completely—even when there’s lots of it!
Don’t Sideline Yourself
This may be the toughest tip yet. How can you save your energy, but stay involved in your favorite activities? How can you accomplish all the things you want to do without putting yourself into a flare? That’s an answer each person has to decide for himself—and we hope the tips provided here will be helpful along those lines.
Cynthia Mittel looks at it this way: “The biggest tip I have for anyone dealing with the pain and exhaustion of FM is to not wait until you feel better to ‘have a life.’ You will miss so much by passing up the things you enjoy and staying in bed or on the couch so you can ‘save your energy.’
“Don’t let FM win by robbing you of enjoying the world around you!”