Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A day of pacing

The other day, as I filled in my pacing fridge magnets (available here) I thought I'd blog the way my schedule changed. I use my magnets on a board like this A3 magnetic whiteboard. but there are various ones available.

Below is the plan I put together the evening before. Actually it's the second attempt, because the first attempt included a morning full of red and orange. Which meant I realised it was too much before I'd finished it!

I like doing the first schedule the evening before, because I can usually tell roughly what 'shape' my symptoms will be the next day, and I go to sleep knowing that tomorrow is 'under control' as I wake up to a routine/schedule - and I don't have to schedule from scratch, think clearly and prioritise first thing in the morning!

How did I grade the activities? - By looking at what I currently find most exhausting - which is sitting still and concentrating. This is probably related to my POTS, but also sitting still aggravates my pain levels from my HSD too. On days like that, short tasks that involve a bit of moving about and minimal concentration are actually easier (long tasks that are active are a different matter).

At 10:00am I was on track. I'd achieved stuff, but not built up too many symptoms.

By 10:30 I'd realised the 'Challenging' - 'buffer' (writing my main social media posts for the next week) would take a lot longer, so I decided there were a few things I could move to another day - the pile of sideways activities at the bottom of my board - and I rearranged a few other tasks to give myself more time.

I then realised that the sunshine combined with a cool breeze meant it would be lovely to get outside, so I swapped colouring for 'easy gardening'. What is this? It's using my wheelchair to get outside, then sitting on the patio and pulling up the larger (easy-grip) weeds of a type that flourish in my garden and are REALLY easy to pull up by the roots. It gets me moving, takes no brain power, means I can quickly see results, without risking significant injury.

And instead of trying to schedule all my social media posts in one go (a 2 hour block of solid challenging brainpower which would wipe me out for the day), I'd do 30 mins, my timer would go off, I'd do a bit of easy gardening, then return for a bit more brain-work.

By lunchtime I was still on track with my adapted schedule and loving it. Yes, there were tasks I'd had to move to the 'another day' pile - but I didn't need to worry, because I knew they weren't essential today, and could be left for another day. Having them still written down also means I don't worry I will forget them.

Of course, other bits and bobs pop up. An unexpected (and long) work phone call etc. But by the end of the day, my schedule had been tweaked a bit more and looked like this. I'd achieved LOADS - but without feeling overwhelmed. And the things that hadn't got done were waiting for tomorrow.

On a different day, classifications of activities will be different. On a flop-day, reading is challenging - and writing coherent stuff would be impossible. Laundry (a short, minimum brain task - washer-dryer means no needing to hang wet washing out) was easy for today, another day this might be challenging. Similarly, on a bad day, basic self care items, like brushing teeth, getting dressed etc will appear on my magnets. But the concept remains the same - mix up the stuff that's mentally hard, physically hard, mentally easy and physically easy - making sure you move about frequently at what ever level works for you. Resting one part of you doesn't mean you have to lie down - just doing something different can be enough (e.g. doing something brain-easy after something brain-challenging. Or which uses legs instead of arms). I still had a few horizontal rest breaks, but walking to the kitchen and making a cup of tea after concentrating for half an hour is, for me, an excellent pacing tool. (on a bad day, 'move about' might mean lie down flat and gently stretch/move different parts of me - on a good day it might mean something a lot more energetic.)

I don't use the magnets every day, but whenever I start to feel my to-do list weighing down on me, or I've had a bit of a 'splat day' and am trying to get back into normal life, or my motivation is slipping, I get them out. Because they turn a mountain of tasks into manageable sections, help me keep the balance between challenging myself and respecting my limits, and I see my progress rather than only seeing the pile of tasks that still remain.  The magnets aren't there to dictate my next activity, but to help me make constructive decisions throughout the day. I'd look at the board to see what my next task was - but also to see if I thought it was still the right thing given current symptoms.

Besides, who doesn't feel better to finish the day with a happily coloured schedule that shows them everything they've achieved?