At least once a week, I ask my Twitter or Facebook followers what sort of blog posts they would like to see. After all, I’m looking to help you guys! Someone suggested tips on how to actually rest when you take breaks. I think that this is so important for both people in general and especially for chronic illness and pain patients. It can be really difficult in this modern world to actually rest, so I hope that this helps those of you who need it!
Why Does Resting Matter?
Why does this matter? It matters because what is the point of taking breaks if you don’t actually, well, take a break? No one can go-go-go forever. Yes, the human spirit is remarkably sustainable, and if we have to keep going, we will. (Such as if there is a family emergency.) But in our normal life, we absolutely have to take breaks. And we need to rest in our breaks, or else it really isn’t a break.
Why does this matter for chronic illness and/or pain patients? The best way to explain this is through the spoon theory analogy. You can read the full story from its creator, Christine Miserandino, here, but I’ll give a short version below.
“I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted. Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control” (x).How to actually rest when you take breaks (and why that's important) Click To Tweet
Every little thing I do as a person with too many chronic illnesses and chronic pain in most joints requires energy. (Especially because fatigue is a symptom of literally each of my illnesses.) So, for example, I’m starting off with less energy than my sister does as a healthy person, and even if we do the exact same things, some activities that don’t cause her fatigue do cause me fatigue. Obviously, she is still going to be tired at the end of the day, and she’s still going to be tired after a day at an amusement park. But the difference is that I would get tired at the amusement park a lot quicker than she would. That’s what the spoon theory analogy helps explain.
When I make plans, I factor in the needed rest time. For example, going back to my sister, she visited for a weekend in March. We as a family planned to go out to dinner the Saturday she was here, so when my parents and sister took the dogs to Castle Island that afternoon, I stayed home and rested so that I would be okay to go out to dinner. I needed to make sure that I wasn’t just sitting on the couch working on this blog; I needed to fully rest so I could hold onto as much mental and physical energy as possible.
Tips for Resting When You Take a Break
Start with a shorter to-do list – If you’re taking a break and just thinking about everything that you need to know, you’re not going to have a quality rest. One solution is to start your to-do list with things that you absolutely must do, and then make a separate list of things that it would be nice to do, but they’re not as important. This way, you’re not thinking, “Oh, I can’t rest, I have 6 more things I have to do!” Instead, you’re thinking, “Well there’s 1 more thing I have to do, and then there are 5 things that it would be nice to do, but it’s fine if I don’t do them.”
Schedule less – This is a similar idea: don’t put as much on your plate in the first place! For example, if you have 2 activities you want to do over a weekend, spread them out so they’re not on the same day. Additionally, if you’re living with a chronic illness and know that there will be a period of time when you feel worse (such as when you’re in between medication doses), intentionally schedule less in advance during that time. For example, the infusion I was on for my RA before The Fiasco was every 4 months. For the 3 weeks before a dose, my symptoms were worse, and then it took another 2-3 weeks for it to properly kick in. So I knew in advance that I would have a period of about 6 weeks when things would be worse. I intentionally scheduled less during that time, especially because I would rather schedule less and then be able to add more if I feel up for it than schedule more and cancel some.
Work ahead on projects as much as possible – I have found this one of the most helpful things to do. While some times I can anticipate when I’m going to feel back, such as when waiting for an infusion like I just mentioned, I regularly can’t. I react strongly to weather changes, both in terms of rain and in big temperature jumps, and while I call myself The Friendly Neighborhood Arthritic Meteorology, I can’t see the future. And I can’t anticipate things like spraining my wrist. So by working ahead on projects such as blog posts, I can cut down my stress in case I have to rest more than usual because my symptoms get bad unexpectedly or there’s a “regular” emergency that makes it hard to get things out on time.
Find your own hacks – Chronic illness can be so different from person to person, even among people with the same illness. So what works for me, the short-cuts I use to make my life easier aka my hacks, might not work for someone else and vice versa. Try doing this a little differently than you’re used to, ask people for their suggestions on short-cuts, etc. These hacks can save you time by helping you do tasks faster or simpler. This will mean that you finish tasks sooner than you would otherwise, and you don’t have to feel guilty about taking breaks!
Find the self-care strategies that works for you – Self-care can easily feel like a buzzword that doesn’t have a meaning on its own. But it does! PsychCentral says, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (x). What works for me might be different than what works for you, so figure out what you need to do to practice your own self-care.
Change your mindset on life – I know this sounds like a Hispter Millennial Who Knows All character, but I swear it’s a real thing that helps. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course, but try working to get to a point where you don’t feel like you have to be productive every minute of every day. Because of the Internet and side hustles, it’s easy to think that we have to constantly be productive – which then makes you feel bad when you need to take a break. If you’re really struggling with this, start factoring down-time into your schedule! Eventually, you’ll get used to have some time to just be. Here’s a great tweet I saw the other day that I thought fit perfectly with this idea:
Join more social media sites – Okay, now we’re going to talk a little bit about actual things to do to help you rest. This one and the next one seem contradicting – because they are and you should take the one that fits your life better. If you don’t have a job that involves social media, then joining more social media sites is a great way to help you rest. If you have more sites to focus your attention on, it’s a good way to zone out and focus on different things. I think the best sites for this intention are Pinterest and Tumblr, with Twitter being close behind.
Go away from your computer for a bit – If you do something like blogging or social media managing, joining more sites might not help you rest, especially if you find yourself slipping into work mode. So in that case, stepping away from your computer for a while is a better way to rest.
Find a few shows, movies, podcasts, books, etc., to start paying attention to – Here is my last bit of concrete advice: find other things to hold your interest so you look forward to your breaks, or at least enjoy your breaks. Find TV shows or podcasts you can binge, movies you like to watch, books to read or listen to … you get the idea. If you have something to do in your breaks that are also resting, taking breaks won’t feel like a chore.
How do you make sure you actually rest when you take breaks?
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