Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pacing, planning and prioritising....

I am again, sitting on the couch in my pyjamas, though this time I am actually working (and by working, I mean waiting for a call to come through.) Note: if you ring a mental health helpline, the person you speak to may very well be wearing pyjamas. It's kind of an industry thing :P

Anyway, I wrote a blog post last night, but then the internet stole it and won't give it back.... or maybe I'm just really technologically challenged. The point is, I was too tired to re-write it and in the interest of not exhausting myself, I'm just going to post an article I wrote for my work newsletter instead. It's about pacing, so I thought it was apt...

When I think of self-care, I usually think of adding things to my day: adding exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep. Recently I’ve realised self-care is just as much about saying “no” to things. Now, I’m not talking about the obvious – saying no to cigarettes, alcohol, stress etc. (although that’s a part of self-care too!) What I mean, is saying “no” to those things that suck up our time and leave us collapsed on the couch at the end of the day.

When I’m trying to explain what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, I often talk about Christine Miserandino’s “spoon theory”. The essence of this theory is that, when you live with a chronic illness, everything you do costs you a “spoon.” Under normal circumstances, a healthy person will have an almost unlimited supply of “spoons”. They don’t need to worry too much about overdoing it and running out. A person with a chronic physical or mental illness will have a limited amount of “spoons”. To make sure they still have enough energy to make dinner at the end of the day, they will need to keep an eye on how many “spoons” they use up during the day.

This is where pacing, planning and prioritising come in. I know that for me to stay healthy, I need to really think about what I include in my day. There are things that I have to do because... well, they’re just facts of life – work, study, chores, cooking. There are things I need to do for my health – exercise, physio, doctors appointments, and then there are things that I want to do – creative projects, socialising, retail therapy etc. Prioritising doesn’t mean anything that’s not 100% necessary gets chucked off the list; it just means I have to work out how I’m going to fit it in without running out of “spoons”. It might mean that I choose to meet up with friends on the days I’m not working. Or it might mean that if I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and a deadline on a writing project, the cleaning might have to wait until tomorrow. If I know I’ve got a busy day coming up, I’ll make a big meal the day before so I can have leftovers for dinner rather than having to cook after a long day.

Learning to pace myself has been a hard journey. Sometimes I’ll wake up feeling like I have an unlimited number of “spoons” only to get halfway through the day and realise I just don’t have the energy to get everything done. Then there are the days where unexpected things happen, and my energy is taken up with things I hadn’t planned for. Either way, the next day I have to come back to it: pacing, planning and prioritising. It’s a slow journey, but in the end, it will all get done. Just maybe not as quickly as I thought.

Check out spoon theory at:

Little Miss Autoimmune :-)


  1. Love your "logo". I read all those stories to my children. Can't help but smile at her! And you are sooo right about being able to say no. It has taken me 12 years with ra to finally not feel guilty about that word.

  2. Okay so you linked me to the poetry blog but I followed my nose here and I'm glad I did. I've spent a lot of my time lately struggling with the "shoulds" and this blog post actually helped me a lot. So, once again, thank you. You have a lot to teach people, I suspect.