Even though it can be a pain at times, it can help you get a handle on your energy levels & also help you get a sense of self & purpose back by planning out some things you are able & enjoy to do. It can also help you pin point where your energy is going & how to scale back on them if needed. It's also a great way to get back a proper routine which, speaking from personal experience, can be lost when you're ill & you have to spend many of your days either in bed or in the house.
Now I'm not claiming to be an expert on this & even after almost a year, I'm still getting to grips with it but I thought I'd share with you how I was taught how to plan & pace then hopefully it'll be of some help to any of you that is struggling in this area.
So what is Planning & Pacing?
Well it's basically the process of writing out & planning your days/weeks to help pace & monitor your energy levels.
When I was introduced to this, the first thing I was asked to do was to write down everything I did; when I slept, when I ate, what activities I did & also how I felt symptom wise everyday for a week. Doing this was eye opening! It made me realise where I was wasting energy & how on some days I was doing too much & then worsening my condition. It also really highlighted how bad my sleep pattern was becoming.
Then at my next CFS Clinic appointment, my Specialist & I went through everything I'd recorded. I had to highlight high energy activities in pink & rest or low energy activities in green. Everything not highlighted were classed as medium energy activities.
Once that was done, I was given a clean sheet (which I photocopied so I had a years worth) & was asked to start planning out each week. I had to set myself a bedtime & build a night time routine to help get my sleep pattern back to normal. If I had any jobs that needed doing, it was recommended that I stagger them across a few days, rather than doing them all at once. This in theory helps to control how much energy I would be using each day in the hopes of not over doing it. My specialist also wanted to make sure that I tried to do something fun or enjoyable, something for me. I also had to stick to one or maybe two high energy activities a day, a very high energy activity (like a full day out) would be preceded with a full rest day. For example, going for a drive & then having a shower later in the day. Each activity has to be balanced out with rest & relaxation as this can help your body to cope a little better with whatever you are asking it do & can also help control the Post Excursion Malaise that, in someone with M.E, comes after activity.
So each Sunday evening, I sit & plan the coming week. Some weeks I really struggle to think of things to do, so I just fill in the activities that I do weekly, like studying, my religious meetings & ministry & don't add anything extra. Some weeks just these things are enough, especially if I've had a good active week the one before. Also being the introvert I am, I need a slow quiet week, not being around a lot of people at times. The fun things I try to do are usually going for a drive, taking photographs either around the house or out somewhere, maybe having a wander round a shop & I've also started baking again. Any activity, high or medium, is then followed by rest & relaxtion time.
I colour code everything, which helps the activities stand out;
- Red - High Energy; For me these are things like Showers, going for a drive, out shopping, baking.
- Orange - Medium Energy; For me these are mainly doing study, getting ready for bed, having dinner.
- Green - Rest & Relaxation,
- Purple - Bedtime
As I began doing this, I realised that I would often forget what I'd planned (Brain fog!) So I decided that getting myself a proper planner might help. So when I fill in my CFS Clinic sheets, I also write down the things I plan to do or have to in there as well. I carry this around with me & double check what I'm doing or if I have any appointments or prior engagements I may have forgotten. I colour code my planner in the same way & each week to view page has a little section at the bottom to write down goals or things to do & then you can tick them off as you complete them.
After a number months, when I got into the routine of planning & pacing out my weeks, I began to just fill in my planner. But when I hit a bad relapse in September/October, I realised that part of the problem was that I'd slipped & wasn't planning or pacing out my weeks properly & that to help me get back out of my setback, I needed to start again. So I got my CFS Clinic folder back off the shelf & I've started to use the Clinic sheets along with my planner. Doing this seems to really help me pace out my activity much better than just using my planner.
Like I said at the outset, I'm no expert & for all the planning & pacing I try my best to do, I still have times when the plan goes out the window & I can do nothing but cancel plans & rest my body & hope the next day is better. I have found though that just the process of doing this, even though it also takes some energy to do, gives me a sense of purpose & structure, something that my chronic illness had taken away from me for a very long time.
How you plan your week is entirely personal, as is how you rate whether something is a high, medium or low energy activity because we all cope differently with certainly things. I'm now at the stage in my recovery where I can manage to do an activity like go for a drive & then usually I can have a shower after dinner. But for some of you, the only high energy activity you can do is having the shower or even just getting dressed & that is okay. Don't plan more than you can handle & keep assessing how your body is coping with what activity you are able to do & only when you are ready, add a little something else & then work from there. Slow & steady increase in activity is much better than crashing your body by trying to do too much too fast. Listen to your body, you know what is best for you.
It's all a question of balance & planning & pacing doesn't work for everyone in the same way. Personally for me it does seem to help. Yes I still have days & weeks when I struggle, I might do something not planned that gives me a high level of P.E.M but I try to make sure when that happens, it's because I've done something that's worth it.
Remember if you're trying to decide if something is worth doing, if it's not a "Hell Yeah!" then it's a NO!
I really hope this little insight into planning & pacing has helped those of you thinking about doing it or have heard the terms thrown about but are unsure exactly what it is or how to get started. If you have any questions on this topic or if you are already doing this but do it in a different way, please feel free to leave a comment below sharing how you do this, I'm always looking for anything to help with the management of my condition.
Hope you're all doing as well as can be & are taking care,
***If you would like a copy of the weekly planner sheet pictured above, then leave me a comment with your email address & I'll happily send it to you.***