Transcending Chronic Illness

consciously pacing your days

learning to slow down and live fully within your limitations

We live in a stressful high speed culture. Employers expect top intensity of production out of their workers. Employees put up with this pressure because they want the money they are earning to buy those things they feel they've got to own. Even our children tend to be involved in too many activities. Many kids barely have time for home and family.

Once we know our health is threatened we began to realize we must start taking better care of ourselves; quite a challenge in this frantic environment. It's not just a matter of outside pressures, we have internalized impossible expectations for ourselves as well.

It's a little easier to slow down if our health problems came on suddenly — dramatically. We are left with no choice. Yet we still champ at the bit to get back to "normal" as soon as possible.

Many chronic disabilities come on gradually. Perhaps you have known for some time that things aren't right but you've ignored the warnings. Often it takes a frightening low before we are jarred into realizing we must make changes.

Once we know how serious our health problems are we need to rethink how we are going to spend our days. We simply cannot continue our catapult toward destruction. I suggest sitting back and looking at your typical day. Write down the things that must be done and those that could be dropped. Then consider ways the "must do" items could be done by someone else. Do you have family members who could help out? Is it possible you could cut back on work hours if you are still able to work? Keep this list on hand then look back at it in a few days. Perhaps you will find you can let go of even more or you might discover creative ways to make some tasks easier. Be patient with yourself, it takes time to think this through and perseverance to carry it out.

As you plan out your days consider how much rest you need? Do you find lying down for a while mid-afternoon gives you a boost for the evening? Perhaps you are bedridden much of the day. What can you do from your bed that will make you feel more useful? If someone brings you the wash you may be able to sit in bed and fold the clothes. Perhaps your big accomplishment for the day will be to lie in bed and make a cheerful call to your grandmother.

Is your doctor recommending exercise or a better diet? Make time to care for your health. Be sure you plan for a little fun even if it's just watching a video at home. If all you do is work and sleep your mental health will suffer. Take time for love and joy.

With most chronic disabilities our symptoms vary in intensity from day to day or even week to week. We need to be constantly in touch with our body. Dealing with this is made even more frustrating because friends and family may not understand these ups and downs. The prevailing belief in our culture is that when people get sick they get well or on rare occasion die. The assumption is that the doctor can fix almost anything. With chronic illness we don't fit into that mold.

You may be surprised that once you pace yourself you can actually do more of the things you really care about. As you slow down and find time to relax you are giving your body a chance to build up strength and perhaps heal a little.

When we learn to balance our days we wonder why we didn't see this healthy way of living before. A sane pace of living is not just for sick people. Perhaps slowing down a bit would be a beneficial move for your whole family. Maybe our entire society needs to change it's pace.

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