How to pace yourself

by Juliette Wills
Photo by Tom Bullock / CC Picture posed by model.

Photo by Tom Bullock / CC Picture posed by model.

Honestly, if Superman had arthritis he wouldn't be saving the world in one movie. You see, it's all about pacing...

“All About That Pace, ’bout that pace, ’bout that pace”. Sing along to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s monster hit every time you feel like you might be taking on too much. It’s good to have a theme tune in your life, and this should be it. Why? Because you have arthritis. You’re special like that, so you need to look after yourself a bit more than people without it.

If you do too much you risk greater pain and sheer exhaustion the next day, which then means you can’t do anything at all… which makes you feel sad, frustrated and of course, in more pain than ever. This is true for men and women alike. And so it goes on until you give yourself a good talking to and learn that less really is more. Here’s how:

The dreaded ‘To-Do’ list

Aaaagh! We’ve all got one, only some of us have three things on it and some of us have 33 things on it. Lists can be brilliant. They can help you remember stuff, like the fact that you’ve run out of baked beans or need to phone your mum. They’re good lists. The not-so-good lists are the ones with so many things on that you never actually get to the end, and after a couple of days you find yourself just adding more stuff to it. That’s a bad list.

So how can you be less hard on yourself? Easy. Give yourself less to do, or more time to do those things. Instead of thinking, “Gah, it’s Tuesday, I’ve got to do all this stuff today,” slow down and reassess. Never push yourself to get to the end of your tasks; simply say “Alright, I’ve done such and such today, tomorrow I can do that”. Carry tasks over to another day, or just make a list of what you’d like to achieve over a week instead.

Girls (and boys) just wanna have fun

Who doesn’t? But it’s not that simple if you have arthritis. We know that if we want to have a bit of fun, it invariably means a lot of pain the day after. It sucks, but there are some measures you can take to ensure you’re not at risk of completely falling apart. ??Plan well. Really well. OK, so it’s reasonably likely you’ll do all your planning and then be too exhausted to go out anyway, but give it a go.

Make sure you know how you’re getting to and from the pub/restaurant/party/friend’s house. Ensure you have an emergency £10 note in your pocket in case you miss the bus, have to cry off early or just think, ‘I need to phone a cab, I’m knackered and my back/neck/arms/legs/feet/face hurts’. Men, we know that it can sometimes be harder for you, but do not even entertain the worry that you’re somehow wimping out.

Pick a friend you can trust to have your back, basically, to give you a gentle nudge when you’re going a bit bonkers. Even if it hurts to be reminded that you really do need to take extra care of yourself, it’s better than waking up in (even more) pain than usual the next day.

Start early so you don’t get home too late and make getting up the next morning even harder than it already is.

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Walk, don’t run

It’s tempting to go a bit crazy with exercise if you wake up and find that your pain levels are on the low side, but don’t overdo it. Gentle exercise such as a 20-minute walk around the park or a swim is one thing; hitting the gym and doing 10k on the bike is another.

Whilst it’s great that you have the mindset that you can achieve anything, pushing too hard before you’re ready will only send you back to square one, especially if you end up in more pain because of it. This is why simple and straightforward workouts are the way to go. Walking, stretching, and completing a workout that allows you to stretch and strengthen different muscles that could be favourable for your arthritis, is much better than trying to complete a marathon of some sort. Again, chaps, we know this is lots of you!

We all want to achieve as much as we can when we can, and quite often it can take a while to accept our diagnosis. This is perfectly normal, but you need to protect your body right now as an investment for your future. You’ll find it easier to listen to your body and do just enough, rather than too much.

If you’re in remission or you can hike/walk five miles/cycle, then great – but remember, your body is still coping with arthritis and you still need to listen to what it’s telling you. Be kind to yourself, boys and girls. That is all.

Chores are bores

Some people love cooking, for other’s it’s a means to an end to stop hunger pangs. Some people actually like cleaning (they’re out there somewhere) and some even enjoy a bit of ironing. Chances are if you’re in pain most days these chores are exactly that – a chore.

When it comes to cleaning your home, you really need to do it in stages. Set a time limit – and an alarm – for say, 20 minutes, and stop for five minutes for a breather. Do another 20 minutes and so on, but as soon as you feel you’ve had enough, stop.

You might find that doing one job at a time works best, such as thinking, ‘I’m going to clean the bath and the sink, then after lunch I’ll tackle the loo (not literally, that would be awful) and the floor.’ You might have to do the same for the kitchen – breaking up the workload – and leave the Hoovering for another day.

Better still, get someone else to do it. You might find that employing a cleaner for just two hours a fortnight really helps as it means you have every other week off.

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