Tips for Making the Most of Limited Energy
With the holidays right around the corner and all the activity and commotion that often accompany the season, discovering ways to conserve and maximize your energy can a be key to getting through the rush. In fact, how you budget your energy can make the difference between having a series of good days and a “crash” that can last for days.
Here are some energy management tips--many of them provided by people with CFS.
Stock up for down times
We’ve all heard the adage “work smart, not hard.” Many people coping effectively with CFS have learned to use active times to stock up for “down times.”
One Association member shares how she rarely has energy to cook, so when she does, she makes larger quantities and packages individual servings in the freezer or fridge. Another member says she boils a large thermos of water in the morning so she has hot water by her chair all day for tea or instant soups and cereals.
Make activities incremental
Take time-consuming tasks and spread them out over several days. Things that are time-consuming are usually also energy-consuming. Remember, not every task has to be completed in one effort, even if that’s how you’ve always done it in the past.
For instance, take several days to write a letter to a friend. Break longer chores into bite-sized tasks you can handle in increments. If you send holiday cards to friends and family, start earlier and be strict about writing just five or fewer cards a day until the job is done.
One Association member describes setting a timer when he sits at his desk to pay bills. When the time runs out he stops what he’s doing and puts the rest of the bills in a stack with a big yellow note that says “for tomorrow.” The next day he’ll sit until the bills are done, but that takes less time because he’s already completed a portion of it.
Find a chore to eliminate
Several Association members have shared that they conserve their energy by using paper plates. Says one woman, “I can’t muster the strength to stand at my sink washing dishes. My energy is not disposable, so my plates and forks are.”
Nowadays, a number of eco-friendly products make that practice easier on landfills. Biodegradablestore.com and branchhome.com all sell recycled and biodegradable tableware. Some of them even come in holiday colors.
Pay attention to your natural schedule
Sometimes energy management is all about timing. Pay attention to your days and learn when your high and low points are. Then try to adapt your routine accordingly, especially when it comes to things like holiday activities that aren’t a regular part of your routine. Think ahead about what you need to accomplish (within reason) and do it during your peak times. Set other times strictly as “do not disturb” periods, and ask friends and family to honor them. Turn off your phone and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door if you have to.
Plan rest like you plan activities
When you know you have a day or period of exertion coming, get as much rest as you can in the days that precede it, and plan for lots of recuperative rest afterward. For some people with CFS, this type of pacing is the key to a balanced, yet active, existence.
You should also schedule some rest periods every day. Well-timed rest can sometimes make the difference between making it through your day and crashing from exhaustion.
Be strategic about the holiday trappings
Buying and wrapping presents can take an extraordinary amount of time and energy. Try shopping from home through the TV or the Internet, buy gift certificates, use gift bags rather than wrapping paper and wrap just a few presents at a time. You might also consider forgoing gifts altogether in favor of a just spending time with friends or giving a card with a heartfelt message.
Similarly, don’t expend valuable energy trying to decorate your house. If you enjoy holiday decorations, choose one or two favorites to display. Focus on a wreath, a menorah or another meaningful symbol of the holiday you celebrate. Save some things for another year. If you alternate decorations rather than using them all at one time, you’ll save energy and add variety to future holidays. If decorating your house fully isn’t something you feel you can give up because you have young children, or for another reason, consider asking your spouse or a friend or family member to do it as a holiday gift to you.
Be choosy on good days too
Perhaps the most important energy management advice is not to overdo things on days you feel well and rested. If you really think of energy as something you have to budget, then doing too much on a “good day” is like spending your paycheck the day you get paid. Instead, think of just one or two things you most need to do or do something modest that you’ve missed doing while you’ve had less energy. Be choosy.
Editor’s Note: Look for a special feature article on energy management and pacing by Bruce Campbell, PhD, in the upcoming issue of the CFIDS Chronicle (coming out in February 2009). Not a subscriber to the CFIDS Chronicle? Click here to become an Association member and start your subscription now. It’s the only magazine dedicated exclusively to the information needs of the CFS community.
Your donations enable the CFIDS Association to fund CFS research, fight for better health policy, educate medical professionals and help families and individuals dealing with this debilitating illness.
Make CFS history! Donate now to support CFS research, education and advocacy.