Everyone has experienced the challenge of trying to conserve enough energy to get the everyday things done on our to do list and when you have arthritis it can really complicate the situation by limiting the amount of energy you have and interfering with your ability to do those everyday activities, work, and enjoying that precious time with your family and friends. But, there are some pretty simple things you can do everyday of your life to help you use your energy wisely. These energy-saving techniques are what is called the 4 “P’s”: pacing, planning, prioritizing, and positioning.
- Pacing: It’s the key to helping you maintaining your energy levels all day long. You will take a look at your activities and break them down into baby steps with alternating rest periods. Think about the steps you need to take to complete a task or activity, and then try to work through them taking your time and at your own speed. Don’t rush it! Rushing is stressful even though you will get done much faster and in the end you would have used more energy then you really needed to. Allow yourself plenty of time to get the task done and don’t forget to take several rest periods in between. You may just find that you actually have more energy for later. The right way to pace yourself is to learn to listen to your body, that way your able to determine just what level of activity works for you. If you do too much activity you will end up excessively fatigued or in too much pain, yet too little can cause you to loose muscle strength and will undo any conditioning you may already have. Learning just how much you can do before you get tired and stopping to rest will help you to keep from depleting your energy supply completely and you’ll end up with some in reserve. Learning to rest your mind as well as your body is equally important and if you’re worrying about what you have to do next you will probably not be getting the full benefits of your rest time. You should try to keep your activities and rest times consistent and automatic so that you will always stay within your energy limits. Keeping a journal or diary, documenting your energy levels at different times in your day will help you to see when you feel your best and when you feel your energy levels going down. You will want to write down the activity you were doing when you began to feel your energy starting to go down. This helps you to learn what activities you can tolerate and you’ll begin to get ideas on some simple changes you can make in your daily routine to help you keep up your energy levels. The first thing you will want to do is to break down the task or activity into baby steps. For instance: Let’s say that today is laundry day, you can break it down like this; step 1- gather all the laundry; step 2 – separate it into different loads; step 3 – washing and drying; step 4 – folding and hanging up clothes and putting them away. By doing your laundry this way you will be able to rest after you have gathered up, separated and put the first load in to be washed and then dried. Then while the second load is washing and drying you can fold the first load, you see, sitting doesn’t require near as much energy as standing does. Also, simple changes, like delegating chores to other members of your family can leave you with more energy for other daily tasks.
- Planning: You need effective planning for proper pacing. You should look ahead a day, a few days or even a week so that you can develop some kind of a strategy to get your activities done. Make a to-do list of the things you want to get done or do, that can be accomplished in a day so that you can plan the best time to do each activity. If mornings are your best time then you should probably plan your more strenuous activities for time or if you have more energy after a nap, you might want to schedule that time to run your errands or do work activities that require you to be more physical or for you to think a little bit more. But, you will still need to plan your rest time sometime during the day so that you can replenish your energy levels. Using a calendar or a planner can help you to schedule your activities over the week so that you aren’t doing all you strenuous work in the same day. The first thing to do is to look at all the things you want to do or need to accomplish in a week, and sort of grade them according to how much energy it take to get each done, like low, medium and high. The second thing is to spread the high energy activities over the week so you don’t do too many of them in one day and end up so exhausted that it takes you several days to get regain your energy levels back. Remember, that doing too many high energy draining activities in one day can lead to an arthritis or fibromyalgia flare that can take several day or several weeks to get over. When you keep a list of the things you want to accomplish, you’ll be able to keep track of what you have already done and what you have left to do. This will give you a sense of accomplishment that is positive when you take a look back at just what you were able to accomplish. Also, remember that you will need to be somewhat flexible with your schedule because it will allow you to do activities that are enjoyable and that you might otherwise have missed out on because you were to exhausted to do them.
- Prioritizing: Learning to decide what you should do first, prioritizing, can be of a great help when you are trying to conserve energy. It can also be one of the most challenging to master because it requires you to take a really close look at all you work, household, leisure and recreational activities and then decide which ones are the most important and necessary and even enjoyable to you. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself when you’re trying to decide which activities are more important to you.
- What is the most important priorities to me in my life? My job, household activities, or maybe my family and friends?
- Where do I want to direct my energy to? What’s most important to me?
- How can I get the best balance between work and play in my life?
- How can I get more rest and relaxation times into my day that will help me to regain my energy supplies.
- Can I make my daily chores more simplified so that I have more energy leftover at the end of my day to do the things I enjoy?
- Is there anything that I really have to do that can’t be delegated out to someone else or that someone else can perhaps help me with.
You will want to prioritize the most important activities and delegate those that are less important to someone else in your family. Delegating can be difficult if you are the type of person who has always had the attitude that you must do it all by yourself, but if you approach it in a more positive way by realizing that you are helping yourself to conserve your energy levels, it will make it easier. Who knows, you may actually be helping others in your household or even in your work place, by teaching them to accept responsibility. When you network with family, friends, and neighbors to help you complete the tasks at hand, like carpooling your kids to activities, then you just might be helping them to learn to conserve their energy also.
Positioning: When you take a look at how you position your body or your body mechanics, you might get other ideas on how to conserve your energy. When you watch how you position yourself as you are going through your day, you will be able to identify some ways to do your daily chores using less energy which can help you to protect your joints from any excess strain. Listed below are a few examples of techniques you can introduce into your daily routine to help you conserve your energy:
- Sitting rather standing because sitting takes less energy from your body and reduces stress on your leg joints. By using a shower stool while showering or sitting to get dressed may help to reduce the energy you would otherwise use to do these activities.
- If you must stand to accomplish a task, and to ease the stress and fatigue on your back, try propping one foot on a step-stool or on the inside of a lower cabinet.
- Good posture while you are sitting and standing will help to relieve any fatigue on your neck, back and shoulders. This involves keeping your ears lined up with your shoulders and your shoulders lined up with your hips, and make sure that your head isn’t leaning too far forward.
- Organizing your work areas so that everything you need is within reach can help you to avoid any unnecessary reaching, bending and stooping. Having duplicate items around the house can help to eliminate any unnecessary trips between rooms. A cart that you have organized with the items you will need or a light weight organizer basket, or a storage bin that you can carry items in, are other ways that can help you to avoid any unnecessary reaching, bending, and stooping.
- Having your work surfaces at the proper height for you can help to promote good posture and reduce the fatigue that comes from poor posture. You will want your work surface to be just at your elbow height and when you are sitting it should be just below your elbow height.
- To simplify your daily activities try using devices that can assist you in doing those activities. Such items as reachers, long-handled sponges, brushes, and dusters, and jar openers, are just to name a few, that can help you when you are trying to conserve your energy.
- Lastly, you will need to breath during your activities. I know that sounds kind of weird, but there is a proper way to breath so that you can maintain your energy levels and help you to relax. To start with, pay attention to how you’re breathing and if your chest is moving up and down when you breath then you are breathing wrong, it shouldn’t be moving at all. You want your belly area to move instead. When you breath in, your belly area should expand and as you let out the breath your belly area should compress or go in. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth very slowly. For you women out there, think about when you were in labor with your children and every time you had a contraction you were told to breath in right before it and out during it. It’s the same concept. If you practice this method of breathing and pay attention to how you are breathing during your activities, it will soon become natural and it will become a habit.
Occupational therapist are professionals that are trained to help you make these and other changes in your the way you do your daily task. If you have arthritis an occupational therapist can recommend techniques and devices that can help to protect your joints from any excess strain. They are also able to help you change your work and your home to make them more manageable. Your doctor can recommend an occupational therapist if you decide that you need this kind of help.
If you take the time to think about all the thing you want to do or need to do, it can be a bit overwhelming. But, if you can accept the fact that you will have some difficulties that are manageable, ahead of you, then you will begin to make the changes in your daily life that can help you to conserve your energy. Remember that the changes you make will, in the long run, improve your quality of life and you will feel that you are in control of your energy resources.