Living with a chronic illness of any kind can be very challenging! It can be hard to accomplish the tasks you need to do, yet not doing those tasks takes a toll on you mentally and emotionally and you start to question your ability and worth. This can turn into a vicious cycle which often sends you into a downward spiral. If you are living with chronic illness, you probably have first hand experience with this ugly cycle I am describing!
But just because you are living with chronic illness does not mean that you cannot be productive and accomplish your goals, it just takes some planning.
Many people living with chronic illness are aware of Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory. The general idea is that everyone with a chronic illness/chronic pain starts the day with X number of ‘spoons’. As a person with chronic illness, you exchange a certain number of spoons per task (this varies based on the intensity and length of the task, among other things). The point is that you only have a certain number of spoons to use each day so you need to use them wisely. Read more about Christine’s Spoon Theory, it is a really interesting concept!
How to Have a Productive Day When Living with Chronic Illness
Plan Your Activities in Advance
I realize planning in advance is not always possible, but try to do this as best as you can. When planning your activities think about spoon theory to help get a realistic idea of the number of things you can accomplish in a day.
Going from one task to the next to the next is an excellent way to burn through spoons and leave you out of commission for the rest of the day! Work on the task for what feels like a manageable period of time. This ‘manageable amount of time’ is something that is best learned through trial and error and will vary from task to task, but you are a smart cookie, you will figure this out 🙂 Be sure to pay attention to your pain levels and how you are feeling as this will help you to know when you have reached your limit. Knowing this will help you to plan for breaks the next time you do this task.
Don’t Wait too Long
Chances are as the day progresses your energy levels decrease and pain levels increase. Waiting until the end of the day to work on something you really wanted to accomplish is a good way to set yourself up for failure. Instead, try moving this task to an earlier time of the day. I understand that with children, work, and life in general that this is easier said than done! If your weekday is too full and your only chance is to complete the task/project at the end of the day then consider moving it to another time like the weekend when you are likely to have more ‘spoons’.
Break Chores Down into Smaller Tasks
Completing a big chore all at once or all in one day may be very challenging but chances are that if you break the chore down into smaller tasks, you will be better able to manage it. Take cleaning the bathroom for example: if I were to clean the sink, mirror, vanity, toilet, floors and shower all in one go I would likely be in big trouble for the rest of the day! However, I could totally handle doing the sink, vanity and mirror in one go. Am I accomplishing the whole chore? No. Am I getting more done than if I stayed on the couch? Definitely!
It is hard to give yourself kudos for cleaning half the bathroom, it is for me anyway. But what I have learned is that if I beat myself up over every little thing, chances are I will grow to be a very angry and bitter person… not to mention being in pain! What I have been trying to do (this is a work in progress) is be happy for small victories, no matter how tiny they may be. In the end I still did more than if I did nothing and that has got to count for something! Remember to be gentle with yourself, you are doing the best you can!
Make a To Do List
Whether you have a chronic illness or not, chances are you got to the end of your day yet still have tasks left to complete. This is normal, don’t beat yourself up over this. Instead think of all the things you did accomplish and put the incomplete tasks on the to do list for the next day. Don’t worry, the chores aren’t going anywhere and will still be there tomorrow… I promise!
It is so important that everyone takes time at the end of each day to unwind and relax. This is especially true for people with chronic illness! You need time to sit back, watch a movie, have a bath, read a book, listen to music or simply do nothing at all! You don’t want to dip into tomorrow’s spoon supply because you did too much today so be sure to give your body the break it needs! What helps you to have a productive day? I would love to hear your thoughts below!