Yesterday(May 31, 2017) was World MS Day and we were invited to share a tip that we found helpful in living with MS. I had intended this post for yesterday but my website was down.
So…. better late than never…. here is my tip for living with MS or any chronic illness. I call it my 3 P’s but first a bit of back story.
When I was working as an occupational therapist I used to teach my patients with health issues about the 3 P’s….. and since my diagnosis I have had to put them into practice. Surprise… surprise!
The 3 P’s are planning, pacing, and prioritizing.
Never a great planner, it has become a necessity. I plan my day, week…and even trips to the bathroom. It is true that things don’t always go as planned but overall planning helps me to manage my stress and my fatigue. (Yes, it is closely related to pacing). For example, I schedule appointments and teach my classes at LaVita on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesdays keeping the rest of the week free for the activities I most enjoy or to rest, if needed. It also allows me time to visit my mother at least once a month, have lunch with a friend, or spend a day sewing or reading.
On weeks that my schedule gets off, I am easily overwhelmed. This is a new experience for me as I was able to go… go… go… in my life before MS, which relates to the second P, pacing.
Pacing has become my new normal when it comes to meal prep, cleaning, or exercising. For every minute spent “working” I find that I need at least 2 minutes to recover. Allowing a slower pace or rest periods has allowed me to manage the fatigue that is so common in autoimmune diseases like MS or RA (rheumatoid arthritis).
Because of dietary restrictions, it is necessary for me to cook all of my meals at home though we do manage to eat out at least one night per week. Batch cooking helps me to stay on program and allows me to just pull something out of the refrigerator or freezer for breakfast or lunch. It usually exhausts me though and I rest for at least an hour after I have all the food prepared…. and sometimes even in the middle. Kitchen clean up has to wait until I have rested enough to continue.
Allowing extra time to complete tasks or breaking them down into smaller chunks is helpful, too.
The third P, prioritizing, is also closely related to planning and pacing…. and it might be the most important of the three. I believe that successful prioritizing is based on personal values. In other words, spending time reflecting upon what is most important is required.
The schedule I described above allows me to spend my time participating in activities that I value… like spending time with my mother, teaching, connecting with others and being creative. My values are spending time with family, connecting with others, creativity, and sharing information. (Really these are just a few as there are many more).
Another equally important aspect of prioritizing is the ability to say no. I have been approached several times to teach more classes or take on a project and while it is consistent with my values (or not) I know that my current schedule works for me. My priorities are always subject to review and change over time. For now, sticking with my schedule brings meaning and depth to my life with MS (#LifewithMS). That’s a good thing.
Planning, pacing and prioritizing has become a part of my life that I never anticipated 20 years ago when I was working as a therapist. I no longer pay lip service to them. They are tools that I use everyday. Perhaps you will find them useful, too.