I’m not doing anything, so I’m resting, right?
Yes, in the technical sense, but let’s look at rest in the respect of “rest and recharge”. Because that’s what we really need on days where everything hurts and fatigue wins. We need to get to a state of rest where our weary body can recharge. When I was working full time and had to take FMLA or never even made it out of bed, I couldn’t crack the code. I felt like those were wasted days and I didn’t feel any better the next day either. Let’s look at some things to be mindful of when we’re taking a rest day and some tools we can use so we’re not just resting but also recharging our spoons. 🥄🥄
Start with an emotional inventory:
What are you feeling? Guilt, shame and stress?
The guilt and shame game is a powerful thing when we have to take time for ourselves and listen to our bodies. Taking time off of work, or not being able to work at all, and not feeling OK with it is something we all know well. We feel like we’re letting our boss and co-workers down. We feel guilty that someone else has to cover our workload or that the work just isn’t getting done. If we can’t work, there’s guilt and shame around feeling like we’re not productive members of society. We can also feel these things because we even have to deal with it at all and here comes the depression. And as if we didn’t start the day stressed out from pain and fatigue, now add the stress of the feelings we talked about above. How many times have you ended up with a migraine on top of everything else because now you’re really stressed out. Your heart is racing right along with your thoughts and you’re body and mind are in defensive fight or flight mode.
What can I do to rest and recharge?
1 – BREATHE!
You’re home, in your jammies and curled up in a ball in the closet because that’s as far as you could make it, or you haven’t been able to get out of bed. Notice how elevated your heart rate is at this moment? And maybe really often other times too? Having an elevated heart rate uses spoons and getting it lowered will help you conserve and recharge. [A fitness tracker comes in handy here. I use a Vivosmart 4 to track my heart rate and stress levels. I’m sure most fitness trackers have this function or something similar.] Now, get yourself into a comfortable position, laying flat on your back works well, and breathe. I use the 4-7-8 breathing technique and belly breath. The 4-7-8 method actually helps me fall asleep at night. Managing your breathing is a good tool for every situation because you can do it anywhere. Do whichever breathing technique you’re comfortable with and keep doing it for 5, 10 minutes to start and build up to longer. Focus on your breath, see the air traveling into your nose and lungs and on the out breath, send the guilt, shame and stress out of your body. Feel the tension leave your body every time you breathe out. Remind yourself that no time limit applies here and when your mind wanders, because it will, just bring it back to your breath. Then check your heart rate, if you don’t have a tracker, just check your wrist pulse and count the beats for a minute. If you’ve successfully lowered your heart rate, you’ve also lowered your stress level.
2 – Mind your inner voice.
What does your internal dialogue sound like? Are you saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your worst enemy? Change the script in there. Tell yourself that you’re exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing in this moment. Quiet the chatter of “I should be’s” and “why can’t I’s”. Replace those words with “I am’s” and “I can’s”. Being mindful of how you talk to yourself is a life changing practice. You don’t deserve to be spoken to the way you speak to yourself sometimes. Especially in times where you’re already barely hanging on. Put on some music that makes you feel good and create a mood for yourself. Stay away from those playlists that evoke self-deprecating emotions. The goal here is to elevate the mood and get out of the negativity of the moment. Meditation helps a lot with quieting the Judgey McJudgerson in our minds too. A great app that I used when I started meditating is Headspace. It’s targeted to beginners and he makes it easy. So, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried meditating before and have no idea what you’re doing, start small and work your way up.
3 – Do your everyday self-care.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in such a bad flare that I laid in bed stressing on how bad I felt and how I got here. Replaying recent activities wondering which one sent me into a flare. And then didn’t do a damn thing thing that had the potential to ease my suffering. I didn’t take my medications or apply any topicals. I didn’t do anything to lower my stress levels. I would spend hours researching Fibro, CFS and gut health like a mad woman, looking for that one thing, that “aha” that I’d missed after all these years and alternate that with wanting to rage-quit life. I wallowed in my situation and commiserated with fellow sufferers. What a mess I was perpetuating. How was I supposed to recharge when this is how I treated myself? I’m not discouraging support groups for Fibro or any other invisible illness, just be mindful of the level of negativity that occurs in the group. Ask yourself if the group makes you feel better or worse and notice if members are kind to each other. I know we all get in shitty moods when we’re flaring, but projecting it on strangers who are looking for help is a level of toxicity none of us needs in life.
So, take your meds and supplements and drink your water. Run yourself a hot bath with Epsom salt and essential oils. Use your heating pad, ice packs and electric blanket. Do some gentle stretching to get the blood flowing, you can get more stiff and more pain from being in the same position for too long. Yoga can be very beneficial as well, one of my favorite yogis, offers Yoga for Fibromyalgia. Here’s one on chair yoga. Put on your favorite pain relief topical. Order food from a healthier spot or keep quick and easy meal items in the pantry for these kinds of days. And put the phone and computer away! Stop researching, there’s no magical cure that came out that you somehow missed. Improving your condition takes time and you’re not going to solve the riddle today. You’ve decided that today is a rest day, so slow down and take your time with it. It hurts to move and everything is exhausting, but you have time to rest after in between the things you do. There’s no need to or benefit from rushing through it all, spread things out over hours. Take advantage of the time you’ve taken. Cuss and cry your way through it, but do the things you know you need to do to take care of yourself, especially on flare and rest days.
4 – Practice, practice, practice!
As with anything in life, these are skills that are learned. It takes time to make them a part of our everyday thought processes. Make a list and post it on your mirror. Set a reminder in your phone to breathe. Schedule time to stretch and meditate or be mindful. As you improve these skills, you’ll improve the quality of your rest days and the overall quality of your life. You’ll find that you’re doing them without even thinking about them. You will lower your overall daily spoon usage and help yourself start the day with more spoons. And there will come a time where you’ll need less and less rest days. A time when you’ll only need resting times within your day. As always, reach out with any questions or comments. Have you tried any of these tips? Did you find them useful in the moment? Over the long-term? Or maybe you just need help getting started. You’re not in this alone!
**PLEASE NOTE** I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Do not use this information in place of or against the advice of a medical professional. These are just my own personal thoughts and not a prescription, diagnosis or any form of health care.