Dear Candy Q & A: Pacing
Pacing is an important aspect to recovery, and yet often a challenging one. How do we find that middle ground between doing too much or too little, especially when our capacity to engage in life activities fluctuates? In some ways it is like trying to hit a moving target.
The other piece that makes pacing difficult is the automatic negative thoughts and behaviours that go with a limbic system impairment. When we have days where there is lots of energy, the limbic system will push to use it all up, to get caught up on all the things we have put off or the things we have been wanting to do, leaving us depleted by the end of the day. This perpetuates the cycle of ups and downs. Its that underlying driving force of needing to "do" that takes us beyond our capacity or beats us up on days where the capacity is low (i.e. telling us we should be doing more, and bringing up guilt that we are not).
It takes great strength to step into the curious observer, note what is going on, and to restrain from using all of our energy on the days where there is abundance. Part of that strength comes from learning to trust that there will be more days with energy in the future, that we don't need to complete everything today. Really challenge the belief that we have to capitalize on the energy when it comes around. This belief is generated from fear and is a false message (regardless of past experience that may suggest it is real). When we find it within ourselves to not go to depletion on good days, what we begin to notice is the following day there is capacity to do a little more. Over time, we actually get more done and feel better by leaving some fuel in our gas tank on those energy filled days. This helps us to level out, and from levelling out our energy we can actually begin to level up.
One of the best ways to ensure we don't fully expend ourselves is to have small breaks throughout the day. Initially you may have to force yourself, because the limbic system will get on a roll and want to go from one thing to the next. This is an old pattern of behaviour that is generated out of fear of losing momentum and then not being able to continue on with activities. It can also be a sign that we are going into a flight or flight response and it is the adrenalin that drives us to keep doing more. By forcing oneself to take five to ten minute breaks (to do a short meditation, breathing or grounding exercise, or go outside in nature), we interrupt the cyclical pattern of overdoing then crashing. At first it may be best to take one of these breaks each time we transition from one activity to the next. In the case of doing a longer activity, breaking it up into no more than half hour or forty five minute increments would be useful. As we retrain our system to not get sucked into the momentum of the limbic system, we can begin to spread the breaks out, taking one mid morning and one mid afternoon. Remember that repetition is key to retraining the brain, so the more frequently we interrupt the momentum, the sooner those old pathways in the limbic system will begin to prune away and the drive to push oneself will lessen.
One the days where energy is low, also take the opportunity to push the edge slightly and engage in brief activity, followed by a round of practice or elevating your emotions and then rest if needed. Do not let the limbic system be the one to dictate when you rest. Make a conscious choice yourself and postpone resting briefly where you can. Again this repetition alters the limbic system pathways in favour of recovery.
Trying to discern overall what is too much and too little can take time and practice. Because we are often dealing with a moving target, we take our best guess of what is appropriate each day and go from there. We want to strive for having 20% energy left at the end of the day, to the best of our ability, especially on days where we start out strong. On days where we start out with less than that, we do our best to refill our tank and to stay out of thoughts that reinforce dysfunction (like beating oneself up, questioning if this is ever going to change, resisting where we are at, etc.). Thinking greater than how you feel and not believing everything you think becomes paramount during these times.
The more we understand that these signals are coming from our brains and the more we trust in the process and our ability to overcome it, the easier it becomes to navigate and ultimately lessen the ups and downs. Finding ways to increase your trust in both the process and in yourself will go a long way toward recovery and increasing wellbeing.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com