I'm Not Tired: International CFS/SEID/ME Awareness Day
May 12, 2015
Tomorrow, my sister Michelle and I will embark on a ten-week health overhaul, a candida/digestive health program from www.thewholejourney.com. It add...
April 25, 2015
From this point, I am adding more structure to this blog. On Saturdays, I'll give a general update on Michelle's and my progress with our illnesses a...
Creative Time Management Series
June 7, 2015
Pacing, Pre-emptive Rest, and the Pomodoro Technique
June 13, 2015
When I was a pianist in college, the timer grew to be one of my best practice tools. During a practice session, it was easy to lose track of time and inadvertently turn a 45-minute Beethoven session into a 90-minute marathon. Working hard for long stretches of time may work well for some. But most people, myself included, start to experience the Law of Diminishing Returns after the first hour or so. My brain would slowly switch to autopilot and my focus and creativity would decrease.
To combat this, I implemented the Pomodoro Technique. The basic idea of the Pomodoro Technique is 1) focus exclusively on a task for 25 minutes 2) take a 5-minute break 3) repeat steps 1-2. During the 25 minutes, all distractions are removed and the brain is hyper-focused on the task in front of it, and the 5 minutes are for grabbing water or a snack, doing jumping jacks, straightening up a room, or doing anything else relaxing and unrelated to the task.
The concept is that small, frequent chunks of productive time yield greater results and save energy when compared with longer periods of work. For those with SEID, this idea is magnified many times over. Last semester, I always experienced an increase in symptoms on the days my teaching schedule included back-to-back classes in the morning. On those days, I knew I had about 4 hours of activity in me before I'd experience a crash. But I found that I could increase my activity load to 6 hours a day without a significant increase in symptoms, whenever I took small breaks throughout the day, instead of one long break in the afternoon. I didn't need to increase the total amount of rest; I just needed to tweak the duration and frequency of each rest period.
The brief work periods and frequent breaks of the Pomodoro Technique also fight burnout before it happens. It's pre-emptive rest at its best. Pre-emptive rest is the grand pooba of pacing when dealing with SEID. If I wait until I feel tired to rest, it's too late. I'm in for a relentless cascade of symptoms. I need to save energy on the good days, or I run the risk of suddenly running out and triggering a flare. This is hands-down the hardest element of pacing for me. On a good day when I'm feeling halfway decent, the very last thing I want to do is stop in the middle of my morning to take a break. But taking those little, inconvenient breaks can help ensure that my good day stays a good day.
Now, a 25-minute/5-minute routine may sound like a piece of cake to the average person, but for those with SEID, the sweet spot might be different and will probably vary depending on how bad symptoms are during a particular week or even day. This week, I've been under the weather and extra fatigued, so after a couple days focused solely on resting, I have been working today in 20-minute sessions, followed by an hour-long break. They key is to have a pacing routine in place, adapted to your individual energy needs, that allows for focused periods of work, alternated with relaxation and rest. It's like eating small, balanced meals throughout the day: I'm giving my body a steady supply of energy all day long.
Tomorrow, I'll write an update on the results from the candida diet so far (Michelle just has one week left-woohoo!), and next week, I'll follow-up today's theme with a post all about figuring out one's "energy envelope" to avoid flares and sustain a "normal" lifestyle routine.