Pacing means changing behaviors, but it also involves changing how you think: acknowledging the need to lead a different kind of life and adjusting your expectations to match your new limits.
Mental adjustments that aid consistency include the following:
Heed Your Body’s Messages
You can gradually retrain yourself to respond differently to the signals sent by your body: instead of ignoring or overriding your body’s signals, you use an increase in symptoms as a warning sign to stop. You can replace mental phrases like “work until done” with new phrases such as “I stop when tired.”
Stop & Choose
One way that people get pulled outside their limits is by giving in to the temptation to do something that seems appealing at the moment. A way to avoid such lapses is to stop before you act and realize you have a choice. You might say something like “What are the consequences of my doing X? Am I willing to accept them?”
A related strategy is to visualize how you will feel if you go outside your limits. Some people, for example, imagine themselves lying in bed in a dark room, tired and in pain, with severe brain fog. Another strategy is to remind yourself of alternatives, by saying things like “I can finish this task and crash or listen to my body and stop.”
Alternatively, you can focus on the positive and give yourself reminders of what you gain through pacing. For example, you might post notes to yourself in prominent places in your house, saying things such as “Staying within my limits gives me a sense of control.”
Some people with CFS and FM have difficulty acting in their own interest. In some cases, the answer is to learn assertiveness. Assertiveness means finding your limits and then communicating them to others.
Other people have a habit of putting others’ needs ahead of their own. As one person in the self-help program said, “Even after becoming seriously ill with CFS, I felt a huge responsibility to take care of my family as I always had.”
Sometimes called “people pleasers,” these individuals have difficulty setting limits or saying “no” to others. Because of this view, people pleasers may not take care of themselves. This trait can be deeply ingrained and may require counseling to change.
No one stays within their limits all of the time. Instead of beating yourself up when you slip or circumstances overwhelm you, it’s better just to ask, “What can I learn from this experience?” and move on.