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Mental Adjustments

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:

Adjust Your Expectations

As mentioned earlier, many strategies for succeeding at pacing require the development of new habits and routines. These, in turn, are based on adjusted expectations, ones consistent with your limits. 

The ability to develop new expectations is based on adpting a different attitude, a particular kind of acceptance. As explained by CFS patient Dean Anderson in a success story on this site, this acceptance is not resignation, but rather "an acceptance of the reality of the illness and of the need to lead a different kind of life, perhaps for the rest of my life."

Coming to acceptance is a process that often takes several years, but it has significant benefits. In the words of one person, "I've discovered that I can now be perfectly at peace with lowering my expectations as I know too well what happens when I try to push the envelope and then relapse."
Listen to Your Body

One way to reduce the effects of overdoing is by retraining youself to respond differently to the signals sent by your body. Instead of ignoring your body's signals, you can learn to hear and respond to its warning signs.

An example was provided by a person in the self-help program who was cooking chili one day and became very weak and tired. The chili was nearly done and his first thought was "Finish the job; it will take only another 10 minutes."

Then he remembered similar episodes when he ignored the signal and ended up needing to rest for two or three hours. So he turned off the heat under the chili and laid down for 15 minutes. When he got up, he felt fine. Listening to his body enabled him to avoid several hours of rest.
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.

One woman in the self-help program carries a card in her purse to remind her of the consequences of overactivity. One side says “What are the consequences of my doing X?" (In other words, what is the cost of doing some activity.) The other side reads "Just say No." (An alternative is to ask: "Am I willing to accept the consequences of X?”)
Another way to stop and choose 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 your choice 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,” "Pacing reduces my symptoms," or "Pacing makes my life more stable."
Learn Assertiveness

Some people with CFS and FM have difficulty acting in their own interest. In some cases, the answer is to learn assertiveness, which involves finding your limits and then communicating them to others.

One person in the self-help program reported that she was able to avoid setbacks when she learned to speak up for herself. She said, "Communicating clearly when I need medicine, rest or quiet time and taking time for these things when I need them all help me to prevent relapses."

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.
For more on assertiveness, including an assertiveness success story, see the article Assertiveness: A Tool for Reducing Symptoms.
Forgive Yourself

No one stays within their limits all of the time. Life has its ups and downs; some times are more stressful than others. Instead of beating yourself up when you slip or circumstances overwhelm you, it’s better just to ask two questions:
  1. What's the best thing I can do right now to help myself?
  2. What can I learn from this experience?
Then move on.

For step-by-step instructions for changing your "self-talk" (the voice in your head or internal monologue), see either of two articles: Changing Self-Talk or Taming Stressful Thoughts.


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