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Conserving Your Energy Using the 4 P’s
Everyone has experienced the challenge of trying to maintain enough energy to do the daily things on our to-do list and when you have arthritis, it can really make things difficult by limiting the amount of energy you have and hindering your ability to do that every day. activities, work, and enjoying that precious time with your family and friends. But, there are some pretty simple things you can do every day of your life to help you use your energy wisely. These energy saving techniques are what are called the 4 “P’s”: pacing, planning, prioritizing and positioning.
- Walking: It is the key to helping you maintain your energy levels throughout the day. You’ll track your activities and break them down into baby steps with alternating rest periods. Think about the steps you need to take to complete a task or activity, and then try to go through them taking your time and at your own pace. Don’t rush it! Speeding is stressful even though you will be doing much faster and in the end you would be using more energy than you really needed. Allow yourself plenty of time to complete the task and don’t forget to take several rest periods in between. You might just find that you actually have more energy for later. The right way to pace yourself is to learn to listen to your body, so you can determine exactly what activity level works for you. If you do too much activity, you will end up overly tired or in too much pain, however too little can cause you to lose muscle strength and undo any conditioning you may already have. Learning how much you can do before you tire and stopping to rest will help you avoid completely depleting your energy supply and you will have some reserves. Learning to rest your mind as well as your body is just as important and if you worry about what you have to do next, you probably won’t get the full benefits of your rest time. You should try to keep your activities and rest times consistent and automatic so that you always stay within your energy limits. Keeping a journal or diary, documenting your energy levels at different times in your day will help you see when you feel your best and when you feel your energy levels dip. You’ll want to write down the activity you were doing when you started to feel your energy start to drop. This helps you learn what activities you can tolerate and you’ll start to get ideas for some simple changes you can make in your daily routine to help you maintain your energy levels. The first thing you want to do is break down the task or activity into baby steps. For example: Let’s say today is laundry day, you can break it down like this; step 1- collect all the clothes; step 2 – separate it into different loads; step 3 – washing and drying; step 4 – fold and hang clothes and take them off. By washing your clothes in this way you will be able to rest after you have collected, separated and put the first load to be washed and then dried. Then while the second load is washing and drying, you can fold the first load, you see, sitting doesn’t require as much energy as standing. Even simple changes, like delegating chores to other members of your family, can leave you with more energy for other daily tasks.
- Planning: You need effective planning for proper pacing. You should look ahead a day, a few days or even a week, so that you can develop some kind of strategy for doing your activities. Make a list of the things you want to do or do that can be accomplished in one day so you can plan the best time to do each activity. If mornings are your best time, then you should probably schedule your more strenuous activities for a time or if you have more energy after a nap, you may want to schedule that time to do your chores or do work activities that require you to be more physical or . to make you think a little more. But you’ll still need to schedule your rest time sometime during the day so you can replenish your energy levels. Using a calendar or planner can help you plan your activities throughout the week so that you don’t do all of your stressful work on the same day. The first thing to do is look at all the things you want to do or need to accomplish in a week and sort them by how much energy it takes to do each one, such as low, medium, and high. The second thing is to spread the high energy activities throughout the week so that you don’t do too many of them in one day and end up so exhausted that you need several days to regain your energy levels. Remember that doing too many high-energy draining activities in one day can lead to an arthritis or fibromyalgia flare-up that can take several days or several weeks to get over. When you keep a list of the things you want to accomplish, you’ll be able to keep track of what you’ve already done and what you have left to do. This will give you a sense of accomplishment that is positive when you look back at exactly what you were able to accomplish. Also remember that you will need to be a little flexible with your schedule because it will allow you to do activities that are enjoyable and that you might otherwise have missed because you were too exhausted to do them.
- Prioritize: Learning to decide what you need to do first, to prioritize, can be of great help when trying to conserve energy. It can also be one of the most difficult to master because it requires you to look very closely at everything you do at work, home, leisure and recreational activities and then decide which are the most important and necessary and even enjoyable for you. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself when trying to decide which activities are more important to you.
- What are the most important priorities for me in my life? My work, home activities, or maybe my family and friends?
- Where do I want to direct my energy? What is most important to me?
- How can I get the best balance between work and play in my life?
- How can I get more rest and relaxation times in my day that will help me regain my energy stores.
- Can I simplify my daily tasks so that I have more energy left over at the end of my day to do the things I enjoy?
- Is there something that I really need to do that can’t be delegated to someone else or that someone else might be able to help me with.
You will want to prioritize the most important activities and delegate those that are less important to someone else in your family. Delegating can be difficult if you are the type of person who has always had the attitude that you have to do everything yourself, but if you approach it in a more positive way knowing that you are helping you maintain your energy levels, it will make it easier. Who knows, you might be helping others in your home or even in your workplace by teaching them to accept responsibility. When you network with family, friends, and neighbors to help you get things done, like taking your kids to activities, you might be helping them learn to conserve their energy as well.
Position: When you look at how you position your body or your body mechanics, you may get other ideas about how to conserve your energy. When you look at how you position yourself as you go about your day, you will be able to identify some ways to do your daily tasks using less energy, which can help you protect your joints from excessive stress. Listed below are some examples of techniques you can introduce into your daily routine to help you conserve your energy:
- Sit rather than standing because sitting takes less energy from your body and reduces stress on your leg joints. Using a shower stool while showering or sitting down to get dressed can help reduce the energy you would otherwise use to do these activities.
- If you have to stand to complete a task, and ease the strain and fatigue on your back, try resting one foot on a step stool or inside a lower cabinet.
- Good posture while sitting and standing will help relieve any fatigue on your neck, back and shoulders. This involves keeping your ears in line with your shoulders and your shoulders in line with your hips, and making sure your head doesn’t tilt too far forward.
- Organizing your work areas so that everything you need is within reach can help you avoid any unnecessary reaching, bending and stooping. Having duplicate items around the house can help eliminate any unnecessary trips between rooms. A cart that you have organized with the items you will need, or a lightweight organizational basket, or a storage container in which you can carry items are other ways that can help you avoid any unnecessary reaching, stooping, and stooping.
- Having your work surfaces at the right height for you can help promote good posture and reduce the fatigue that comes from poor posture. You want your work surface to be right at your elbow height and when you are sitting it should be just below your elbow height.
- To simplify your daily activities try using devices that can help you do those activities. Such items as reachers, long-handled sponges, brushes, and sprinklers and pitchers, are just to name a few that can help you when trying to conserve your energy.
- Finally, you will need to breathe during your activities. I know that sounds a little strange, but there is a proper way to breathe so that you can maintain your energy levels and help you relax. To begin with, pay attention to how you breathe and if your chest moves up and down when you breathe, then you are breathing badly, it should not move at all. You want your belly area to move instead. When you inhale, your belly area should expand and as you exhale, your belly area should contract or go in. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth very slowly. For you women out there, think about when you were in labor with your children and every time you had a contraction, you were told to breathe in right before it and out during it. It’s the same concept. If you practice this method of breathing and pay attention to how you breathe during your activities, it will soon become natural and it will become a habit.
Occupational therapists are professionals who are trained to help you make these and other changes in the way you go about your daily tasks. If you have arthritis, an occupational therapist can recommend techniques and devices that can help protect your joints from excessive stress. They can also help you change your work and your home to make them more manageable. Your doctor can recommend an occupational therapist if you decide you need such help.
If you take the time to think about everything you want or need to do, it can be a little overwhelming. But, if you can accept the fact that you will have some manageable difficulties ahead of you, then you will begin to make the changes in your daily life that can help you maintain your energy. Remember that the changes you make will improve your quality of life in the long run and you will feel like you are in control of your energy resources.
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