Living with a Chronic Condition: Are you a Pusher or a Pacer?

I love to go for walks around my home. And as I walk, I often notice runners who pass me by; some sprint past whilst others jog lightly, but most check their pace on their watches from time to time.

We all have a natural pace, peculiar to us, and whilst we can move within it freely when we feel ok, it’s incredibly important to understand where our limits are when our natural pace is disturbed by a chronic condition.

For instance I notice that some days I walk quite fast while others I need to slow down. Having MS myself I have learnt to listen to my body and deal on a daily basis with the condition. And Sophrology is at the core of my wellness plan.  However, regardless of what regime we may have to keep ourselves healthy, living well requires an approach to lifestyle and mindset to maintain our health.  Here are some suggestions to help you get through the more difficult days, when your body is just not playing ball…………..

Pace Yourself

Just as with experienced runners who know how to pace themselves – and how to recover – it’s vital to read the signs that your body gives you and to act on them.  Work, friends and family can often make demands on our time and energy which, on a good day, is easy; but what do we do when we’re not feeling quite so bubbly? 

This is where we tend to fall into two categories: the pushers and the pacers.  

Pushers will take themselves beyond what they are able to do, and soldier on, often paying for it it later, unable to take on other things that they might have done.  Pacers, on the other hand, understand that we need to listen to our bodies and adjust our day’s activities to suit our pain or energy levels, keeping us ticking over until we regain our health.  By staying connected with your body, you can make more sensible decisions on what you can and cannot do, and perhaps even reduce the symptoms of your condition in the process.

Focus on the Positive

My condition means that I sometimes have difficulty with my walking, vision and especially energy levels when I have a flare up.  It often happens at the most inconvenient times in my life, but it doesn’t keep me down.  Having gratitude for all the things in our lives that are working well, can really help to minimise the negatives.  Mindfulness is an integral part of Sophrology, and can have such a positive impact on how the rest of my day goes; instead of ‘Oh no, I feel really bad today, how will I cope?’ I focus on what’s good about my life and feel empowered by the solutions I find to obstacles in my path.  ‘What can I do to still give myself a good day today?’ is a far more motivational question to ask yourself when your condition strikes.

Don’t Stress!

Stress has a nasty habit of creeping up on us!  That’s why it’s so incredibly important for us to pay attention to our pace and mindset.  Studies show that people suffering from stress and anxiety may suffer more from chronic pain, as higher levels of cortisol – our stress hormone – enter the bloodstream, tensing up muscles and putting the body on alert. This makes us more aware of pain than we might otherwise be, lowering our mood and further reducing our resistance to symptoms of our condition.  With Sophrology, I start my mornings with a stress-busting approach – a mindful attitude of gratitude and simple exercises which help me to regain control of a day that might otherwise go a little awry.  It lifts me when I don’t feel so well, and motivates me when I’m pain free.

So… are you a Pusher or Pacer? Why not consider where you place yourself across these three areas and think about what you could do to improve your lifestyle in general?  For me, it’s not just about Sophrology; a holistic approach to body and mind through eating well, sleeping well and exercising enough is key to living your best life when you’re feeling healthy – and importantly, coping more effectively when you’re not.

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