a woman cartoonishly steps forward, with ghosted legs showing paces she could have, but ultimately did not, take

Pace Yourself - A Hard Lesson Learned

I am sure you have heard it as many times as I have. Pace yourself. I always ignored it, racing to get chores done on days I felt good. Sometimes I managed to string together several of these days, visions of Wonder Woman dancing through my head! Then the legs would turn to rubber, fatigue replaced my energy and my lungs screamed, “What were you thinking?”

It took me a very long time to learn how to pace myself. Breaking down tasks into manageable chunks is not about being lazy. It is an efficient way to manage my life living with COPD. There is no one size fits all for this. I have come up with many plans. A little tweaking here and there, now I feel I have a manageable plan for my life.

The Daily, weekly and someday lists

I began by looking at my goals daily. I expect to be productive during the day. That means taking care of my home, cleaning, cooking for myself and my husband, managing my illness, and making some income, either through hobbies and/or writing.

Since I have tracked my symptoms for a few years, I know my energy level starts dwindling by 4:00 in the afternoon. The weather will affect breathing, therefore I watch the weather for a week, making plans accordingly. For example, I listened to the weather on Monday which told me humidity and heat would increase during the week, and it was likely to be very hot on Friday. My plans for that day will be light, with exercising and any chores requiring exertion done in the morning.

I have a calendar book I work out of. I have daily chores listed. They are typically light house chores such as dishes, making dinner, making the bed, and time for exercises. I keep it light, also allowing for the unexpected phone call or interruption. I also keep a list of weekly tasks. I can add these to any day I feel up to it, without pushing myself beyond my limits. I also keep a to-do list, but there is no time limit. It might be organizing a particular closet or shopping for new curtains. Keeping these lists and keeping a daily schedule keeps me productive, meeting goals in my life, yet I no longer push beyond what I should.

Think ahead to avoid disaster

If I have a planned event coming up or even just going out on a Saturday with my husband, I pace myself for it. I have a family reunion soon. I will have my clothes ready days in advance. Oxygen tanks will get filled the day before. Anything I need to take with me will be ready and waiting by the door. I know if I am rushed, I will get out of breath and anxious. I learned not to just rush out the door to the car, uncomfortably short of breath when I get there. I sit on the couch near the front door doing pursed-lip breathing first. After walking to the car I will sit and catch my breath again. Then I will get comfortable, seat belt on, ready to travel.

When told to pace yourself, it sounds simple. I found it wasn’t, at least not without a plan. It isn’t just for bad days, but good days as well, so they won’t turn into a bad day. At first, it took a great deal of thought and some planning on how to work this pace yourself concept into my life. I knew I had to find a balance of rest and living life. Of course, life is uncertain and will throw curveballs. I am more prepared for them now.

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.