Sunday, October 28, 2018

Weekly Inspiration: A Plan B Day

I haven't posted much here on the blog in the past week or so (and didn't write my Challenges of Treating OI post, as promised) because I have been badly crashed. This has become a very rare occurrence for me, so I am out of practice! After pushing myself to "get things done" for a few days, I realized I needed to listen to my own advice and rest. Also, since I rarely crash from over-exertion anymore (see Effective Treatments for ME/CFS for details), my best guess is that I must have been exposed to a virus, and my immune system is going a little bonkers. Again, those virally-triggered crashes have been rare the past few years, thanks to treatments, but that's the only explanation that makes sense. So, I am pounding the herbal antivirals and trying to listen to my body. I was feeling a little better this weekend so was becoming active again, but I woke up today with worsened aches & sore throat again. I figured I would have to ditch my plans to write a Weekly Inspiration post.

Then, I said to my husband, "I think I need to make a Plan B for today," and the lightbulb went on! This is our shorthand for "forget the plans - how can we make things easier?" Since I have written about this before, I will just repost it here today, thus illustrating the concept of Plan B! This article, A Plan B Day, was originally published on the ProHealth website on October 22, 2016. You can read it at the link or I will reprint it in its entirety below.

Now, back to resting and listening to my body!

A Plan B Day

Although some people with chronic illness are severely ill – even bedridden – every day, for many of us, chronic illness is an unpredictable rollercoaster of good days, bad days, and everything in between. In the first years of my ME/CFS, waking up feeling horrible on a day when I had plans or things to do caused me a great deal of stress. I often pushed myself to do those things that “had to be done” and ended up in even worse shape afterward. After many years of trial and error, I finally learned (I’m a slow learner) how to deal with those kinds of days. I call it a Plan B Day.

In my previous life, I was super-busy and always on the move. I liked to stick with my plans (some might even say I was a bit controlling!), and I would get upset if I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I may have been tired or battling a cold or extra-busy, but I convinced myself these things had to get done today – no other options.

Then, in 2002, ME/CFS hit. In one day, I went from can-do to can’t-do (though it took much longer to recognize it). In those early years of illness, I had trouble letting go of my too-high expectations of myself. If I was planning to go to the grocery store one day and woke up feeling awful, I was still in the mindset that I had to go. You know what happens when you push past your limits with chronic illness – you end up flat on your back the next day (and possibly for many days afterward).

Now, not being able to do what I planned is a daily occurrence. My way of coping is to call it a Plan B Day and change my attitude entirely. Let’s say that grocery store trip is planned, and I wake up achy and worn out, with a sore throat. I still often start thinking, “But I have to…” but now I stop myself. Can I cobble together a meal with what’s in the house already? Can my husband stop after work to pick up what we need? I make myself relax, calm down, and think through the alternates.

Here’s how you can adopt a Plan B attitude on those days when you just can’t (or shouldn’t) do what you planned:

Take a Mental Inventory – Put the brakes on that “must-do” mentality and really assess how are you feeling. How bad are your symptoms? Sometimes I don’t notice how severe they are until I slow down and make myself take notice. Consider what your true capabilities are today and what you’ve learned in the past from pushing yourself when you feel this way. Don’t panic – just tell yourself it’s a Plan B Day.

Revisit Your To-Do List – Look at what you had planned to do today. What is really essential and what can wait?  Can you pull together a meal without going to the store? Do you have to go to the post office or bank today? Pare your list down to what absolutely cannot be put off (like picking up your kids from school, for instance!) – only the truly urgent things. Be honest & drop that “must get it done today” mentality.

Delegate & Revise – What is your Plan B? For those things that must be done today, who can you delegate to? Can you ask a friend or family member for help? Can it be postponed? Is there another way to do it without the exertion (maybe an e-mail or phone call instead of going out, for instance)? Look in the freezer to see what your meal options are without going to the store. Text your partner or a friend to see if they can help. It’s hard for many of us to ask for help, but the truth is that most of our friends and family members would love to help and just don’t know what we need.

Drop the Guilt and Rest – Now that you have your Plan B, do those few things you must (from the couch or bed!) to postpone and enlist help and then forget about it all. Let your Plan B do its job. Rest, take care of yourself, and give your body a chance to recover. Stress and worry will only make you sicker, so let it all go and focus on recuperating. Indulge in a good book, a funny movie, or binge-watching your favorite TV show to take your mind off the to-do’s and signal to your body that it is time to rest.

Once I adopted the Plan B attitude, I was surprised to find how few things are really, truly critical to get done today. It required a complete mindset change from my previous approach, but I find that using the phrase Plan B Day reminds me to slow down and look for alternatives instead of panicking or pushing myself. It’s a constant struggle to drop those expectations and take care of myself, but I easily see the results – feeling better the next day instead of worse or having the energy to spend time with my family at the end of the day instead of being totally depleted. And, if you wake up tomorrow still feeling awful, there’s always Plan C.


Blue Lantern said...

Thank you for posting even the plan B. Sounds completely sensible. Had a plan B week too and food stocks to last a week to a month for emergency if need be. Although an embarrassing bit is plan B bathing. Need an accessible bathroom were even sitting anywhere but the toilet would be possible, but I am planning for hubby to eventually have a home he could wheelchair in as he needs one now. Finding the really hard bit in plan B recovery to work with deadlines. Me and deadlines, we don't get along. Even really difficult with specialists where you have to wait 3-6months for an appointment window. I am amazed you manage the articles you do write, but then I am still learning the basics and found your OI articles immensely helpful to identify & help track issues that GP is now really concerned about. Next step treating them. Fingers crossed for only a 3 month specialist wait.

Sue Jackson said...

Thanks - glad you found this post helpful & could relate.

Guessing you are in the UK with those specialist wait times! So sorry - you shouldn't have to wait to see a doctor - hope your upcoming visit goes well & you are able to try some treatments. Glad my OI articles are helping. Hopefully, I will feel better & be able to write the part 2, Challenges in Treating OI, this week.

Oh, by the way, I am only able to write now, thanks to many, many treatments that have helped me to improve. In the early years of my illness, even though I started trying to be a freelance writer before I got sick, I could hardly write anything at all.

Not sure if you have seen my overall summary of the treatments that have helped the most (though OI is an excellent place to start):