I’m sure by now you’ve all read the holy bible of chronic illness, also known as The Spoon Theory. So at this point you’ve probably realized that running out of spoons (or energy) can become a daily battle. I’m going to lay it out on the line here and say that despite my current situation—others have it WAY worse. Like moms. Jesus. I could not be a mom right now. I could just imagine being at my wits end having NO ENERGY flipping a sh*t because the handyman just tracked in mud through my living room and I’ve got to spend the next hour on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor—and then I just flip an imaginary switch in my mind and think about how much more my life would SUCK if there was a baby crying in the background.
God bless birth control.
This is not my point. My point is that our energy is a precious, valuable commodity and we have to safeguard it like it’s an autographed John Mayer guitar pic.
I’ve come up with a few loopholes in the system; I hope you enjoy these shortcuts to saving your spoons!
1. Walking the Dog: The “Park & Poop”
I have a one year old poodle that, if he doesn’t go for three long walks a day, will go apesh*t and ram himself into my kitchen cabinets. Like me, he has a very sensitive stomach as well. So if he doesn’t do his business three times a day it legitimately concerns me. But I live in Florida where the weather is around 90 degrees year round. Long walks are a bit hazardous in the daylight and so I’ve come up with a great avoidance tactic.
So Happy, like most dogs, will walk for a good fifteen minutes before he does his business. We walk past about six other apartment buildings during that walk and he usually goes in the same area. He is now so scheduled and organized that if he does not GET to that area—he will just refuse to go. (That little sh*t.) Instead of hazarding the possibility of heat stroke, I finally just asked myself: If he’s only going to go in one place—why don’t we just…drive there?
And so now—we do! We just hop in the car, drive past the six apartment building, he gets out of the car walks around for one or two minutes and just goes! It’s great! Saves me a migraine from the heat—and I don’t have to worry about him needing to go while I’m spending the rest of the afternoon napping.
2. Back to Back Classes/Shifts: Backseat Napping
I’m no longer physically taking college classes but for the two years I was—it was a nightmare. Long classes with short spaces of time in between meant that I couldn’t go home and rest and usually felt strung out and disoriented through my second class. In high school I could always take a break in the nurse’s office with a 15 minute nap if I was having a rough day. College doesn’t exactly offer the same amenities.
One day (in November, because again, Florida) I was sleepwalking back to my car after my first class. I basically had two options: 1) Go home and sleep. 2) Stay at school and potentially fall asleep in class. I moved my car seat into recline as I pondered my choices and ended up taking a second glance at my backseat. Suddenly it looked a whole lot more spacious to me. And—was that a jacket? Could it not totally be rolled up into a makeshift pillow?
And so began my love affair with backseat napping. Now I’ve got a real pillow back there and I’ve learned how to tuck my seat belt buckles back into the seat to make the bench one flat surface. This has been a lifesaver on many occasions and has helped me feel a lot safer about going out when I have no spoons (as I can always stop, nap, and get myself together before heading home.)
3. Lonely, But Exhausted: Invite Friends Over for Low-Energy Hanging Out
You think you’re the only one who is tired just because you have a chronic illness? Studies that I’ve conducted in my living room show that you’re not the only one who needs a chill evening every now and then.
Even “normal” people with “realistic” amounts of energy get tired too. I used to beat myself up about not always being able to go out with friends, right up until the point that I realized that their part time jobs/ relationships/ landlord issues/ work drama were pretty fatigue-inducing. Aim for a mid-week hangout with close friends by inviting them over for foods that require low-impact prep (IE: Frozen finger foods, chips, salsa) and drinks. Invest in some board games or suggest an on-demand Real Housewives marathon. Chronic illness can make you miss out on a lot of great things—including building those friendships and relationships that you need to stay strong and feel normal. Maybe being social is harder for people with chronic illnesses, but strong friendships come out of relationships built on the understanding that you’ve CHOSEN to “spend” your spoons on bonding with them.
4. Grocery Shopping with a PURPOSE!
It’s something we’ve all got to do—usually multiple times a week. Picking up groceries is just one of the symptoms of being a human with digestive organs. It can also be complicated by fatigue, dysautonomia, and brain fog. If you’re one of those people that dreads going through the isles on a symptomatic day here are a few little tips to getting through it:
- Make a list before you go in, even if it’s just in the car. When you’re distracted by your symptoms you usually forget things. Make sure to put everything on the list in order of importance, just in case you need to leave early and also need milk.
- Stay off the cell phone. I don’t know about many of you, but whenever I got on the phone with my sister I feel like I’m leaving half of my brain in the dairy aisle while the rest of it is trying to focus on the conversation and on shopping. Better to save the chit chat until after you’ve checked out.
- Aim for Self-Checkout. Some stores have started implementing self-checkout lanes. These are great for people with chronic illness as they mean you can go as quickly, or as slowly as you need to. There’s also usually a shorter line for them as people are confused about technology (at least in Florida they seem to be.)
I hope these tips help, but I also hope that any readers out there with tips of their own can leave them in the comments below. I think we’ve all managed to find at least one shortcut that’s made life a little easier—feel free to share!