Vacations, Holidays & Other Special Events
By Bruce Campbell
Pacing can be especially difficult for non-routine events, which include vacations, holiday celebrations, entertaining, houseguests, moving, remodeling, or even, for some people, leaving the house for a doctor's appointment.
Non-routine events are doubly dangerous. First, they require more energy than normal daily life while, second, you may feel pressured by yourself or others to be more active than usual. That combination often leads to a relapse. For example, more than 90% of people who attended a CFIDS Association webinar on pacing for the holidays said that they usually experience a crash after special events, with the relapse lasting from four days to more than a month.
How can you enjoy special events and avoid a relapse? By using the following three strategies:
- Extra rest
- Detailed planning
Take Extra Rest: Before, During and After
Probably the most widely-used strategy for making special events more successful is to get more rest than usual before, during and after the event. Store up energy by taking extra rest before the event; limit symptoms by taking extra rest during; and take whatever extra rest is needed afterwards. The amount of extra rest will vary; twice as much as usual would be typical.
For example, one person in our program says, "For a week or so before a trip, I double my normal daily rest time. I spend more than usual amounts of time resting while on vacation, and extend the practice for several days after returning. Also, I have had good success in reducing the effects of driving if I stop every two hours, tilt the seat back and snooze for 10 or 15 minutes."
Plan in Detail
The second strategy for special events is to plan the event in great detail. One person reports that if she is going on a one-week vacation, she plans for a two-week period, beginning a few days before she leaves and extending for several days after she returns.
She makes sure that she doesn't take on any extra activities for several days before and after her trip. She also makes sure that she paces herself carefully during the trip, with plenty of rest time. After returning, she continues to take extra rest.
Preparation for travel may include planning your activities for each day of the trip, including alternate activities you can do if your energy level is not what you expect. Depending on the severity of your condition, you might also arrange for a wheelchair or motorized cart in airports.
If you are going to a family event, it might mean finding out the schedule ahead of time and deciding how much activity you will have. If you're going out to dinner, you might plan to go at non-peak hours to minimize the noise.
One way to enjoy a special event is by passing tasks on to others. For example, if you are accustomed to doing all the cooking for a holiday celebration, ask family members to each bring a dish. Another adjustment is to go to an event, but not stay for the whole thing or take periodic rest breaks. Also, you might put limits on your participation, taking periodic rest breaks during an event or limiting the time you spend there.
Discuss Your Plans with Others
A third strategy is to talk about your limits and plans with the other people involved in the event, so they know what to expect from you and discuss their responsibilities. You might also alert them to the possibility that you may need to cancel out of some events and encourage them to do things without you at times when you need extra rest. If you discuss your limits and the unpredictability of symptoms with others ahead of time, you can reduce the chances disappointment and create a climate of flexibility.
An Example: Houseguests
The benefits of using the three strategies can be dramatic, as illustrated by the experience of Rose, a woman bedbound due to CFS. For several years, family visits triggered relapses that lasted several months each.
The heavy price for those visits motivated her to try something different and taking our pacing class provided her with an opportunity. A week-long visit by her step-daughter and seven year old step-granddaughter occurred during the class and Rose used the three special event strategies to structure the visit.
She used all three strategies to prepare for the visit. First, she reduced her usual activities for several days ahead of time, using the time for extra rest. Second, she created a plan for the visit. It involved alternating a day of socializing with a day of rest and also changing how she spent time with her granddaughter.
Because she had felt overwhelmed in previous visits by the granddaughter's high energy level, Rose decided to structure their time together so they engaged in quiet activities. Third, she discussed her plan with her daughter, who in turn explained it to the granddaughter.
Rose was successful in implementing her plan during the visit. After her visitors left, she spent most of two days resting, then returned to her normal activities. Instead of a family visit leading to a several month relapse, it was an experience of control through pacing.
She looks back on the visit with a sense of triumph. She wrote, "I had never even come close to surviving a visit from my granddaughter since developing CFS/FMS. It absolutely thrilled me that we were able to make some special memories together without it being damaging for me."
Rose has used the same strategies to manage subsequent visits by her daughter and granddaughter, including a much longer visit that occurred almost three years after the initial success. She has experienced the same result each time: No relapse.