I read a quote this morning that I brought a laugh. “Some people wake up feeling like a million bucks. Others wake up feeling like insufficient funds.” The author of these poignanat words is unknown, but as a woman who suffers from chronic pain the idea they communicate is very familiar. I usually wake up feeling like I have insufficient funds to face a new day.
Last night was a typical one for me. I was feeling exhausted around 9pm, so I decided to lay down with my current novel and read and relax until my normal bedtime of 10:30pm. I read a few chapters, then my husband came down, rubbed my shoulders to help relieve the tension of a full day, and we prayed together. It was time to go to sleep.
I understand the importance of getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, especially when dealing with the challenges of chronic illness, and I’ve worked this into my daily routine. But unfortunately, my body doesn’t always cooperate with this plan. Numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my feet from peripheral neuropathy, pain from arthritis in my shoulders and lower back, and chronic pain and sensitivity to touch in my left knee from a regional pain nerve disorder make it difficult to get to sleep and even more so to stay asleep. So when morning comes, even though I’ve usually spent eight-plus hours in bed, I don’t feel rested.
Through trial and error, I have found several keys to living the best life I can with chronic illness and pain. When I wake up in the morning, I usually feel tired from a restless night. But I’ve learned that staying in bed at this time only increases the pain, so I choose to get up and start my day. If you live with chronic illness, you will need to figure out what works best for you personally.
I set aside the first part of my day for refreshing myself, in body, soul, and spirit.
- I try to eat a simple but healthy breakfast, one that I can fix on my own and that provides the nutrients needed to nourish my body.
- While eating, I may listen to some encouraging worship music or use an audio Bible on Bible Gateway or the YouVersion Bible app to listen to the chapter for today’s Bible reading.
- Next, I spend an unrushed time in God’s presence, renewing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading and study. I follow a daily reading plan – many great ones are available online. I currently use the First5 devotional and Bible reading plan from Proverbs 31 ministries and a monthly topical reading program on a subject I feel is timely, such as Rachel WoJo’s April plan on Confident Trust. Some days, I do more in-depth Bible study, digging into one or more verses that stand out in my reading. The amount of time I set aside for this varies according to the schedule and responsibilities for the day, but whether it’s twenty minutes or two hours I make this my highest and first priority for the day. My relationship with God reinvigorated, I’m ready to face another day.
- Finally, this time of refreshing comes to an end as I turn to our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Facebook page to interact with some friends who face the same daily battles I fight. I’ve learned the importance of community in this daily life with chronic illness, and this has become a time of both being encoraged and of encouraging others. I leave this morning time of being refreshed a little better prepared to face the rest of my day.
After my time of refreshing, it’s time to get busy with the other tasks for the day. I have two keys I apply to this: (1) I determine my top priorities for the day (which often means asking God to show me His top priorites for my day), and (2) I take breaks between tasks and whenever they are needed. And before I actually get to work, I ask God to supply the strength I need to fulfill His purposes for my day. As Christians, God has promised His strength in our weakness.
As the mother of a special needs child, the bookkeeper for our home-based business, a weekly blogger, and a regular contributor to God-Living Girls, I could easily feel pressured to do much more each day than I am now. But since my energy and stamina are limited, attempting too many tasks per day leads to exhaustion and even flares in my medical conditions that have the potential of landing me in bed for several days.
Therefore, I usually plan no more than three tasks per day, two of which can be done in my recliner. For example, at least one day each week, I work on family paperwork. I may spend an hour working on the bank registers and paying bills, then take a break from the work that requires mental focus. Next, I may do a brief housework task, such as folding clean towels or emptying trash cans around the house. Later in the day, usually after lunch, I tackle the final task that I ‘ve planned for the day.
At the end of the day, I almost always have undone tasks remaining, but those are for another day. I’ve set reasonable goals for my day, and usually I feel good in having accomplished what I planned.
Finally, I’m learning to pay more attention to my body and to not do more than I can handle on any particular day. On some days when pain levels are especially high or I feel unusually fatigued, that means taking a full afternoon to rest. Even on relatively good days, I often run out of energy by mid or late afternoon. I’m learning that it’s okay to lay down and rest for an hour or two when this happens. If I’m extremely tired, I may take a short nap. I’m learning to listen to my body and adjust my schedule according to my strength and stamina for today.
Many of you who read my blog share my goal of living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness. These are a few of the keys that have helped me live my best life with the limitations I currently face. God has made each of us differently, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. For those whose rest and strength is not hindered by pain and chronic conditions, understanding the need for rest and refreshing is still important. God made each of us with a need for rest, of body, soul, and spirit, and ignoring this part of our lives results in serious consequences. Ask God to show you how to meet this important need in the way perfectly fitting to where you are in life. And feel free to share some keys that have helped you reach a wise and healthy balance between work and rest in the comments section below.