Where does the time go?! I can’t believe it’s March already! It’s been a busy few weeks around here, and some of the things I usually do (like blogging) have had to take a backseat to life. That happens for most of us from time to time, but it happens more routinely for those of us with fibromyalgia or another chronic illness. Sometimes we have to let go of the things we “usually” do in order to manage our pain and/or energy levels.
Learning to be flexible is key in thriving within this “new normal.” Most of you already know I’m a list person — I like having my to-do list and checking it off. When we live with chronic illness, that doesn’t always work out. I’m learning, slowly but surely, not to be married to my plan.
It’s great to have a plan, but it’s important to allow some flexibility.
Why is being flexible so important?
Being flexible and adapting to changing circumstances can help us build resilience. As we talked about in Bend or Break, “becoming more flexible can help us become more resilient, more likely to bend than to break, and more capable of living our best life.” We become better able to work within our limitations and adapt ‘on-the-fly’ to whatever life throws at us.
Learning to be more flexible can keep us from becoming derailed when we hit a ‘bump.’ This goes hand in hand with building resilience. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked with clients who, because they were so locked into the “all or nothing” mentality, one little ‘bump in the road’ could completely derail them. When we live with chronic illness, we hit a lot of ‘bumps.’ Learning to take these in stride and work around them helps us continue to move forward.
It can help alleviate some of the guilt associated with not getting everything done. Almost anyone who has lived with chronic illness or a chronic pain condition for any length of time experiences guilt because of the things they can’t do. If we can mentally allow ourselves some flexibility, that goes a long way toward easing those feelings of guilt when we can’t accomplish something we “should” do.
Flexibility doesn’t always come naturally to us. For those of us who have Type-A personalities (anyone else with me?) can often have the most trouble being flexible. I thought I’d share a few things that have helped me.
Ways to Improve Adaptability
Give yourself permission to let go of some things when you need to. Sometimes the mental aspect of having to let go of the idea that we can do it all is difficult. We’re such a society of ‘doers’ that it’s hard to admit we can’t get everything done.
Take an if/then approach. “If I can’t do this, I’ll do this instead.” Sometimes we can’t do what we planned, but we can do something else that requires less energy, time, etc. That helps us feel we’ve accomplished something, even if it’s not what we originally planned.
Give yourself more time than you think you need to get things done. If we build in extra time (for deadlines, for task completion, etc.) we have more flexibility to just take the time we need for recovery days, etc.
Realize that sometimes you just have to sacrifice the ‘good’ for the ‘better.’ Sometimes we just have to let go of some things if we’re going to really thrive. This isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but it’s an important one. We have to come to terms with the fact that in this “new normal” we live in, we will often have to choose between ‘good’ and ‘better.’
Learning to be more flexible and adaptive can help us truly thrive, not just survive, when we live with chronic illness.
Do you feel being flexible is important for successfully dealing with your chronic illness? What helps you adapt to changing circumstances? Please share!