If you have a chronic illness, you may have heard the term pacing before. If you’ve been around long enough, you may have even tried to implement it. While thinking about pacing is easy, putting it into practice is harder. Mastering pacing can transform your life from an existence of surviving to a life that you craft to bring you joy.

What is pacing?

Pacing is a strategy used by people with chronic illnesses. The goal is to be active and involved while not sending yourself into a flare up. Using pacing as a tool in your management kit can help you find sustainable ways to move towards your goals and dreams without sacrificing your health and life. You may also be more present in your life and avoid flare-ups by effectively using this strategy. Now that we have a better grasp on what pacing is, we can get into ways that mastering pacing can benefit your life.

1. Small Consistent Steps Add Up To Big Results

It can be really hard to see progress when we are in the thick of it. But we can observe plenty of examples of how consistent small steps can lead to a desired result. One example common in my world is the annual tradition of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This happens every November where writers dedicate their time and efforts to write 50,000 words within the month. During NaNoWriMo, writers dedicate their time and efforts to create a short novel that they can often publish later on. Most people suggest doing this by writing 1,667 words per day. For context, Charting Your Healing Course was 1,329 words. It’s a very achievable result most writers can knock out in an hour. But when applied consistently, those word counts can easily add up to a completed novel. The same is true for other things in our life. While hard to see when in the weeds, each small step can make progress towards building the life you want to live.

2. Understanding Your Limits

As you try to pace yourself, you get a sense of where your limits are and even grow your limits. Going back to the NaNoWriMo example, when I tried to first do it just after the onset of my disability, I would flare after 1,000 words. However, by working writing into my life regularly, I’ve been able to raise my writing session word count to 3,000-4,000. While none of this will cure my disability, it allows me to do more of what I love.

3. Understand when it’s worth it to push your limits

Life does not always move at a smooth, even pace. Sometimes it’s worth it to speed up and push past your limits. Sometimes it’s not. By applying pacing to your everyday life, you will decide what moments are worth pushing for. A common example I hear is weddings. It may be worth it to be a part of your own or your loved one’s wedding and then pay for a flare up later. You can make that decision best when you understand your limits and have a system you can fall back on.

4. Mistakes are natural and great learning tools

We all make mistakes in our lives. As of writing this, I made the mistake of not getting ahead of my posts for the big week of the move. A benefit of this mistake is that I can learn from it and manage my energy better when I have another big event like a move. Remember to give yourself grace if you screw up and do your best to learn how to do better in the future.