By Stacie Prada
It’s interesting to me that the same task can feel stressful sometimes and relaxing others. It really shows that it’s not about what I’m doing, rather it’s how I feel when I’m anticipating or doing it. It’s how I judge the task in the moment.
Needing to cook dinner after a long workday may feel like one more burdensome thing that needs to be done, while spending hours in the kitchen baking or creating a new dish on a weekend might be a therapeutic activity resembling meditation for the focus and relaxation I feel.
The same can be true for a bike ride or jog where I’m trying to perform at a certain pace or complete a set distance. Doing the same distance with no expectations might feel like an easy activity. What amazes me is the pace might only be a mile or two less per hour for it to feel relaxing. While I love pushing myself and feeling strong for the accomplishments, I’m realizing that including the slower pace at times is better for me than continuing to push myself. It’s also clear that periodic no-movement days are good for me.
When someone asks what I did all day and I say nothing, I often realize it’s not true. I did do something. Most of the time, I’ve showered, I made something to eat, I napped, and I watched television that entertained me.
I’m realizing I really need to think of these slow-moving episodes as necessary recovery and recharging. I need to do this not because I’m deluding myself or making excuses, rather I need to place value on what my body needs to keep performing. While this is true for any human, it’s especially true for me given multiple sclerosis presents itself in my life as almost constant fatigue. Because it’s constant, I need to push through the fatigue to work, be active and participate in life. This is common for many people with MS and other chronic conditions.
It’s often a source of frustration and requires intentional kindness toward myself to focus on what my body can do instead of what it can’t. The knowledge that I can push myself to the point where it triggers my immune system to start attacking my brain and spinal cord is scary. The reality is that I put a lot of effort into self-care, and my immune system continues to attack periodically.
Thus, it’s mandatory for me to include relaxing and recovery in my life to set myself up for the best health prognosis possible. This isn’t unique to me or anyone else, it’s just that the consequences may be more severe if I skip rest days. Still, it feels shameful to have days where I accomplish very little. It feels lazy, and laziness is ingrained in my psyche as one of the worst things a person can be.
It’s imperative that I view recovery days as productive. If I view it as a wasted day, it stresses me out. If I view it as necessary and good health management, I can relax into the day and enjoy it. There’s value in doing nothing. When I recognize doing nothing as an accomplishment that improves my health, I lose the guilt and feel better about my myself.
*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/