Planning For Self-Care Success: Time Management
I live in the same house my mother was raised in. It's had a few minor modifications, but we still use my grandmother's pots and pans, and her pictures are on the wall. Houses and their contents can take on something of a life of their own, shaping the habits of their occupants. If good things happen we speak in terms of legacy or birthright. We don't often speak of the less helpful things, but they're just as important.
In a culture saturated with consumption and upgrades it's no wonder that our time lines, inboxes, and world are filled with offers to help organize our stuff or otherwise reconfigure our lives. There's a real need to address something unsettled or overburdened in the way we're living.
ASers move through this culture with even more to carry. Pain, fatigue, issues with mood, and other experiences complicate the daily business of living and can disrupt reflection and perspective needed to fit our lives to our own thriving. It's hard enough just trying to keep up. And the leftovers of past lives tend to hang around like my grandmother's pots and pans.
My most persistent and pressing AS symptoms include SI pain, pain and stiffness in my hands and feet, and generalized fatigue. On better days it's possible to socialize in moderate amounts, do most household chores, some writing, social media work, make dinner from scratch, do dishes (with several breaks), and (sort of) keep up with my extensive elder care responsibilities. Of course, AS never tells me in advance how many better days I'll get each month, or when they'll be. My responsibilities don't care about sore feet, stiff hands, or how much energy I have. Planning ahead is the only way to make sure that we still have healthy meals, clean linens, and the other essentials.
Reclaiming my time
My biggest self-care success has come from taking a ruthlessly intentional approach to time management. My time's a precious resource. It's dedicated to me and the things I want and need to do. It's not as renewable for me as it is for those of typical health and ability, but I've come to understand that even the healthiest people should consider getting ruthless about their time.
Intentional time management
I withdrew from many ongoing time commitments in exchange for a limited number of fixed events like conferences and vacations. This was not an easy process. My family has a long history of helping others through volunteering and community involvement, and activities appeal to my extrovert's need to socialize.
The ongoing commitments to meetings, multiple twitter chats, teaching classes in my community, or setting up rummage sales were all for good causes, but I'm just as good of a cause. As my AS progressed these commitments became harmful. Sitting through long meetings was very painful and the chairs weren't great for my posture.
And the recovery time kept increasing. There were also a few injuries to my hands and feet. The end result was too much energy going out and too much risk.
It's not over!
I'm happy with my shorter list of commitments. All of this can be revisited if things with my AS and personal responsibilities change, but taking care of myself right now is the right choice.
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?