PACING TIP - an alternative to heart rate monitoring

  • Over in the "Using a heart rate monitor" thread, I noticed many people felt that heart rate monitoring technology wasn't accessible to them because of cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. This is understandable given the complexity of the technology, and I wanted to offer an alternative suggestion for those folk.

    My experience, and that of many others, is that I often don't realise I've overdone it until it's too late to recover, resulting in this vicious cycle of "energy debt" that I can never "pay off". This is where heart rate monitoring is useful: even if you think you feel ok, your heart rate will reflect what's really going on in your body, helping you realise when you need to rest pre-emptively.

    However there are ways to incorporate pre-emptive rest into your day without needing to monitor your heart rate (they may just take a bit more trial and error). Something that has been working well for me is literally scheduling rest periods throughout the day. This is how it works:

    • I set an alarm on my phone every 2 hours.
    • When the alarm goes off, I force myself to rest completely for 20 minutes (lying down comfortably, no sensory input, no using my phone or even solving problems in my head if I can help it!)
    • I time the amount of rest to the amount of time I've been up and about. From trial and error I know I need about 10 mins of rest per hour of exertion. So if for some reason I have to be exerting for 3 hours instead of 2, I'll rest for 25 mins afterwards, etc. More frequent rests means I can get away with shorter rest periods.

    Yes, there is a little bit of maths involved but it's a lot less complicated than setting up a heart rate monitor, and the numbers don't have to be exact, the important thing is having the discipline to limit exertion and force yourself to rest for a certain period of time regularly throughout the day.

    The exact time you need to rest for, and how long you can exert in between rests, will be very personal. My suggestion is to see how long it takes for you to start feeling even vaguely more unwell than your baseline, and start with that as your "maximum exertion period". It might be different for different kinds of tasks (physical activity vs. sitting quietly vs. cognitive exertion for example), but don't worry about that to begin with if it's too overwhelming. I just average mine to about 2 hours, and I know to stop and have extra rest if I start feeling unwell before that point.

  • Wow @river, I do pretty much exactly the same thing, except that I don't time my rest time - I just let my body rest for as long as it needs (I'm fairly tuned in now). Great minds 🙂

  • @lenri awesome! Do you know how long you tend to rest on average? I don't have the discipline to decide when I've rested enough haha. It's great that you can do that.

  • @river Good topic.
    Pacing is the key to managing life for me. I have never even thought of a heart monitor instrument, but I always notice when I can feel my heart beating, and know I am overdoing it if that happens.
    My other pacing tips include
    Planning: "Think what you can do and halve it, think how long it will take and double it".
    Factor in rest times, which means being horizontal.
    Always plan a rest day after a busy day.
    Breaking down activities (like shopping) into small steps with rests inbetween.
    Plan, plan, plan.
    Keep checking assumptions and trying to look objectively at what is happening to me after an activity , so I can do better next time.
    Knowing that the amount of activity I can do, and the amount of rest I need, keeps changing, so trying to be attuned to this.
    The 'just 3 things' rule where I put three things away every time I get up. The iller I am, the smaller the 3 things (eg moving a dirty spoon from the bench to the sink 😉 )
    Using resting time to plan.
    Knowing that keeping my life small enough to keep symptoms at bay, allows me to live that small life fully.
    Recognising the signs of needing a break. eg feeling a bit edgy or irritated, my hands shaking, losing concentration, bad posture, and when the thought of making myself lie down just seems too hard to do...
    Yikes! must go lie down!

  • @river I definitely have times I need to coach myself to rest if I don't feel like it!
    I usually rest around 10 minutes every two hours. I've had it go down to 5 or up to 30 depending on how unwell I am and how active I have been.
    As well as having no sensory input, as you mention, I also close my eyes when I rest like this. Do you do that as well, or do you allow yourself to be looking around the room?

  • @Dot I go about things in a gentle way both physically and mentally, sort of like the story of the tortoise and the hare. I plan out what I am going to do and routine is an essential part of my life.

    It takes the planning of a military operation.

    Apparently arthritis management also uses pacing.

  • @iris (and everyone) ha yes, we are definitely turtles.
    A military operation in planning and then gentle pottering around. That is my ME/CFS day.
    @lenri coaching ourselves is a wonderful way to describe it.

  • @lenri said in PACING TIP - an alternative to heart rate monitoring:

    As well as having no sensory input, as you mention, I also close my eyes when I rest like this. Do you do that as well, or do you allow yourself to be looking around the room?

    If I'm feeling really unwell, I will go full sensory deprivation with an eye mask and noise cancelling headphones (and maybe open a door to let in some fresh air). Otherwise I allow myself to look around but I try not to have bright lights on. Luckily visual input/light is not anywhere near as much of an issue for me as sound, motion or odours.

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