As the summer months come to a close and we return to our everyday routines, it is important to be mindful of how we go about planning our coming days and weeks. After a few weeks or even months of loosened schedules and timelines, it may be tempting to over-schedule ourselves, especially as we look forward to (hopefully) being able to participate in more activities than we were able to last Fall. Nevertheless, continuously over-committing our time, energy, and/or resources can lead to negative outcomes for both our physical and mental health. Although activity pacing is often used to help people cope with chronic illness or to help support healthy recovery from injuries, mindfully executed activity pacing strategies can help us all to minimize risk of overwhelm in the future and help ensure that we get the most out of the activities we choose. Below I outline a few strategies that may be helpful to consider, as we all look ahead.
1) Monitor How You Feel: An important first step when implementing activity pacing strategies is to be aware of patterns of fluctuations in energy and mood as they relate to day-to-day activities. Such monitoring allows us to recognize that not all activities are equal. Some activities may require us to prepare a bit more or take more time to recover from than others. Monitoring our activities and our physical and emotional responses to them can also help us recognize cycles of “good” and “bad” days. For example, “over doing it” on “good” days may lead to under-activity on “bad” days. This information can be a crucial first step in beginning to experiment with strategies aimed at finding balance in the long run.
2) Diversify and Prioritize Activities: When planning our days, it is important to think about the variability in the types of activities we do and the priority by which we do them. Activities can vary in the amount of time they take and ways in which they may be meaningful or important to us. It can be helpful to think of activities in categories including things you must do, things you like to do, and rest. Once categorized, we may then consider planning at least one activity in each category, each day. By taking the time to diversify, prioritize, and pace your activities, you can increase the odds of having “good” days and ensure that you stay safely engaged on “bad” days.
3) Give Yourself An “Out.” Once you have selected a balanced set of activities, it can be helpful to then plan what you might be able to postpone or miss, should plans shift or you are too tired. Knowing in advance the activities you plan to skip, can ensure that you are continuing to work towards your bigger goals, while also taking steps to prevent burnout in the future.
4) Take Time to Troubleshoot: Troubleshooting what you will do if you run out of time or are feeling worn down before you are faced with the dilemma can help reduce the strain of changing the course when it is necessary to do so. As you review your list of activities, you may consider who you might ask for help or brainstorm alternative ways of participating in activities or completing tasks.
Activity pacing can be hard to do on your own, especially if you are finding yourself continuously over-committed and burned out or if you find it difficult to come out of the cycle of “good” days and “bad” days. Meeting with a trained mental health professional can help you learn and implement strategies to help you regain a sense of confidence and control in your life.
About Rika Tanaka, PhD:
Dr. Rika Tanaka, Ph.D. (PSY30925) is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Coronado Psych, a psychology private practice in Coronado, CA. As a resident of Coronado and an expert therapist herself, Dr. Tanaka’s mission is to increase accessibility to the highest-quality mental health services to Coronado and the broader San Diego community. Coronado Psych’s expert team of therapists are dedicated to providing the most effective psychological services to clients of all ages (e.g. children, adolescents, young adults, adults, and seniors) and are currently accepting new clients. For more information about the services provided at Coronado Psych, please feel free to call (619-554-0120), email (email@example.com), or visit their website at www.coronadopsych.com, to learn more.