Honoring Your Body: Practical Advice, Part 2

June 21, 2011

Check Boxes on a BlackboardSaying no and asking for help are two great ways to honor your body. They’re two of the hardest lessons to learn; however, they’re the ones that will make the biggest difference in how you feel and how quickly you heal. Besides, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we’ll have nothing left to give anyone else.

Say No (to the Right Things)
Some of you are saying, “I say no all the time!” Others are saying, “I can’t say no; I have too much to do!” That’s not the problem, folks.

The trick is knowing what to say no to.

My dad taught me that the hardest thing isn’t choosing between good and bad; it’s choosing between good and best.

With fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, we have to choose between good and best on a daily — even minute-by-minute — basis. In the midst of brain fog, we have to evaluate what’s best for our families, our bodies, and for us to be as well as possible.

In order to make the best decisions, we need to make them when we are thinking clearly, not in the midst of fibro fog:

  • First, review your commitments to see where you can trim down. Is there something you’re not 100% passionate about? Maybe the time has come for you to let that go. Consider having this review with a support person for more objective feedback. I often help my clients with this in their coaching sessions.
  • Avoid making important decisions when you aren’t at your best. This may mean saying, “Let me think about that and get back to you.” This way you avoid committing to something that you end up canceling. We’ve instituted a “no major discussions after 9 PM” policy at our house. Scott’s a morning person, so he’s not at his best after 9 PM. Evening is my golden time, so I often forget our agreement and have to be reminded. >grin<
  • Make some “default” decisions up front so that you don’t have to make them later. When my fibromyalgia was really bad, one of the decisions I made was to only have one appointment per week. Whether it was a haircut, massage, or going to Costco, one thing a week was all I could handle. If something else came up, I knew to either say no or schedule it for later. Honoring Your Body: Practical Advice, Part 1 has more info on rhythm, calendars & scheduling.
  • Don’t lie, but don’t feel like you have to explain. The best “no” response if you don’t want to explain is: “I’m sorry; I simply can’t.” It’s simple yet still gracious. Sometimes, telling folks that you feel like hell and haven’t been able to get out of bed to shower for a week just isn’t what you want to do; however, lies will come back to bite you in the butt. “I’m sorry; I simply can’t,” might mean that you’re going to Hawaii, you can’t get out of bed that day, or you just don’t like the other people invited.

Holding HandsAsk for Help (and Receive It)
When I was a kid, we had a house fire. Our priest at the time told my mom, “Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is letting them give to you.”

As capable people before fibromyalgia, we often forget that we may now need to ask for help.

Sometimes, we don’t ask for, or receive, help because we don’t want to be a burden to others. Sometimes, we’re in denial over what’s happening with our bodies. Other times, we just forget due to brain fog. If it’s the first or second, get over it! {hugs} If it’s the third, enlist gentle people in your life to remind you kindly that you don’t have to do it alone!

You’ll only do more harm by treating yourself like a donkey. You’re also denying people who love you the chance to show you that they love you! This can be especially true for the men in our lives, our Mr. Fix-Its. They can’t fix our fatigue, pain, or fibromyalgia, but they can fix things that make our lives easier.

One of the frustrating things that can happen is that our loved ones will ask us in the midst of a flare, “What can I do to help?” At that point, when we can’t think straight, all we can say is, “Nothing!”

Having some conversations up front, not in the midst of a flare or fibro fog, will help those who love you help you better:

  • Tell the people you hang around most the signs that indicate you’re starting to flare. I was once at a museum with a friend who said, “You need to eat, don’t you?” I was shocked; how did he know? By the way I was walking. I hadn’t said a word. What are your telltale signs? What can your people do to help you avoid a flare? If you need ideas, check out Honoring Your Body: Getting to Know YOU.
  • Think of where you struggle, then talk with your loved ones about how they can help. I was coaching a client recently who was having a hard time keeping up with all she has to do during the week. We discussed how her boyfriend always asks how he can help. I suggested that they sit down together each week to go through her schedule. Doing this will allow him to remind her of things that are coming up when her brain is too foggy to remember. As they discuss her needs together, it will also give him the chance to think of other ways he can help make her week easier.
  • Be specific. People want to help but they don’t know how. Telling folks, “I wish you’d help me!” just creates frustration on both ends. Try saying, “Can you help me put away the dishes? It’s difficult for me to bend and stretch to put them away.” Toni Bernhard wrote a great article titled How to Ask for Help with more details on how to do this.
  • Ask your doctor for a handicapped parking tag. Here in Oregon, you have to ask your doctor for the tag; your doctor can’t offer it to you. For a long time I thought that I didn’t need one. After all, I wasn’t, you know, handicapped; I was only 36 years old! However, I started realizing that I would go places then leave if I couldn’t find a space close to the door — no matter how badly I needed to go there! Plus, all of my energy would be gone before I got to the door in a big parking lot — which left me no energy to do my shopping. (Hello, Costco!) After I asked my doctor for the tag, she told my husband, “I’m glad she asked. She really needs this.” I haven’t used it in the last 18 months, but I keep it in my glovebox because fibromyalgia is unpredictable. The article that convinced me that what I was experiencing with my fibromyalgia was worthy of a handicapped tag, is K8’s Got a (not so) Secret or Fibromyalgia and Walking. Don’t be afraid to get this help if you need it. Letting Go of Symbolism is a similar article about getting a cane.

A word of caution: Implementing a bunch of stuff all at once is stressful! Pick and choose one or two things that resonate with your spirit and start there. Be gentle and go slow; start small. Be kind to yourself. That’s another way of honoring your body.

Action Steps
Which of these two “advanced” tips is hardest for you, saying no or asking for help? Which comes naturally? Have you learned any tricks for communicating your needs to others? I’d love it if you shared some of your insights with us!

Jennifer Hofmann June 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Tami, this is awesome advice and information. It’s great for just about anyone with limitations (hello, humanity?), not just for sufferers of fibro. I’m blown away.

My favorite line: “Don’t lie, but don’t feel like you have to explain.” It seems like any time I try to explain I sound like a whiner. And you know what, I hate listening to others’ reasons too. I’m fine with others’ no. I’m getting better about saying my own.

Thanks SO much for this great post!
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Grace Judson June 22, 2011 at 7:19 am

I’m with Jen – my favourite is “Don’t lie, but don’t feel like you have to explain.”

I noticed long ago that when I was feeling uncomfortable about a decision, I would often over-explain. And then I started noticing how almost everyone seems to do this.

It’s a whole lot more effective (for yourself and everyone else!) to simply state your decision – whether it’s a “no” or anything else – and stop.

Love this post overall! thanks, Tami!
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Jara Halfen June 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm

I love the idea of being specific about the help you need. People are uncomfortable with guessing and although willing to help, they don’t want to do something that might be of no use to the person they are trying to help.

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