I was recently driving on a freeway and saw a billboard that said, “Keep it simple.” Don’t ask me what they were advertising because I don’t recall. However, it reminded me of my last blog where I was talking about not being able to do certain things because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis and feeling guilty about it. Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” I had to laugh at this because I just had a conversation with my husband where I complained that I try to do too much at work. I told him that I could do less work and no one would care but I set goals for myself that may not be realistic given my RA challenges. Keep it simple makes sense but how do you go about accomplishing this? Where do you start? How do we make our lives less complicated?
It really comes down to figuring out what is most important to you and eliminating the rest. Simplifying really starts with establishing your priorities and focusing on them and letting everything else go. Easy, right? Oh, let’s not forget letting go of the guilt associated with not being able to do certain things.
Let’s start with commitments. What do you have to do and what can you let go of? Do you have to attend a particular event or can you let go of it? Prioritize. How do you spend your time? Look at how you are spending your time each day and see what you can take out. If you know that you have low energy right after lunch, what task can you do that that will not create stress for you? Our days are filled with endless tasks. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. For me, housework is something that has to get done but is often left last because I HATE HOUSEWORK. What are your options? Well, you could hire someone but if you are like me, who can afford that? I find that doing small tasks every day really helps instead of trying to do it all at once. And, quite frankly, my house is not as clean as it was before I was diagnosed with RA.
Who is afraid to say “no?” I frequently will volunteer to do something or be volunteered to do something. There was a time when I could do this without consequences. Now, the consequence is a flare-up that lasts days if not weeks. Not good. Learning to say “I can’t do it” has been difficult. I recently attended my niece’s wedding and had to say “I can’t help with the clean-up” because I was exhausted. Well, I did say that I would do the appetizers the day before for 200 wedding guests so I did not learn this lesson well, did I?
I love to surf the internet and respond to e-mails. I find that I get lost in time and lose blocks of time that could have been spent differently. I find that I have to place limits on my internet use so that I have time to do my “priority items.” I also find my already dry eyes become irritated after about 30 minutes of looking at my computer screen.
Organization is also a big key to keeping your life simple. I once read that if everything has a designated place in your home that you are more likely to put it back in that place. A junk drawer is a classic example of belongings that don’t have a place. About 6 months ago, I went to the Dollar Store and purchased a lot of small containers to put around my house, in my drawers and my cupboards. Each container has a specific use such as holding pens, nail clippers, scissors and more. Everything has a place and I find myself putting things back in their holders or their rightful place if I know where that is. My junk drawer is no longer a junk drawer.
Spending time doing things you love and spending time alone are good ways to help with stress and maximize your time. Making you a priority is important when dealing with chronic pain. We often feel so guilty about not being able to do something, such as housework, that we forget to take care of ourselves. I always feel guilty when I take 30 minutes to read a book. I have to remind myself that I am a priority too and set time aside to do something that makes me happy. One of the things that I love doing is going to lunch by myself. I don’t do it enough because I can’t afford to eat out every day, but I find getting away from my office and finding a quiet place in a restaurant with a good book really helps with my energy and my stress levels.
I think having a routine helps when trying to keep things simple. For me, it is all about pacing myself throughout the day so that my energy levels are balanced. I know when I have the most energy and I do projects that require more physical energy or brain power during those periods.
The last thing I looked at when looking at “Keeping it Simple” was simplifying my goals. An example, is when my husband travels. I find myself putting aside projects for when my husband is travelling and I try to fit in all these projects in a week or so. He was gone for 10 days recently and my list was two pages long. My plan was to take on a couple of the projects every day. After the second day, I took the list and prioritized the projects that had to be done and focused on them. I cut the projects up so that I was not expecting myself to do them in a day (or evening after work). I found that I readjusted my list several times because my goals were unrealistic. I took each task and chopped it up into segments and completed a segment instead of the whole task. An example of this was our laundry room. We recently had new tile installed in the laundry room and the walls and cupboards needed to be repainted. One of the tasks on my list was to “do the laundry room.” Instead, I took the task “do the laundry room” and broke it down into segments: paint behind washer/dryer; paint top cupboards; and paint side cupboards. Instead of feeling guilty for not completing the task of doing the laundry room, I felt that I had accomplished something because I completed the segment of painting behind the washer/dryer or painting the top cupboards. By the way, the laundry room is done and it looks great.
Learning to keep your life simple when you have chronic pain and fatigue from Rheumatoid Arthritis is crucial to the overall management of your RA. May you have a pain free, energy filled day.
*******Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Confucius*******