Physical Friday: Update on my ‘defining my boundaries’ experiment

(c) Megan S, December 2013
(c) Megan S, December 2013

Last year I set up an experiment to manage my pacing through the use of defined boundaries instead of a set routine that I tried to stick to every day.

So… how has this experiment gone so far?

I’d have to say I have a way to go still in defining my limits, if it’s even possible, but I have had some positive outcomes:

  • My pain levels seem to be reducing. I now average a base of 3/4 out of 10 instead of 5/6 out of 10.


  • I didn’t have a major crash at Christmas. Although I think this may have more to do with listening to my body rather than sticking to my boundaries I defined in the last post.
Me resting on Christmas Eve during dinner Photo (c) E.S, December 2013
Me resting on Christmas Eve during dinner
Photo (c) E.S, December 2013

I have definitely not stuck to the limits I originally defined because I found it too hard to stop at a set time if I was only part way through something.

As a result of this quick review of my experiment I am redefining my boundaries in a different way. Instead of focusing on set time limits I’m going to focus on using signals from my body to determine when to stop.

Examples of this include:

Physical Activities  – stop when pain levels raise to a 5/6 out of 10 and rest as long as needed (this seems to be anywhere between 5 minutes and a few hours rest after activity)

Social/Mental Activities – excuse myself for a rest when I notice (or E notices) I’m no longer focusing on the conversations around me, or when my whole body begins to ache. Again, rest as long as needed.

I still have some activities that I feel I need to do at least a minimum amount of each day. This includes at least 12 minutes of yoga a day to reduce pain levels, and regular meditations throughout the day. Other than these two activities my days can now vary as needed. As long as I listen to my body and rest when necessary, I believe I can avoid crashes and attempt to reduce my symptoms.

Do you listen to what your body tells you?

How do you deal with times when you struggle between knowing you need to rest but wanting to keep doing what you’re doing?



  1. I’m pretty good at reading my body’s cues, but I never listen to my body when it goes, “hey jerkface, go to sleep”. 🙂

    • I’m bad at that one as well. The most annoying thing is when it says that and I do listen, as soon as I’m in bed it says “let’s get up and do something I can’t lie still here!”

  2. I feel the need to write every day at least a short poem to release some depression and pain. After that I try to push myself to write more but as my Vasculitis progresses that’s been harder so I’ve been giving myself frequent breaks. I just figure if I can help 1 person a day with my article or poetry it was worth the pain. Anyways besides that I don’t force myself to do much!

    • Sounds like the best thing for you to do. I like the idea of trying to help someone in even a little way each day through your posts. 🙂

  3. I am still trying to learn to listen to my body. You’ve doing great since you were able to avoid a crash at Christmas! I was not that wise.

    • I’ve had a minor crash after new years even though I was in bed by 9pm so I’m obviously still learning too 🙂 It seems to be all a matter of trial and error still for me.

  4. I’m still working on this one. I’ve decided to take 2014 as the year that I take bak my health.

    My body aches so much though that I can’t bring myself to exercise. Maybe I need to set up the wii and just get moving.

    • That sounds like a good start 🙂 taking one small step at a time is all we can do.
      I did too much again today so I’m sure I’m going to be paying tomorrow.

  5. I have been learning more and more to just listen to my body. My pain levels are way too high..7-8 most days. I am hoping to get them down. It just gives and takes, doesn’t it?
    All we can do is try our best. 🙂

  6. I have not mastered this either. In fact, no where close. I hear my body telling me to stop, but if I’m halfway through something, I think “just get it done”. Not the greatest idea, but when you’re loading the dishwasher, man you just want to be able to mash the damn button to start, know what I mean?

  7. Hi there. My clinical psychologist specialises in the treatment of ME/CFS and his advice is to stop BEFORE your body tells you to stop.This is difficult at first but it does make sense. Start off real slow ad build up very slowly.

    • Hi Caroline, thanks for letting me know. I need to work out what that means though… I tried setting time limits based on what I thought my limit was, but as I said this hasn’t worked for me. How have you been working out when to stop?

  8. Well done, this is the most difficult thing to do! I became very good at doing this in my ballroom dancing lessons – listening to my body, and resting for as long as I needed, and stopping before I felt too tired. (I spent most of my ballroom lessons just watching, but I loved every minute of them!) But outside the ballroom, it is too easy to get immersed in an activity, especially when friends are involved – I have too much fun and don’t notice how tired I am! I found set time limits were better for me in these cases.
    Also well done for listening to E. It is always so hard for me to accept that Guy can see my fatigue before I can – I deeply resent his interference, but I know it’s because he loves me.

    • Thanks Claire, I don’t always listen to E 😀 Like you I’m generally too in the moment and don’t like the interference to having fun.

  9. Still not easy, I have a tendency to push myself too hard until the legs just give way. I think I am getting better at questing myself as to whether actions really need to be done today and that helps. I would also say I am better at listening to my body than I have ever been before and that in itself is a start. Cannot say I have mastered at all but the signs are good. MM ?

  10. The concept of limits has always been a struggle for me. I am very hard on myself and i tend to push way pass my limits since I am very determined and sometimes it does take me where i need to be but my body becomes a mess. I pushed through my last semester of college while feeling very sick and I ended up in the ER. I guess there really has to be a balance. I think I am getting better at listening to my body and taking a break when needed. For example even if I have so much studying to do, when i need to take a nap, I take a nap. I always feel like I function better after the nap anyways. Defining my limits and not surpassing them is probably one of the most challenging aspects of living with chronic pain other than the pain itself of course. I hope that by you doing this your pain and symptoms will reduce. 🙂

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