The Great Slow-Down
So at the age of forty, it seems it is time to slow down. Take it a bit easier. Conserve some energy wherever possible.
But what does that mean, and how do you do it? And what’s it like?
I’m no stranger to an active lifestyle. During my life I have been a dancer, kickboxer, actor, singer and guitarist among many, many other things. I have had jobs that required me to stand up all day long, jobs that required me to walk great distances and jobs that required a huge amount of heavy lifting. I’ve had jobs where I’ve walked to and from the place of work, or sometimes cycled there.
I’ve always been active in some capacity.
Six months ago I was waking at 5 am each day to go jogging for half an hour. I was doing this under the “Use it or lose it” philosophy which had been proposed by several healthcare professionals during the course of my diagnosis. I was also doing this because I could feel myself becoming lethargic and less physically active each day due to the limitations that psoriatic arthritis had given me.
Fast forward to today and I am using a three-wheeled walking aid to simply move from my chair to the kitchen which is about 6 feet away.
The disease is destructive, unpredictable and merciless.
My particular issue is arthritis in the feet. I do have it in my knees and also my hands – but the biggest problem is my feet. At the moment the heel of my right foot is incredibly painful – to such a degree that I can’t put any weight on it. In addition, the Achilles tendon and toes of my left foot are affected, which means it is also hard to take weight on that foot. This is not a great combination at all. Especially as since the beginning of my diagnosis, due to limited movement, my weight has increased by 3 stones (42 lbs). So I can’t exercise effectively in order to lose weight due to my limited mobility, but the extra weight makes the mobility even more of an issue.
It’s a vicious cycle.
What makes this situation even worse (If you could imagine it being worse) is that every step, every task, every little thing that I do saps a huge amount of energy. It is basically like being injured constantly. If you’ve ever broken a bone or sprained an ankle, for example, you can probably recall how tiring it was to use that limb and how tiring it was to compensate with other limbs and extremities.
This is my reality for every waking minute. In the space of 6 months, I have been essentially immobilized by the disease. So I have accepted that it is time to slow down. But what does that mean? After several weeks of facing this challenge, I have come to the conclusion that there are four main ways to “Slow Down A Bit.”
The first is to literally slow down. Stand up a bit slower, walk slower, climb the stairs slower. It feels a little alien at first but just by literally slowing your physical actions down you will conserve a little energy. Wash the dishes slower, hang the laundry out slower. Do everything slower. I used to do everything quickly. I think I am a personality type that just wants the task at hand to be done so I can move on to the next one. But slowing down has taught me that there is ALWAYS a next task, in fact there always was. There is always something else that needs to be done no matter how quickly you finish the current task. So there’s no point rushing things.
The second way is to just give yourself less to do. Figure out what the most important things are and use the energy you have to do those. I’m sure there’s plenty of things you can stop wasting energy on. Whether its tasks or people, something has to go.
The third thing is to sleep if you need to. I used to think the idea of sleeping during the day was ridiculous. I used to think it was an absolute waste of time. But nowadays, even just a ten-minute nap can really make a big difference in how I feel.
The fourth way is to reduce stress. Not easy right? But the three methods listed above will automatically reduce stress on your body. How to de-stress further depends on your personality and circumstances. There are no hard and fast rules here but the essence of it is: “Figure out what’s important and cut everything else out. Then find a way to stop worrying about those important things.” Sometimes you can’t simply cut out something stressful – so you need to manage it by doing it slower. I know, easier said than done.
The thing is, I know this disease. I know that it sometimes moves around the body and that those areas affected badly today might be absolutely fine in a few months. You have to adapt to work with the condition. I used to say that I was fighting it, but now I say I am “working with it.” It’s still a fight, but I’m just fighting smarter. I’m not struggling to keep hold of the me that used to be.
You can’t manage such a change in your life whilst battling to keep things the way they were. But you can choose whether or not you view it as a devastating thing, or simply as a minor amendment.
That’s the final secret to slowing down. Accept it for what it means for YOU.
Link to my YouTube channel – where I post regular videos about my life with PSA.