How to Allocate and Conserve Energy When You Have Chronic Pain (So You Can Save Up For What Is Most Important)


When you have chronic pain, life is all about energy allocation. Each day you face the question of where you will use your precious energy levels. You can’t go to work and clean the house, so you choose one. You can’t make dinner and go see a friends, so you choose. One or the other.

Which tasks, activities and life essentials will you keep? And which will you decide don’t make the cut?

Lately, my job has been my priority. Maintaining my job has been all about smart energy allocation. It has been about saving energy in other areas of life, so that I have enough energy to go to work 3 half  days a week. Without the lifestyle changes I have made over the last years and months, it would be physically impossible for me to work as much as I do.

So, what changes have I made?

Grocery Delivery. My biggest energy saver is getting my groceries delivered every week or so. I rarely to never go to the grocery store anymore. One grocery trip is equivalent to a four hour work day for me. So, I figure that by cutting this out of my schedule, I am able to add in an entire half day of work.

Amazon Prime and Amazon Pantry. Everything else I get delivered through Amazon. Essentials like toilet paper, napkins, shampoo, and come about once a month. Other random items such as printer ink, bug spray, books, underwear, kitchen items, etc..are ordered on an as needed basis. I estimate that my Amazon deliveries save me one big shopping trip and two small shopping trips a month. That’s another 2 half-days of work each month that I can do instead of going to the store.

Clothes Shopping Online. I am sure you are noticing a trend with this whole delivery thing. Modern conveniences are super convenient. What would I do without them? I am slowly learning to clothes shop online, although I really dislike it. I try to do it through places that have good return policies. Or sometimes if  have an article of clothing I really like, I just buy the same thing in a different color. I have flared myself up the last two times I went to the stores to clothes shop, so this is an important one for me right now.

Schedule Showers. I save much precious energy by scheduling ahead of time when I am going to shower, and not showering every day. On average I shower every other day, which saves about the same amount of energy that goes into two hours of work each week. What in the world makes showers such spoon suckers?

Change the Way I Socialize. One big sacrifice I have made is to change the way I socialize. Meaning, I don’t really socialize. This is hopefully just short-term while I work towards getting hours at work for licensure. But it’s all about figuring out what is most important and cutting out the rest. I ask people to come visit me at my apartment so I don’t have to travel. I use social media to connect with friends and Glide to video chat with people throughout the day. One visit with friends is equal to a whole half day of work. Lots of energy saved!

Say No. All The Time. When people ask me to do things, I say no. All of the time. If I can’t do it, if there is any question of whether I can do it or not, I just say no.

Eat Healthy Premade Meals. Every Monday after work I eat Amy’s Organic Canned Soups. They are delicious. They are healthy. They are affordable.  I don’t have to waste energy deciding what I’m going to eat when I get home, and all I have to do is pop in the microwave for a few minutes.

Don’t Fold My Clothes. I have gotten into the habit of not folding my clothes most weeks.  I sort out my socks and underware and put them in a drawer. The rest of my clean clothes stay in a bin and get transferred to another bin once I wear them. I kind of hate it, but it does save energy.

Simplify My Possessions. This requires some extra energy to start out, but in the end it is worth it. At one point, I got rid of a ton of stuff and greatly simplified my possessions and the amount of stuff we keep around the house. The less stuff you have, the less stuff there is to clean up, and this does make a big difference on a day to day basis.

Leave the Apartment a Mess. But besides simplifying things, I honestly just leave my apartment a mess when I don’t have enough energy left to clean it up. It drives me crazy, but eventually I always get things back in order.

Don’t Walk Somewhere Twice If You Can Walk There Once. I am always looking for ways to combine tasks together. If I know I will be walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, I look to see if anything in the bedroom needs to make it to the kitchen. It is such a simple thing, but I do it all the time, and stuff gets cleaned up as I go about my regular day without any extra energy used. I don’t run around cleaning stuff; instead, I do it throughout the day as I have to walk places anyway.

Do Stuff Lying Down. This is a huge energy saver – there are so many things you can do lying down. Things that don’t first come to mind. I chop vegetables for dinner lying down. I eat lying down. I write and research and do my freelance work lying down. I write cards, go shopping online, have conversations with people who are over, and paint my toe nails, all while lying down.

How do you conserve energy? What is that one thing that you really want to do, and how could you allocate your energy away from other places in your life so you can start doing it?

Right now, my one thing is work, but I am sure that further down the road it will be something else. It’s all about figuring out what is important to you, and letting the rest go.

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  1. Oh Esther!! God bless you! LOL You made me laugh aloud and probably made my husband wonder what the heck happened when you wrote “What in the world makes showers such spoon suckers?” Here I am in my recliner, my hair sticking in all directions, itching but I’m trying to ignore it because it’s been 5 days. I used to shower every 2 days due to soap sensitivity. I wanted to shower before my big energy-sucker-trip to the doctor downtown, but my sound sensibility was off: shower too loud. Morning of? Forget it! I can barely eat right now and though hubby was good at showering me before when it was a habit, we’ve lost that. So I console myself thinking of French Louis XIV times when they bathed once a month until I can do it. lol We should make that “shower are spoon suckers” into a shirt… or PJ… to buy online! 😉
    What I want to do:
    Declutter!!!! I used to purge a LOT on a regular basis each year or half year. Now I can’t and add hubby’s paper mania (books, papers from years ago he keeps just in case) I feel so full and need to walk around stuff all the time and waste energy to put it in baskets when it overflows on the table, then anguish over it, then sort it out, then ruin my week over that cause my arms ache from doing it in one go. Guess I need to find people to help and I say “keep or dispose”. Sorry kitties, also need to reduce the number of boxes 🙁
    Find cleaning lady. ASAP
    Find better stores online: if you are in Canada at least. I miss the old Amazon. Amazon Canada is the new eBay with barely any Canadian suppliers with good prices now. So much energy to check where stuff comes from, when it will really get here, if we’ll pay $$ for customs, etc. I showed my husband and he got confused just looking at the screen when I started to teach him how to not be fooled by their new up-selling techniques and fake Canadian names for companies overseas which would take a long time to deliver. I think I’ll have to trust Walmart again but only if they deliver to our local post office. : )
    Thanks Esther, good exercise.

  2. Thank you Esther for this great post! May I ask when you say you do your eating and chopping vegetables lying down, would you please elaborate. Do you mean just sitting upright on the couch with your legs extended straight out ?

    Unfortunately due to the multiple rare pain syndromes I’m no longer able to work as a beauty therapist any more. I was self-employed for almost 2 decades. The things that bring me the most joy would you believe, are actually going grocery shopping and selecting my own fruit and vegetables. I adore being able to do that and cooking a simple meal that is packed with fibre and lean protein with the help of another person. My daughter normally takes me to the shops weekly to do this task. And another great thing I love is cooking simple meals, as for me nothing beats trying new recipes And seeing the joy on my daughter’s face, it’s my way of saying thank you to her for the sacrifices she makes to be my part time carer.
    Because I am totally homebound and can no longer drive, longer than two minutes I’m so looking forward to this month being able to go to the shops and select some clothing or other things I need. I really have human contact during the day, face-to-face that is, so the thought of being out and about even though the occasion is a rare again brings me much joy, even though I risk flareups by the activities that most people would do online. If I did the things that yourself and others do online, I would so miss the human interaction with the simple things that I just described above. my closest friends I see about three times a year, as they work have husbands and families and feel parents to take care of.

    Like yourself, I do the majority of my reading lying down with the feet elevated above the heart several times per day due to the Erythromelalgia. I miss being able to sit up right, with my feet on the ground. If anyone has any suggestions for me, please feel free to respond. I am very open to learning new ways of doing things.

    1. Hi Nancy, When I eat/chop lying down, I’m pretty literally lying down, almost but not quite flat. I prop my head/shoulders up a bit with pillows, but I’m definitely not standing. I put a bowl on my belly and use a paring knife to chop things like potatoes, etc… Or last night I peeled hard boiled eggs that way.

      I am glad you are able to get joy out of picking fresh produce and making meals! I can really relate with that, and cooking/grocery shopping is something I really miss. It makes sense that you would choose to use your energy in that way and to get out. I think once I get my license, I will cut way back on my work hours and likely go back to doing my own grocery shopping. Because I actually enjoy it! But for now, work has just become the priority.

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