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Pacing FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about pacing and pacing-related resources available from the self-help program.

Why should I pace?
  • Pacing gives you a way to create a positive cycle of improvement that includes:

    • Escape from cycles of push and crash
    • Lower symptoms and fewer symptom spikes
    • More stable and predictable life
    • Sense of control
    • Chance to safely increase activity level

    Also, pacing provides a way to minimize Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM), the increase in symptoms triggered by doing too much. The key fact about PEM is that it is always out of proportion to the overdoing. 

    And third, many ME/CFS experts believe that avoiding crashes decreases the chance that ME/CFS will worsen.

What’s involved in pacing?
  • Pacing has three parts:

    1. Finding Your Limits
      The foundation for pacing is understanding your limits. This includes limits on physical activity, mental activity, socializing, sensory data, and stress. 
    2. Adapting to Your Limits
      The second part of pacing is adjusting your life so you live within your limits. This is a gradual process, usually involving the use of multiple strategies.
    3. Expanding Your Limits
      If you pace consistently, you may be able to expand your limits, doing more without increasing your symptoms. For examples, see our Success Stories
How do I find my limits?
How do I learn to live within my limits?
  • By using multiple pacing strategies, which may include keeping records, using a pedometer and/or a heart rate monitor, having short activity periods, and taking daily scheduled rests.

    For details and how-to instructions, see the Adapting to Limits section of the tutorial and the articles in the series Pacing: What It Is and How to Do It

How do I expand my limits?
  • By extending them only a little at a time and returning to your previous level if symptoms increase.

    For details, see the Expanding Your Limits section of the tutorial. For personal accounts of safely increasing activity, see the Success Stories section of the Library.

How long does it take to learn pacing?
  • Learning to pace is a gradual process, involving the use of multiple pacing strategies, but benefits can come immedately from even a small change such as taking scheduled rests or having short activity periods. For more, see the Adapting to Limits section of the tutorial.

Where can I learn more about pacing?
Can you help me learn to pace?
  • Yes! Teaching pacing is the main focus of our program, central to our suite of low-cost and free online classes and groups.

    The place to start is with our Introductory course, which focuses on learning how to pace and offers the opportunity to share support with others who have ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.

    We also offer two advanced groups (Living Your Plan and the alumni discussion group), a logging tutorial, and a class for family members. See the Online Courses page for details.

    If you would prefer to work on your own, you can use the resources in our Pacing Tutorial or our free self-study course, developed jointly with Dr. Chales Lapp, director emeritus of the Hunter-Hopkins Center. The site will guide you through the development of an individualized treatment plan, focused on pacing.

I keep crashing. How can I minimize my relapses?
  • Relapses are a common and often demoralizing part of ME/CFS and fibro. For our four-part approach for reducing setbacks, see the Relapses and Special Events section of the tutorial.

I crash whenever I'm out of my normal routine. Any ideas?
  • Pacing can be especially difficult during non-routine times such as vacations, holiday celebrations, moving and, for those with severe CFS/FM, just taking a shower or leaving the house for any reason. Read our suggestions for managing these events in the Special Events and Relapses section of the tutorial.

What is the ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Self-Help Program?
  • We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, founded in 1998. We offer a set of six low cost and free self-help courses and groups. (See Online Courses.) We have conducted hundreds of self-management classes involving thousands of people.

    Our program was created by Bruce Campbell, PhD, a recovered ME/CFS patient who, before becoming ill, worked on self-help programs for other chronic conditions at the Stanford University Medical School. For more on his background, see his biography. For more on the program, see About Us.