Everyday tasks made easier
By Julie Entwistle
If you have physical, psychological or emotional limitations, you may find it difficult to do everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning or going out to a job because of the energy output required to do those tasks. Energy is like a currency: We have only so much of it, and we need to spend it wisely. Conserving energy during small tasks throughout the day will help you save needed energy for important and meaningful daily activities. If energy is a precious resource to you, consider the following tips to help you maximize your reserves:
Plan ahead. Before you do this, consider keeping track of your energy levels for a few weeks. When are you most tired? Most energetic? What zaps your energy the most, and what revives you? Once you understand your energy patterns, you can work to plan your time around the activities you know will worsen or improve your fatigue. When scheduling activities, consider planning for rests, which should be taken approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to take a break before you feel tired. Also, be sure to allot sufficient time for activities—rushing expends more energy!
When getting things done, gather all the necessary items before you begin so you know you have everything you need before getting started. If you are heading out to pick something up, call ahead to ensure the item is there to avoid an unnecessary trip, and make a list so you don’t need to return twice. Activities should be divided throughout the week to avoid overexerting yourself on any one day. As a family, delegate responsibilities over the course of the week and post a schedule to serve as a visual reminder of who needs to do what and when.
Rearrange your environment to minimize energy expenditure by considering how you can avoid (as much as possible) bending, reaching, lifting and carrying. Keep frequently used items accessible and at waist level. Heavier items should be stored in an area that is easiest to reach, whereas lighter items can be placed in higher and lower areas. Replace frequently used heavy items with a lighter alternative (e.g. plastic plates instead of ceramic). Instead of carrying items around your living environment, use a cart to move them. When possible, slide items down the counter instead of lifting and carrying them. Sit whenever possible (e.g., to cut vegetables or fold laundry), as this can reduce your energy expenditure by up to 25 per cent.
Take advantage of helpful devices. A variety of options are available to help you eliminate unnecessary energy expenditures. Examples include a bath chair to sit on while showering, automatic can openers and food processors to eliminate opening and chopping, and long-handled devices to minimize bending. An occupational therapist can help determine which devices are best suited to meet your unique needs based on your individual goals.
Prioritize. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to friends or family who offer to help. It may sometimes be necessary to hire a professional to help out with large tasks, to ensure your energy is preserved for the things you want to keep doing independently. Check with your local grocery store to see if they have a delivery option, or go online to try a grocery service. Buy healthy prepared foods, if necessary, to minimize the amount of preparation involved. Identify what activities are meaningful to you, and do not be afraid to reduce or even eliminate tasks that are not.
In the end, remember that each person, each disability and each environment often needs a unique solution to any given problem. Seek the services of an occupational therapist if you have a functional problem to solve.
Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BHSc (Health), is co-owner of Entwistle Power Occupational Therapy.