Spoon Theory

Yesterday (May 21st) was Global Awareness Day to facilitate awareness for people who are both physically challenged as well as mentally challenged. I was fortunate enough to have a sweet online friend who hosted a charity event for an association dealing with chronic illnesses. While not life-threatening, I suffer from several chronic illnesses. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, most are not visible to the naked eye. I say fortunately because I don’t appear any different on the outside, so I don’t get bullied or stared at or made fun of. I say unfortunately because I can be suffering and no one knows it unless I choose to share it. And, to be honest, it’s difficult to share when people have no concept of how you are feeling, so the best you can hope for is some momentary sympathy. During that fund-raising event, the host shared some of her chronic disease issues, all of which are invisible to the naked eye (although, at one time, she was wheelchair bound). I mentioned that people who don’t suffer from chronic illnesses don’t understand how those illnesses affect them in other ways physically, as well as mentally. One of the common physical effects is fatigue – both physical and mental. The host also mentioned using the ‘spoon theory’ for dealing with fatigue and shared its basic facts. I also did a search for it later and read a more in-depth article on the what, the why and the how of the theory. After reading the article, I decided that I needed to adopt this theory for my own use.

This theory is good for anyone who suffers from fatigue, regardless of the reason. In a nutshell, each spoon equals one unit of energy. You have to think about everything you do daily – shower, get dressed, work, make meals, etc. and allot how many units of energy you spend on these daily routines. The suggestion is that you give yourself 10 spoons each day. Whatever you have left after those daily routines are for other things you need to do – like cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, etc. You do those things until your allotment of spoons is spent, and then you’re done doing for the day!

Because I suffer from a sleeping disorder of some kind, I’ve decided to adapt my spoon allotment to one spoon for each hour of quality sleep I get the night before. This forces me to be more flexible in my “to-do” list, but it also allows me to get more done when I’ve slept well! For example, I slept really well last night (hey, sometimes it happens!) so I can plan to do more today! Because I’m well-rested, writing and posting this blog article will probably take me less than 2 spoons. I’m planning a load of laundry, which, because I have to go up and down the stairs three times to complete the wash and dry before putting it all away, will easily use up 4 spoons. I have a few dishes to wash up (1 spoon), some general straightening up to do in my kitchen, living room and bedroom (2 spoons). That’s already 9 spoons! I, based on my sleep last night, am giving myself 2 or 3 more for today. I have some little projects I may tackle, a billing dispute to handle by email and then, I may read a little.

I’ve mentioned on and off here that I have a shoulder problem that has been ongoing for several weeks. Basically, I have soft-tissue and ulnar nerve inflammation, which means I can’t raise or reach with my right hand/arm without causing pain. It is getting better, but too slowly for my liking. The inability to do so many things without pain is also mentally fatiguing… I get easily frustrated, which pushes me towards depression, and I fight every day to stay away from sinking there. The spoon theory, in essence, mentally eases that frustration, because I realize I can’t do all of the things I want to be done even if I didn’t have that issue!

I’m sharing all of this because maybe one (or more) of my readers suffer from fatigue and are struggling with it. I’m also going to practice “saving up” spoons for time when I know the next day holds something that will require extra energy. I’m also giving myself permission to take naps without feeling guilty because I can understand those naps give me more spoons to spend when I wake up!

Again, I hope that some of you out there can benefit from this, or know other people to share the theory with. Give it a try! After all, what have you got to lose?

7 thoughts on “Spoon Theory

  1. Great post sharing a wealth of information that can help others battle daily fatigue and bringing awareness to visible and invisible challenges. I appreciate you fighting through the tough days and making the best of your situation. I am just happy to hear that a good night’s sleep does still happen on occasion. Love you tons!

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  2. I’m very familiar with spoon theory and feel it is a great illustration for those who suffer from chronic pain/chronic illness. I have chronic Epstein Barr, so the fatigue can be BAD and I have to be really careful not to use up all my spoons!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hadn’t heard of this theory before but it sounds very interesting. I also like your idea of allowing yourself more spoons if you’re better rested. I think I should incorporate some of this advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Because I have physical pain issues, like yesterday, I had to stop before all of my spoons were used up. Today is better so I started with them and am moving on to today’s supply. I’m not a rigid person, but I’m not the most flexible person either, so I’m going to learn from this experience mentally as well as physically! The biggest benefit may well be coming to understand that I’m not the “Superwoman” I wish I were! I hope you’ll at least give this a try!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a smart illustration. I know what you mean about invisible issues and have written about it also, in a sense the lucky ones have a arm cast or bandages. Others invisibly bear their illnesses without understanding. The spoon example would have been so useful for me when I was doing dialysis three times a week. It took so much out of me and not just on the days I was hooked up to the machine for 4 hours. Of course, the rest of the time I was not hooked up so my weakness and illness were invisible then. It helps when people can understand through an illustration like spoon theory. – David hugs.

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