Fibromyalgia and Handling day to day tasks
With as little stress and strain as possible
Part one
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In other pages, I discuss the bio mechanics of how we move and how to minimize pain and strain. On this page I would like to expand that to some very common day to day activities, that we can perhaps do with less body or mental stress. To start with, the one we all have to do, grocery shopping. With kind thanks for the basics of "shopping"  to Misty  Roberts, Owner/Patient of FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES, with additions by me :) Other issues such as laundry and general house keeping tasks, you will find below shopping. As with all such tips, these are my own personal experiences and you use them at your own risk.

"For healthy people, getting groceries is no big deal. But for people like us, with Fibromyalgia (FM) and CFS/ME, getting groceries can be as challenging as climbing Mount Everest! " Therefore, to make the task as easy as possible, some tips and thoughts.

Grocery List:

"I keep a list for the grocery store going all the time." Post one right on the wall or the refrigerator and a keep a pen or pencil handy, so when you run out of a thing, or nearly so, you can note it down, right now. Remember the fog ? If it does not go down on the list, right now, it is highly unlikely you will remember it later. If you forget it while you are at the store, it means that many more trips to get something you forgot. So a list is a must.

"When writing my list I make sure to itemize what I need in the order the store isles are set up." We do not have the energy to tromp back and forth, over and over again, down the aisles. Especially when the cart starts to get full. So plan your approach. If you do not need a thing in a given aisle, skip it entirely and shift over to the next one. 

Plan Your Time Wisely:

"... schedule your shopping trip to coincide with the time of day when your energy is at its highest." Which means, that the end of the day, when you are already tired, is a bad time to go shopping. Not to mention, you will run into the busiest time of the day for the store, right along with everybody else who is doing a "fast run" into to the store. Therefore, plan for a time when the store is less full and save yourself a lot of stress and body strain. 

Parking:

"We all want to be able to park right by the front door but those spots are rarely open. If you can't find a spot up front, try parking near the cart returns. This will save you unnecessary steps later when your energy levels will be at their lowest." 

Of course the best of all is to have a handicapped permit, which now-a-days, most doctors will give you, even for FM alone. However, FM is seldom alone (On site link) but getting one should not be too much of a problem for most people. ( If your doctor refuses, it might be time to get another doctor ) Oh, and if you do find someone IN the HC space, with no tag or plates, do everybody a favor and report them to your local Dept. Of Motor Vehicles or police.

Avoid Unknown Stores:

"By sticking to stores you already know, you avoid any unnecessary stress and wear and tear on your sore muscles. If you must shop at a new store, ask for a map. " Check it against your list, making notes of what is where, preferably sitting down while you do it. Most large stores have an eating area, use it, get a drink and plan out your shopping, based on the new stores lay out.

Grocery Carts:

"check your cart out thoroughly before taking it" Nothing is going to make things harder on you, than to get a cart half full and THEN find out its got a wobbly wheel, or one that will lock up. If by chance you find yourself with one like this, stop... go back to the carts and transfer the goods to a better working cart. 

I know this sounds like more work, but what is harder ? Keep pushing one that is going to fight you every step of the way ... or get one that will glide as it should? Oh, and "If you're thinking of just grabbing a small basket instead of a cart, think again. It only takes one or two heavy items in there to make your arms and shoulders cry out in pain. Plus, pushing a cart gives you something to shift your weight onto when you get tired."

Not to mention, there is almost NO way to carry a hand basket, even one that is lightly loaded that you are not going to make something hurt. Either your hands or your forearm. The pressure hand baskets create, due to their handles small size, will literally bruise you ( that is, if you don't drop the silly thing all together.) 

So even for a trip that is just for a "few things" grab a cart and never mind the funny looks you might get from time to time. It's your own pain your avoiding here. The same goes for taking them to the car, use the cart to get the stuff there, unless they are very light and the car is close by and taking the cart back, would cost more energy.

Motorized carts:

I know, this option just screams out I am a person with disabilities but ask yourself this, do you really care what everybody else thinks ? If it saves one moment of pain, it's worth the effort. A hint, go to your local store and try one of these out when you do not need to shop and learn how to maneuver it around with it empty. This might save you from bashing into things later on, when it's full. 

Another option, most stores have people who will help you do your shopping. You ride the cart, they come along behind you with a normal shopping cart and you just point out which items you want. Every store has at least one person to do this service, mainly for those who have visual problems, but it is highly unlikely they are going to tell you no, just because you can see.

At the Check-Out:

"The less time you have to wait in line the better." Now most everybody does, the check out line dance, where we scan up and down for the shortest line possible. You need to become expert at it. Another hint, if they are all pretty much the same, pick the one that will put you closest to the door you need to go out, for the least distance to your car.

Swiping your card :

"Card readers can be confusing to everyone, so don't get flustered if you have some trouble. Ask the clerk for help and ignore the people grumbling behind you. Perfectly healthy people have trouble every day!"  The screens ARE hard to see, ( Who thought up the colors for those things anyway ?) The keys almost all have "security blinds" on them now, meaning you cannot really see them or have to do some really odd body and hand moves, to even get to the upper keys. 

I understand the need for security but most of the designs are not human friendly. So trust me, everybody in line has the same issues you might have, so don't feel the least bit sorry when problems happen. ( A suggestion keep a small note handy for the pin number for those really bad fog days, not in the plain format of 1234, but rather put it down like it's a math problem, with the "answer" in plain sight ( On your check book flap is a good place, or a note pad in your bag. Now YOU will know  that your pin numbers are the first four numbers that you see, but no one else will. :) It will just look like some calculation you did, to balance your check book.

Bagging It and taking it out to the car:

"If you use recyclable bags, ask the checker or bagger not to load them too full. Remember, you're the one who has to drag them into the house, not them! Also, if your store doesn't have someone to take your bags out, ask for help. It's their job to keep the customers happy, so don't feel bad about asking for help." It used to be common practice for the store to ask " do you need help out with that ?" but even if they don't ask, that service is still available in most places.  So on those days when you are ready to drop just from doing the shopping, by all means, ask for help. Most stores will be glad to provide it.

Loading the car and Putting them away:

First off, load the trunk with non perishables towards the back, then stash all the cold foods together, closest to the front of the trunk and place the "crushables" like bread, eggs, etc. in one area where they are safe from things sliding around. If need be, place a small box in one corner of the trunk, just for such "breakables."

Now taking them out, grab those that are the most heat sensitive, first, the meat, milk and the like. Which is why you have them all in one place. Use a carry cart, or little red wagon, anything with wheels, to get those bags to your door. If you have a mate or older kids, get them out to the car,call them on your cell phone, if you have one and get them out there to help. If there is no one, please refer to Bringing in groceries: On the bio mechanics page, for more details on going it alone.

"Remember, if you're too tired when you get home to put away your groceries, just put away the perishables. (meats and refrigerated items). You can always and leave the rest of the items right where they are until you've regained your strength..." And yes, this means you can, if you must, leave them right in the trunk. It is not like they are going anywhere and they will be right there waiting for you, an hour or two from now, when you have recovered enough to go get them. ( Which is the other reason for sectioning them around the trunk, so you know which bags "have" to go in the house, right now and which can wait, based on where they are located. )

This means you should not have to check all the bags to know which can stay and which has to be moved inside right now. If need be, shift some things from one bag to another, as you load the trunk, so that all of the perishables are in the same place. 

One way to help assure they are bagged this way, is put them up on the belt at the check out in the order you want them bagged. Despite how the baggers are "supposed" to bag like with like, we all know that far too often, they will pretty much bag it how it comes off the conveyor belt.

Knowing this, save yourself some hassle and put them up on the belt, as like groups and they will tend to be bagged that way... this also makes it easier on the bagger, if you do happen to get one who knows HOW to do the job. :) Which will get you out of there, that much faster. So keep this in mind as you load the cart, like with like, so that all cold goods are together, canned goods in another area, etc, which will make putting them up on the belt in groups easier on you.


Laundry

Now, this one is a hard one no matter who is doing it, much less for us. Laundry, wet or dry is heavy, cumbersome and washing machines and dryers are, over all, designed by a man ( Meaning the height, and depth of the things works great, if your 6 feet tall and have arms a mile long ) Which is not most of us.  But more on that in a moment.

Now, first things first, sorting: 

An easy way to sort clothes, is to do it as they are put in the hamper, you do this by having divided laundry hampers, preferably on wheels, which can make this task a lot easier ( See tips and Gadgets  on site link.) This will eliminate one part of the handling that the task can otherwise require. The next step is either putting it into baskets ( if you have your own machines ) or move the hamper to the laundry room. Or, if your like many of us, it means going to a commercial laundromat.( which I will assume you are doing for most of this section Those who wash at home, modify the below to your own circumstances.)

Now it is time to be bagging it all up:

Sort them by the bag, so that all of the clothes that will need the same water temperature, agitation etc. are put together. ( Do not over load them however, it's better to have two bags of the same type of clothes, rather than one large bag that it is going to hurt you, to lift. ) 

Next comes the loading of the car if your taking them somewhere, again, roll it, do not lug it. Get wheels under those bags, even to get them to the car. Once there, load them one at a time into the trunk, then fold up your cart ( if your using one ) and put it in the back seat. 

Now you arrive at the laundry:

Either use the same cart from the back seat to move them inside or, even easier, most laundromats are in the mini malls, normally right next to what ? A grocery store. So borrow one of their shopping carts, which have lots of room to put the bags in, to move them at least to the door. Leave the shopping cart at the door, then go inside and grab one of the laundry carts. 

Shove the door open and pull the shopping cart either inside, or at the very least, get it wedged into the doorway, then just reach in and transfer the bags from one cart to the other. (Some places will let you bring in the shopping cart, but I do not advise it, other than to do a transfer to the laundromats carts, as shopping carts take up too much space. And it's not fair to the grocery store to tie up their cart for hours )

( A special note about laundry detergent: While it might be cost effective to get large economy sizes, it is hard on you to lug the over sized bottle or box around, so buy at least one jar or bottle ( or use some other suitable container ) that is just large enough to carry what you need, to do one or two rounds of wash, and transfer the detergent into it. Another tip: If you go to a commercial laundry all the time, leave the bottle or jar, IN the trunk, unless it needs to be refilled, as it's one less thing you have to lug from the house to the car. 

( I get the small version of the one I like, and have serveral of them in the trunk, at all times. I re-fill them from an economy size bottle myself. The store I buy the soap at, is in the same mini mall as the laundromat. Replaceing the bottles as needed, can be done as soon as I notice I am down to one bottle. This replacement is most often done as a short shop, while the the clothes are washing. )

Okay, now you have them inside, it's time to do the wash. If at all possible, find machines in line with each other, meaning you are not having to wander all over the place to gather up the clothes when they are done. Go at off peak times, so you are not having to hunt for a machine. ( Not to mention, there is less noise, heat and over all stress of screaming kids etc. to deal with )

Handle them as little as possible: 

Every time you have to pick up a piece of clothing, is one more move your muscles and joints are going to complain about. If at all possible, just up end the bag over the machine, and then loosen them up to get them down in the tub. 

Set the settings for each load, as you load the machine, or you might forget to change it from whatever it was set on last. Once you have them all loaded, load up the coin slots, all of them, for every machine your using. Then work your way back, adding detergent and starting the machines, all in one go. 

This prevents, yet more repeated movements, as consider. If you have to stop, put down the detergent, put coins in, put in detergent, pick up the detergent and your coins, move to the next machine, repeat .... I am sure you can see that walking down the row, and just shoving the slide home with the coins already in and dropping in the detergent and moving on, will be a lot easier. If the machines have no slides, put the coins in as one go, then follow up with the detergent.

Mark the machine ... recall the Fog ? Unless you want to stand there and watch the machines as they wash the clothes (which is boring and therefore tiring)  you are going to want to go sit down while they are washing. but it's fairly to easy to forget which machines, are yours. So mark them, I use the laundry bags themselves, but you can use anything that works ( a row of thin picnic type plastic glasses upside down on top, whatever it takes, so that when you come back, you know which machines are yours )

A note: Most such places are hot, noisy and just plain uncomfortable for anyone, least of all for us. That means, dress for it. Wear clothes suitable to the heat you know is going to be there, even in winter time, just shed your coat and have on clothes that are loose and cool under it. Next, the noise, my trick for noise anywhere, is to wear ear clamp head phones and use an MP3 player ( in its own pouch around my neck ) so that I control the noise. I normally pick nice uplifting tunes ) Failing that, wear ear plugs.

Okay, clothes are done washing, now we get to handle them again. As I said, most machines were created by men with their own body size in mind, which means too high and a bit too deep for most of us women once we get past that first layer of clothes. If you are doing them at home, use a small step to raise your body up a bit, before you lean down to get things out of the bottom. 

You might be surprised how well this works:

It brings your waist up to a height, to where when you bend over, the machine is not blocking the movement. Failing that, when you reach in to get the clothes, lean on the machine, hold your body steady with one hand and lift one foot off the ground. This move gives you just a hair more reach with your free hand, as you tend to lean up a bit on the toes of the single foot.  Do be sure to run your hand around inside the machine, looking for any small items stuck up under the rim or out of your sight, in the front of the machine. Do not try and twist your head around to look. Let your fingers do the "looking."

Do not bother trying to shake them out as you take them out of the washer. You can do that just before you put them in the dryer ( which we all tend to do anyway, to knock out the worst of the winkles out before they go in the dryer, but there is no need to do it twice ) If there is a choice, use dryers on the upper levels, not the lower ones.  As the reach down and in to get the clothes out, will put you so off balance. If you do not outright fall into the dryer, you will at the very least, over stress your back and shoulders etc. and might hit your head on the way up.

Putting them in the dryer: 

Now is the time where we shake them out, but do not get too carried away with this move, a simple shake is about all most things need to loosen them up so they are not in a wad then they go in the dryer. ( As we all know the hard way, if you do not do this shake, the clothes can come out looking like they have been in storage for 6 mts ) Take your time, this is the hardest part of doing the wash as the clothes are now wet and heavy. Do not get in a hurry. Toss them into the dryer, as they are shaken out.

Then go away again and rest, while they dry. Another hint: Set the dryers to where the ones with the most in them, will take longer. This not only assures they will all be dry, it also gives you more time to fold up the contents of the dryers that have the least amounts in them, first. The worst thing you can do to yourself, is try to offload the now dry clothes, all at the same time. Believe me, that extra twenty five cents or so, is well worth it.

As if you do try and take them all out at once, not only will the cart be over loaded, you will tend to get in a hurry to fold them. As we all know if the clothes get cool before they are folded, they tend to get wrinkled. So space them out, deal with a small section of them at a time. Use the tables most such places have to fold them. Do not try and fold them all, in mid air. This will over stress your arms and shoulders in a hurry. 

Back home:

When it comes time to bag them back up again, sort them out according to not type as you did to wash them, but by where they go when you get home. All the bathroom things in one bag, your clothes in another, the kids clothes... you see the trend here. You might need to have a few more bags, but this means when you get home you can take the kitchen bag, right to the kitchen, the bath bag, same thing, ditto, kids clothes and your own. 

Another trick, load the bags according to the order they will get hung up. Example: In my own closet, the first things hanging when you enter it, looking on my side, are my house dresses, followed by pants, then shirts. So I load the bag with that in mind, therefore the shirts go in the bag first, then pants, leaving the dresses, the things that I will need to hang first when entering my closest, at the top of the bag. What this does is it allows me to hang all like items at once, in the same order as they are in the closet. 

(If your closet is not in order like this, I suggest you make it that way. It saves you a lot of hunting around and moving clothes, not to mention steps, in order to find the ones you want to wear. And, since I wear my house dresses the most, they are the first things within reach.)

Do not hesitate if you have children, to enlist their help in putting clothes away. They are their clothes. If they are old enough to get them out of the drawers by themselves, they are well old enough to put them back in. The same goes for your mate. 

If you are too worn out, leave the things that will sit a while like the bath towels and sheets, until later. They are not going anywhere. The same goes for anything that does not HAVE to be hung up. Anything that is folded in the bag, will be in the drawer folded, so they can sit right where they are and come to no harm, until you are recovered enough to deal with them. 

Take a moment, put your feet up, get a cold drink, relax a while, do not just rush into putting everything up. You have just expended a great deal of energy and you need time to replace some of that. Take the time, or you will just push yourself into exhaustion and likely a major flare and trust me, doing the wash is not worth it


More everyday actions on page two...

Source on shopping: 

Misty Roberts, Owner/Patient of FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES.