“I Should, I Better, I Have To” …..No, You Really Don’t!!

How often do you tell yourself ” I should be doing such and such” or ” I’d better do this or that” ?

We all do it. It’s like we are programmed from birth to constantly have a catalogue of “should do, must do, better do”, all filed in the front of our minds for easy reach.

I’m as guilty as the next person. Even though my body can hardly do anything, I still give myself those messages. It’s ludicrous!!

Chronic Illness Comes With Chronic Restrictions

If diagnosed with a “Chronic illness” it means you have something ongoing. It’s life changing. It may be life changing to varying degrees for each of us, but you can guarantee, in the majority of cases, how you used to live is no longer going to be possible.

Yet, despite this knowledge, we still allow ourselves to be drawn into a conversation with our healthy alter ego that goes something like this;

I’ll just do that extra load of washing today, come on, just push through”.

Oh I can easily have my friends visit for morning tea and squeeze in my blood tests in the afternoon. No worries at all”

When we were able-bodied and healthy, tiredness was probably the worst we had to contend with. It’s not the case anymore.

Chronic Illness comes with chronic restrictions. It’s as simple as that.

In the written form, this sentence sounds so logical and simple, but to change a life long behaviour of pushing through is incredibly difficult.


Why Don’t We Just Listen To Our Bodies?

Listening to our bodies when chronically ill, means we need to accept we are not capable of doing what we used to do. No one wants to admit defeat. We all want to feel empowered, successful and free.

Ironically if we do accept our disease and the restraints it places on us, we will eventually feel the sense of control we are seeking.

While we continually give ourselves denial messages of ” just push through, I’ll be fine”, we are increasing the restraints our disease is trying to inflict.

We are crippling our bodies more than necessary. It really doesn’t make much sense to continue to push beyond our limits if you stop and think about it.

We end up in a vicious cycle of more pain, tiredness and other worsening symptoms. All of which remove more and more control over our daily lives.

So how can we help ourselves?

Our Bodies Key Messages

Our bodies give us key messages every day. Pain and fatigue are perhaps the two key indicators we need to watch out for. When they present and begin to increase, it’s time to listen, stop, review and adjust.

Let’s look at each of those categories a little closer.


My pain is constant but it does have varying levels. I have base pain, intermediate pain and severe pain.

At my base level, I can function around the home doing a little cleaning, making cups of tea, doing admin work, writing and managing my forum. I can also go out for an hour for a coffee with my husband once during the week and I can more easily get to medical appointments etc. At this level I must have morning and afternoon rest periods, lying flat on the bed, and I can’t be on my legs for longer than 30 mins at a time.

At my intermediate level, I need to reduce my cleaning tasks, avoid sitting at my computer to do admin tasks and increase my bedrest sessions from 30 mins to 60 mins. I can still manage my forum and write while resting. I can only be on my legs for 10 mins at a time.

At my severe pain level, I need to rest for the majority of the day. I can look after my basic hygiene, I might be able to write a little while resting,  but interacting with others and managing my forum is more difficult.

I have learned (the hard way) to listen to my body when it gives me the warning signs I’ve moved from basic, to intermediate, to my severe pain/disease activity level.


I’m sure most of us with Chronic Illness do listen to our bodies, but listening without taking some kind of action isn’t going to help us take control.

Stopping is the first action required. What I mean by stopping is just taking a little time to sit, so you can work out what’s going on and what you need to do about it.

A good stopping action is to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea or coffee.  Take a much needed breather.


Once you’ve stopped for a moment and are sitting down sipping that relaxing cuppa, it’s time to review.

Ask yourself some key questions at this point.

  1. What just happened to make you stop?
  2. How did/do you feel?
  3. Are you overdoing it?
  4. Can you re-schedule your day?
  5. Is what you were doing really necessary? (Be very honest here)
  6. If you take a longer rest period will it help you recover more quickly?
  7. Are your increase in symptoms due to overdoing it, or do you need to seek medical advice?
  8. Are you telling yourself “I should be doing….”?
  9. Can you tell yourself “No, I shouldn’t” ?
  10. Do you want to feel more in control of your disease?


We can listen, stop and review as much as we like but unless we adjust our activities nothing will change.

Once you’ve gone through the review process, take action straight away based on your answers to the key questions.

I can almost guarantee, if you do, you will feel immediate relief in terms of well-being. You will feel like you are back in the driver’s seat. Yes your disease has placed restrictions on you. Yes you are in pain or dealing with other kinds of symptoms, but you have taken control.

By listening, stopping, reviewing and adjusting, you have improved your situation. In fact you have probably ensured activities you want or need to do, later in the week, will actually have a good chance of happening.

Should You?…No, You Shouldn’t!

So next time you find yourself talking to your healthy alter ego and you hear the words, ” I Should, I Better, I Have to do it”, remember there is only one response.

It’s the response that puts you back in control. The response which is full of wisdom and will empower you. It’s the response which ensures you will be successful in living well with your chronic illness.

The response to “I Have To Do…..” is simply, “No I Really Don’t”

Take care



If you’re looking for genuine support, care, understanding & friendship, you are so welcome to join my closed Facebook support forum, Medical Musings with Friends . It’s a safe place to connect with others living with chronic & complex diseases, who truly understand the daily challenges. A warm welcome awaits.

I’m a Contributor at “The Mighty”. You can check out my published articles at My Author Page

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28 thoughts on ““I Should, I Better, I Have To” …..No, You Really Don’t!!

  1. Sam, you have said what I’ve been thinking and feeling for quite some time now, and days like today it’s amplified. You are exactly right – too often we get this feeling that we ‘should’ or ‘need’ to do things even when our bodies or brains can’t seem to manage it, when we need to take time out (even if it’s the whole day or longer!) but we get trapped with a feeling of guilt if we do. Fantastic post!! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That feeling of guilt is so hard to send packing isn’t it. I completely understand. Thanks so much for reading Caz & for such an encouraging comment xx 💞

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant article Sam! I’m constantly saying, “oh I should do x,” and my husband says, “no… Your job today is to rest.” I am getting better at telling myself to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Erin. Your job is definitely to rest, especially at the moment, so please don’t listen to those “I shoulds”. I’m sure there are many things running around in your mind that you want to get done so I’m really glad you’re getting better at telling yourself to stop. I’m getting better at it too but it definitely takes a while to adjust to a new way of thinking xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Christa. I agree, I have to constantly remind myself to do this. Seems the hardest battle on so many levels xx 💞


  3. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to write this valuable piece so articulately. I’m working on improving with this in my own life, this week was especially successful…and you are right about the good feelings that are a byproduct.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Donna. Good on you for making the changes you need in your own life. I am so glad it proved successful. It’s a wonderful feeling to gain a little control back in these crazy chronic illness lives isn’t it. Thanks so much for your comment xx💞


  4. “Just keep pushing through.” “A little bit more and you’ve got this.” Oh, do I know exactly what you are talking about Sam. And then when I do slow down, I feel guilty or like I am letting someone down. I have just learned that I suffer with heat exhaustion very easily. Just walking from the car into a store I feel like I am going to faint. We are making some adjustments to help with this, but again, I end feeling like I just need to push through so as not to disappoint anyone. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Leigha. I so understand how you feel. My first response to needing to stop or make chronic illness life changes, is that I’m a nuisance or I’m going to disappoint someone. The truth is I’m going to be more of a nuisance if I don’t make the changes I need to manage my health because my ability to function will be further reduced by trying to push through. Please don’t feel guilty. The only person you’re letting down at the end of the day is yourself by not looking after yourself.
      I’m so sorry to hear about your heat exhaustion. That’s awful. I have heat intolerance in that hot weather just makes my symptoms worse so I understand a little of how you feel. Thinking of you. Take care xx 💞


  5. Such a great article. I’ve read quite a bit about pacing but I have a hard time implementing it. My husband is disabled so I am the only one who is able to get work done. I have other family members that need help, too. So, I find that I push through to get things done and then pay for it. I wish they had ‘pacing experts’ who could look at your schedule and teach you how to pace and tell you when to say NO and when to say YES. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. You have so much going on. My heart goes out to you. I know how blessed I am to have my husband as my carer and so I want to thank you for being a carer. You are amazing!
      I’m attaching a link to a great resource on pacing and Activity planning that you might find helpful. Hopefully you can open it. Take care Sam xx 💞

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the link, Sam. I actually just read that booklet. It was very good. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I enjoy your blog so much. It’s so helpful and encouraging.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you, Sam! You are so kind. I will head over and read it now. I am honestly very blessed to be able to do what I can do. I complain too much. 😦


    1. Thanks Shannon, it is so hard not to use the “should” word isn’t it. I definitely wrote this to tell myself to stop doing it….I’m my own worse enemy😊


  6. Sam, I fight with this every day. “I need to clean the floors”, “I have to sort out the storage room”, I must make the dog’s food for the next week” and so on. I am getting better, breaking chores down into manageable pieces like cooking or freezing one element of the dog food each day until done and then I can start again, but it is manageable. I am also letting Hubby and my care worker look after a lot of the other stuff – I am slowly learning to swallow my pride. Lately with this horrendous pain flare and a couple of falls, I am being quite a bit more cautious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely takes time to adapt to a paced, realistic way of living but you sound like you are making good progress Lydia. I’m sorry to hear about your pain and recent falls though. Lots of love xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This was so helpful!! I’m constantly battling myself with, ‘am i pushing myself hard enough?’ There’s friends that are chronically ill too n I’ll see them working and wonder why I have trouble even showering. Am I just not “trying hard enough”? But I know I am, I try hard everyday but I guess my body is just different n I need to listen to it n not others! Thank you again I appreciate all you write!! 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks Sam, this is something I have struggled with a lot.
    I have started using my phone calendar to schedule things in. I do it each night for the next day and spread things out through the day with lots of breaks and self care across the day. Working so far and not feeling so frustrated. Thanks Sam.💜

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I still cannot manage this as I should, only today I have done someone washing up and put a load of washing in and got don’t rest dressed and now I am really having to struggle to get the words down.

    Liked by 1 person

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