woman's hand holding pen surrounded by cleaning supplies with text overlay - Housework and Autoimmune Disease: How to Do Chores While Battling Chronic Fatigue & Other Autoimmune Symptoms

How to Do Housework While Battling Chronic Fatigue & Other Autoimmune Symptoms

Frank Autoimmune Parenting, Coping with Symptoms, Living Well with Autoimmune Disease Leave a Comment

sponge, bottles, and gloves with text overlay: Housework & Autoimmune Disease - How to Do Chores While Battling Chronic Fatigue and Other Autoimmune SymptomsWhat does peanut butter and jelly, and autoimmune disease paired with no energy, have in common?

WARNING: Dad joke imminent…

They always go together!  Get it?!  (I know it’s not funny… but it’s true!)

Autoimmune disease seems to always have a tag-along buddy of chronic fatigue… or, as we like to call it: ULTRA-MEGA-EXHAUSTION.  Which sort of makes sense when your body is taxed from having antibodies attacking its own genetic material.

And when you stack up everything that is associated with autoimmune disease… chronic pain, depression, exhaustion, bathroom fiascos, balance issues, and who else knows – all those “normal things” like household chores can fall to the way-side pretty quickly.

Oh, and not to mention having a job, a family to raise, a million doctor appointments (of which are probably battles in themselves), and no one to understand what you are actually dealing with.

Yea, autoimmune disease is tough.  But having ALL of the stuff I just said, AND no energy – that’s just rude.  So, I first would like to present you with this… your trophy!  Just for making it to today and not giving up.  

Seriously, you deserve it.

But the show must go on.  And the show includes… chores.  Doing these with no energy and an autoimmune disease takes tact.  You might not be able to “find the energy” or “push through it” like everyone else.  Believe me, I know this isn’t a lack of motivation or “laziness” thing. 

Instead of letting them fall off your to-do list, I created this quick How-To guide.  It will give you insight into the importance of doing housework, plus tricks on how to manage your time/body to get the tasks done.  If I haven’t hooked you yet, I’m not surprised – chores aren’t fun.

But I will make sure the next paragraphs are!

Let’s take a look at the challenges ahead…

Without getting stressed out, close your eyes and think for a second of all the chores you have to do. They can be daily, weekly, monthly, whatever…

OK now stop or you might actually get stressed out.  Right?

There are just way too many!  And throw in the fact that you have no energy to do them and it’s not even fair anymore.  But there are some that are non-negotiables.  The ones that make or break your home (and your spirit) if they’re not done.

If you let these pile up, you could be doing your body a disservice, even if you’re avoiding them to save the little energy you have.  These are things like:

  • Vacuuming and Dusting
  • Kitchen counters and surfaces
  • Dishes
  • Cleaning the bathroom (sink, toilet, tub/shower)
  • Windows (a surprisingly important one)
  • Laundry (the arch nemesis of us all)

Looking down the barrel of these six can seem daunting.  Adding in the rest of them (like those in this Ultimate Household Chore List) is borderline impossible, especially if you try to stick to “normal” house cleaning practices and schedules.

But again, without energy, you probably aren’t convinced that these truly are non-negotiables.  You might be thinking… “I’ll get to it when I can”.

So why fit them into a routine at all?

The Down and Dirty Benefits: How this Actually Benefits Not Just Your Home, but Your Body & Autoimmune Disease

Successfully completing chores gives your brain the chance to feel accomplished.  The result is a boost of endorphins!  Endorphins are what give you good feelings and a positive mood.

This is a great benefit!  But… it’s temporary.  

The real value of an endorphin boost is that they play a significant role in properly powering immune cells like your B-cells, T-cells, and Thymus cells, to name a few.  And before you say, “but, Frank, I have an autoimmune disease, I don’t want my immune cells powered at all, right?!”

Not exactly! 

A better way to say power is: modulate.  Modulating the immune system means turning it on and off at the right times.  Hopefully this makes more sense.  Autoimmune disease usually involves degradation to your body’s tissue and if you can turn that off without losing the function of your immune system, it will improve symptoms.

So really the goal should always be – keeping things in balance.  If our systems are powered properly, they should behave properly.

The other benefit is that a clean house reduces your overall body burden.  Vacuuming and dusting, for instance, removes the nasty stuff that collects on surfaces and eventually make its way into the air.

By keeping the dust, dander, and other allergens to a minimum, your body no longer has to take-in, and sort through things.  This is a great way to let your immune system wind down and repair.

So boost those endorphins and help your immune system out by firing up that old vacuum!

But before we move on, I have a third benefit: exercise.  Scrubbing toilets, pushing a vacuum around and doing laps around the house might not be considered “real” exercise, but it still keeps your body moving and heart rate above resting.

Some like to call this NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Time.  It is invaluable, and more so for those with an autoimmune disease because power-lifting, or even jogging can increase inflammation – and that inflammation is a burden while healing.

Now I’ve got you pumped-up and ready to go!  So, let’s review some ways to reduce the energy suck on your body.

Top Tips for Doing Chores while Battling Chronic Fatigue & Other Autoimmune Symptoms

Let’s start with the basics… These might seem simple, but don’t overlook them!  They really make a difference.

1.  Make a Schedule

Maintaining a house requires lots of chores AND effort, so at some point you will have to create a list of all your chores to help you figure out what frequency you need to do each one.  We use an app called Tody to help remind us when things need to be done.

FYI – the Tody app is free on the Google play store for Android, but sadly $6.99 for Apple (which is the one we have – it’s actually worth it, just check the reviews).  Once you have your app you can build your schedule:

  • First, draft which chores you will do (broken down by rooms, categories, or what works best for you).
  • Load your plan into the app.
  • Set the frequency of each chore (how often you think you’ll do it – once per week, once per month, etc.).
  • After picking the frequency and you begin working through your list, make adjustments to the frequency as necessary. If the toilet isn’t dirty after a week, make it two weeks.  Don’t over extend yourself by cleaning when things aren’t dirty.
  • Continue adjusting the schedule as you cycle through your list.

The schedule itself isn’t the trick though.  What you’re really after is a schedule customized to your unique situation and one as bare bones as possible.  Meaning you want to spread things out so you aren’t overwhelmed, or caught pushing yourself too hard.

Successfully scheduling everything in and not have to push yourself, provides the following bonuses:

  • The opportunity to focus on the benefits – light exercise, endorphin boost, improves your indoor environment.
  • Reserves the amount of fuel (energy) in the tank for better uses during the day.

Boom baby!

2.  Break It Up Into Chunks

An example of how to do this is: vacuuming, dusting, or both – one to two rooms at a time instead of the entire house.  Chunking your chores pairs perfectly with your schedule (and is easily done in the app), but most importantly, keeps you from burning too much energy.

It reduces the amount of time you need to spend on a particular chore.  Instead of vacuuming the whole house or cleaning the whole kitchen in one shot (a recipe for burning out), you vacuum a couple rooms, and only clean the counters.

You can even break it down further.  For example, we have three sets of stairways in our home and vacuuming each stairway is its own task.  

The objective: reduced load and sustainability.  Just chip away at the big stuff and keep cycling through them on a lighter schedule.

3.  Judge Your Energy Level

This one is by far the most important of the three.  Regardless of what your schedule says, your body needs to have the last word.

If you don’t feel like you have enough energy today, gently coax the vacuum back into the closet for the time being – no need to overdo it.  It’s just not worth it.

HOWEVER!  Because chores demand energy, and it might be a while before you have some, you still need to do your best to get them done.  In order to ensure you don’t end up over-using the “not enough energy” rule, there is some brain training involved.

One way to help with convincing your brain that your body does have enough energy is to do this:

Use a stop watch and record how long it takes you to complete a task.

This is a trick we used back when our newborn son was super clingy and only lasted about 3 minutes before crying to be picked up.  But life had to go on, and as a result, we discovered there’s A LOT you can do in a tiny amount of time.  Unloading the dishwasher, for example, only took about 5 minutes, but it seemed like much longer before we actually timed it.

As soon as you know how long a task takes, you have the option of telling your body that it really doesn’t take as long as you think, and is achievable.

Or, if certain rooms do take way too long, pick a small room, and get that one done.  Basically, you are just chipping away until you check the box.  Keep in mind all those juicy benefits, and your brain should be able to overcome the alleged energy crisis (real or not, and without overdoing it).

4.  Get Rid of the Clutter

Wanna know what doesn’t get enough attention?

HOW MUCH CRAP WE ALL HAVE!

It’s like some strange part of the American dream to…

  • Own one of everything you ever set your eyes on
  • To never get rid of it once it enters your home (or your car)

Anna and I fell victim to this, just like most.  But we also learned how (through some life events like a remodel/addition) to shed our attachment to objects by remembering that they are literally just objects.

Your belongings should only hold value if they are NECESSARY and provide value to you.

And the words necessity and value need to carry weight.  For example, if you don’t use it at some regular frequency, time to say goodbye.

But why? (Rhyme!)

Imagine cleaning a house with less stuff in it.  Less dusting, picking up and putting back down.  Not as much moving things to vacuum.  Less to organize and rearrange.  Folding laundry?  Cut your collection in half and donate.  And finally, imagine being able to look around and see more open space!

All clutter does is increase stress.  Stress increases inflammation.  Inflammation triggers autoimmune flares.  Reduce your stress and de-clutter.  Your brain will thank you for how much less it has to process.

De-cluttering is easier said than done, plus it is an emotional process (both good and bad).  Here’s an article outlining where to start if you’re feeling overwhelmed by clutter.

5.  Lower Expectations

Not everyone will need this tip, but for those of us that can’t help but maintain perfection… you just. Have. To. Stop!

At least until your energy returns.

Burning all your energy to make sure the toilet is spotless isn’t worth it.  So put down the toothpicks and cotton swabs for every nook and cranny… It is a must to learn how to cut corners and lower your expectations. 

Remember – done is better than perfect.  

Doing this will save you time, which you can use to improve your knowledge of your disease, and spend on other aspects of your new lifestyle.

6.  No Shame

Often times, autoimmune disease can be difficult for a particular unforeseen reason: relationships.

Most of the time, people can’t physically see what is wrong with you, and no matter how many times you try to explain, nothing breaks through.

“Oh, you’re just being dramatic… you just have to push through it.”

Please DON’T!  Crumbling in the face of peer/family/self-induced (perception-based) pressure can be downright dangerous!

So let me say this quickly – if you are in a flare, have little to no energy, and cannot clean your house – even if it starts lookin’ a hot mess, IT’S OK.

People wanna shoot you dirty looks and whisper behind your back (or to your face) – Let ‘em.  Worst case, shut them out until you feel better.  This is going to sound insanely harsh, but it’s true… Your health and sanity are more important than “friends” (and sadly family members in some cases).  Most importantly, it is temporary.  You will gain your energy back (and real friends/family won’t abandon you).

Real talk over.

No Energy? No Problem (Sort of..)

Once again, autoimmune diseases aren’t a walk in the park.  Have I said this before?  Especially when they drain your energy and leave you tired, frustrated, and wanting NOTHING to do with housework.

So, if you are truly suffering and have no energy, you also have the option to pay someone else to do it for you.  And believe me, I definitely know that is not always in the budget.  Plus, at least where we live, the majority of cleaning services use toxic (and super smelly/perfumey) products that might leave you feeling sicker than before.

But, if you are taking your housework upon yourself, then this guide will give you the methods and the reasons to get the job done!  So, don’t delay, build your chore list and routine, and put those household horrors behind you. 

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sponge, bottles, and gloves with text overlay: Housework & Autoimmune Disease - How to Do Chores While Battling Chronic Fatigue and Other Autoimmune Symptoms

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