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Everyone has different amounts of energy. You could think about your energy like a battery, if we use too much energy our battery will run out quickly, if we use the ‘just right’ amount of energy our battery can last for longer and we can do more of the things we like. Pacing is when you use the ‘just right’ amount of energy so you can do all the things you want to do during the day without getting too tired.

Most people have good and bad days. Good days may feel like you have a fully charged battery and you can do more. If you do too much on your good days, then your battery may become empty and the following day you might feel really tired. This is called the ‘Boom and Bust’ cycle.

Boom bust cycle

You have a good day with more energy and motivation to be more active, or you have lots going on so you have to do more. You do more than you should and push through the tiredness.

After this you crash and feel very tired and less motivated. This means you need lots of rest, may need to cancel plans and stay at home to rest.

Then the cycle repeats.

Illustration of boom and bust graph with activity slowly going down


Pacing is a way of reorganising how you do everyday activities. Everyone has to pace. Some people need to think about this more than others because all our health needs are different. You can pace when you are at home, school, on holiday, with your family, with your friends or out and about.

Everyday activities might include:

  • Physical tasks such as getting up, washing, dressing, as well as walking, travelling and sports.
  • Mental activities like watching TV, using your phone or computer, schoolwork, reading, concentrating and multi-tasking.
  • Social time using your phone or being with friends or family.
  • Emotional situations, such as having arguments, feeling low or anxious or being under stress.

Activities might use up different amounts of energy depending on the person.

How do I pace myself?

When you wake up in the morning, think about your energy battery. Does it feel full or not fully charged? Also think about what jobs you have to do in the day. This might be going to school, going out, seeing friends and family or playing.

You can pace your energy by:

  • using equipment that helps like your wheelchair, walker or a chair specially made for you
  • having a rest like sitting down or having a nap
  • spread activities throughout the day that use lots of energy, instead of doing them all in a short space of time
  • having quiet time
  • letting others help
  • knowing when your energy battery might be running low and telling someone
  • eating healthy and drinking water at regular times
  • finding your own ways to relax and recharge your energy battery
  • regular bedtimes

An example of how you might pace your energy during the day might be:

  • get out of bed
  • have breakfast
  • do an activity such as a walk
  • sit down and rest
  • have lunch
  • do an activity such as homework
  • rest with a low energy activity
  • have dinner
  • do an activity
  • get ready for bed
  • sleep

Remember that everyone is different and we all need to find our own balance between activity and rest. If you would like to talk more about pacing and how it can work for you, ask to speak to your therapist.

Top tips
  • Doing a bit, then taking a short break works better than doing lots and then needing to take really long breaks.
  • Listen to your body to see what it is feeling like when you do different things.
  • Work what you would be able to manage on most days without making your symptoms worse.
  • Build up things gradually doing little by little.
  • If you are a ‘go getter’ you may need to listen to your body and stop before things get too difficult.
  • If you are a worried about doing activity, find a starting point and build up from there.
  • You might get a bit carried away and do too much, but you can learn by mistakes. You can think about what went wrong and what you could do differently next time and try again.

The aim is to find amounts of activity do each day, that are about the same and little by little increase those amounts, so that your body gets stronger and stronger and you begin to manage more and more of what you want and need to do each day.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PT75

Resource Type: Article

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