Pacing part one

Deciding where to start with my Daily Dose posts was one of those “can’t see the woods for the trees” moments. When it comes to ME there are so many thing to remember, so many helpful hints and tips to share, and so many pitfalls to keep in mind.

But they all link back to one thing: pacing.

Whether you’re having a good, bad or ugly day, pacing yourself is absolutely essential. It’s something that didn’t come quickly or easily to me, indeed I need to regularly remind myself to do it, and I regularly experience the fatigue and pain associated with forgetting my own advice!

So what’s pacing?

Well for me it’s making sure my own store of energy, my battery, never goes flat. While other people’s batteries will last them all day, and a night’s sleep will recharge it, my battery is like that of an old mobile phone… not quite what it was, and prone to drain suddenly at the most inconvenient moment.

I now know I cannot let my battery fall below 50%. As soon as it gets near that point, whatever time of day, I need to stop and lie down – or at the very least sit down – with as little distraction as possible. Quiet and dark is always the best for me.

If I don’t keep an eye on my battery, a night’s sleep won’t recharge me. It can easily take three days. That’s three days either bed bound or house bound.

Learning to pace yourself to avoid what’s known as “payback” – that disproportionate amount of battery recharging time – takes effort.

For me, the turning point was the day I realised I was not going to win this battle by fighting through it. I am lucky enough to live in the island of Jersey and I love my walks across the bay. It’s a beautiful one hour stroll… but I can’t do it any more. In sheer frustration I kept trying, and then wondered why I was at the point of collapse, in a sweaty, worn out mess, in need of a taxi ride home and a long sleep.

It sounds obvious to say it now, but trying to do more than your battery has power for is a fool’s game.

Now I truly cherish my five and ten minute strolls where I consciously aim to be the slowest person on the path or road or beach. I take little rests to breathe in my surroundings, to notice little things that had previously passed me by. Bird song. The breeze in the trees. The architecture on the floors above the shops in town. The quirks of people who pass me by. It’s a revelation!

I also now give plans a ‘virtual’ score of high, medium and low energy. I aim to do no more than three low energy things in a day, or two medium energy things, or one high energy thing. Knowing this in advance helps me make plans. And I’ve got better at being strict about it. If my diary is full, based on that scale, that’s me done for the day. So…

  • Low energy: watching TV or listening to the radio, reading a newspaper
  • Medium energy: a short stroll, a coffee or short lunch with a friend
  • High energy: a restaurant meal, drinks in a bar, anything with a group of people, a longer walk

Over time I’ve learned what goes where on my energy scale, and that some things move around on that scale. On a good day, a little bit of ironing is medium energy. On a bad day, it is high energy (which is an excuse not to bother!).

There’s lots more I want to share about pacing, but I don’t want to make these posts too long as I know how tiring reading can be.

What about you? Share your pacing tips with other Zonked Club members.


  1. I think it’s so difficult to advise on pacing as we’re all so very different in how ME affects us. The suggested short stroll would be a major exercise for many and be something as a target on a good day. Reading, whilst relaxing to some, can be a major drain for others. I know that when my battery is low that reading actually causes pain in my legs due to the concentration it takes to process each word. Try explaining that to people ! I think we all need simply to understand that this is a new way of ‘living’, and that we have to listen to our bodies, and learn again how to live within our means, energy wise. Good luck to everyone on board this leaky boat, I hope it’s not too rocky for you…..


    1. Spot on, Bill. I hope my examples are illustrative to make the point about what I’ve learned. But you’re spot on: we’re all different. Sending best wishes.


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