Acquired Brain Injury System Navigation of Southeastern Ontario

Pacing Yourself

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Setting the Pace: Work Smarter not Harder!

People tend to approach activity with two different mindsets; either activity avoidance or over-activity. Think about yourself. Which one do you tend to fall into? Most people will find that they alternate between both avoidance and over-doing it.

There are three main points to think about when planning on increasing your activities:

1. A good rule of thumb is to plan to start with by doing 10-20% less than you realistically estimate you can do. This slow-start may seem like a cop-out, but it will help you ease into activity without causing greater harm and helps set you up for success. Remember, success breeds success, so if you get through some increased activity without experiencing too many negative consequences, you are more likely to do the activity again. The converse is also true. Recall the old Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare? Slow and steady wins the race!

2. Alternate periods of activity and rest. This may seem more natural for small, clear exercises such as strength-building repetition exercises, but is equally important when pacing your activities throughout the day. And when we say activity, this could be anything, and not just traditional exercise. Have pre-planned periods of rest between activities. This will help you avoid falling into the trap of doing too much while still pushing to increase activity throughout the day. Again, start slow, with longer breaks, and then increase your activity while decreasing breaks as you get stronger. For example, you may start with being active for 1 hour, followed by a 15-20 minute break, and then cycling between 1 hour activity and 20 minutes rest. Again, your mind may be telling you that you need to complete an activity before resting, or that you should be getting more done. The reality is that pre-planned breaks, even if they mean interrupting an activity, are the best way to insure that you don’t over-do it.

3. Don’t get stuck on all-or-nothing. Set out some goals based on your values. What do you want to accomplish? What are some things you need to do every day? It can be helpful to write out things that you want (or need) to include in your daily life. For most people, these will involve tasks such as household maintenance, leisure, vocational, physical, and social activities. If you really struggle to get things done during the day, it can be helpful to write out a schedule and stick to it regardless of how you feel. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to your body at all, just make sure you are always moving towards your valued life. One strategy that can be very helpful is having a plan A for when you are feeling it is a good day, a plan B when you are feeling about 50%, and a plan C for those days when you feel that you can perhaps get one thing on your list done. This type of flexible planning helps prepare you so you are never disappointed and will be much less likely to over-do it. For example, if you are really tired one day, is there a household chore you can do that requires less energy? Accomplishing something, even if it isn’t exactly what you initially planned, is always better than nothing.

Get to know your own body, schedule, and be honest with yourself. Attending set classes may be a great idea for some people as classes can provide structure and often include a social component. The downside of set classes is that if you don’t feel like you can attend at some point, you lose out on your opportunity to participate. If you have trouble committing to a set time, look for exercise passes that allow flexibility such as drop in sessions. Many fitness facilities, yoga studios and swimming pools offer this type of service. Then commit to exercising a certain amount of time rather than one specific time.


Generously Shared and Written by Heather Simister.  Used with Permission.


ABI System Navigation of Southeastern Ontario

303 Bagot Street LaSalle Mews, Suite 401 Kingston, Ontario K7K 5W7


Shannon McCallum, System Navigator
613-547-6969 ext. 165

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