Nourishing vs depleting activities: a pacing strategy

One of the first approaches to pacing that I had some success with was alternating between nourishing and depleting activities. The basic principle is that some activities use up our energy and others allow us to feel restored. The metaphor that’s often used in CBT is that of a phone battery that drains while it is being used and fills again when it is charged.

To put this into practice I have to list the activities I do regularly and then mark them as nourishing or depleting. The approach is straightforward and easy to get started with. It’s been easy to apply it using the to-do list and calendar apps that I already like.

How I use this technique to manage my fatigue

Step 1: List

Make a list of the activities I do regularly.

Step 2: Label

Label or sort the activities as ‘nourishing’ or ‘depleting’. Here are the activities from my own list as an example:

Depleting Activities:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Showering
  • Writing
  • Gardening
  • Exercise
  • Shopping
  • Reading
  • Conversation
  • Phone calls
  • Computer use

Nourishing Activities:

  • Meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Soothing breathing
  • A cup of tea
  • Compassionate body scan meditation

Okay, so the ratio of Nourishing to Draining activities doesn’t look good! The problem is that at the moment my chronic migraine is particularly bad, and I’m mildly depressed. This combination makes everything difficult (it’s taken days to get this post written, and I’ve made myself worse by not taking enough breaks) and as a result everything is draining to some extent. I guess it’s not really a problem. I’ll just be repeating those nourishing activities several times a day.

Step 3: Plan

Daily Planner from

Plan my day so that nourishing activities alternate with depleting activities.

At the moment I’m using a simple paper planner. I fill out the right hand column with the things I want to do today and label them ‘D’ or ‘N’. Then I copy them out in the left hand column in the order I intend to do them, making sure each depleting activity is followed by something nourishing from my list above.

Generally I prefer to use a to-do list app and Outlook calendar to plan my days. Tags and categories make it easy to label my activities and see at a glance if I’ve got a good balance.

Resources Nourishing and Depleting Activities worksheet (pdf) The Battery – Lift vs Drop Activities (pdf)

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