Imagine that when you sleep, you’re accruing energy like it’s money that you can spend. So you wake up, you have a shower (£10), get dressed (£3), make and eat breakfast (£5), walk to work (£25)… a normal day looks fairly expensive energy-wise but you get a LOT of it when you’re asleep, and it’s fine to go overdrawn during the week because you can pay it back at weekends.
Then suddenly, your energy payments slow down. You’re only accruing a few pounds a night. Maybe once you hit the walk to work, you’re already in debt. £20 of energy doesn’t go very far in a world where you were easily spending £500 a day without a problem.
Your bank starts getting mean, too. Instead of a nice, large, interest-free overdraft, you only have a few pounds there as well! And the interest is horrendous: it might feel fine to go overdrawn by making that cup of tea (£3) but you’ll have to pay it back plus extra.
So you have to start living smart. You know you have £20 of energy, so you spend just that and no more. You don’t get in debt again, even for a day. Maybe if you sleep an extra few hours you get another £5; maybe if you rest between spending then you earn enough to stay out of your overdraft. If you’re smart, once you know what you have to live off you can stick to it, and then start earning a bit more. Maybe an extra £1 a week – but give that 3 weeks and you can make another cup of tea every day. Give it a year and you can walk to the shops again.
That’s what pacing is; living smart with the energy you have available. You work out what you can currently do, and you do just that. You mix up rest and activity so you can get the harder things done without ending up in bed for a week. Slowly, you increase what you’re spending, so that in a few years you might be back to normal.