The Traffic Light System

You can use our template for traffic light system of pacing or you can get a paper and divide into three rough equal columns with the following headings:


  • Increase stress
  • Increase pain
  • Increase fatigue


  • No change in fatigue/ pain


  • Soothing
  • Pain easing
  • Energising

If we think of a battery; ‘red’ runs the battery down and ‘green’ charges/ refreshes. Biologically, red activities release hormones which worsen fatigue, pain and stress. Green releases our sooth hormones which are potent pain killers as well as improving our mental and physical wellbeing.

Over the next week, as and when you remember, when you do an activity, notice what overall effect the activity has on you and note it under a column. You only need to list the activity once if it falls in the same category. For example if cleaning is always ‘red’ you would note it once in ‘red’. If for instance you did a light cleaning or vacuumed one room and it makes no difference to your fatigue, you can add it to ‘orange’ category as well with adding some context ie pacing cleaning. 

At the end the week, take a moment to reflect and consider, is there is a balance in your week? Or are you spending most of your time in red/ amber? If we take a well person without fatigue, if they are living in ‘red’ they may start to feel unwell.

In your second week, can you work towards bringing in some balance with ‘green/ soothing’ activities? We can use ‘green’ to recover from ‘red’ but see what happens if you use ‘green’ before ‘red’?