Managing Inconsistent Energy When You're Neurodivergent

Restful Life
3 min read

Navigating the ebb and flow of energy can be tough when you're neurodivergent.

In a world that operates on relentless output, inconsistent energy is a unique challenge.

Fluctuating energy is a big part of being neurodivergent. Such as being autistic, ADHD, bipolar, or highly sensitive. Energy levels can also fluctuate with co-occuring conditions. These can include migraine, fibromyalgia, and EDS.

So here’s how to manage inconsistent energy when you’re neurodivergent.

Change your mindset

The very idea of consistency is a lie. One created by a capitalist system that wants us to behave like a robot to extract more value from us.

In the early days of capitalism, people were part of the factory machine. You could exchange & replace humans in and out just like mechanical components.

And unfortunately these days, not much has changed. In a capitalist society, humans are still seen as “resources” who create surplus value for shareholders.

Consistency is a scam that hurts us all. But one that is quite punishing for neurodivergent people. Or anyone who struggles with fluctuating energy.

But nothing in nature is consistent. Nature is varied, fluctuating, chaotic and cyclical. And so are you. It’s okay to let go of internalised capitalism and be your inconsistent self.

Traffic light care

Traffic light with green walk signal and green bike signal lit up with palm tree in the background

The idea of self-care using a traffic light system is a novel way to manage your energy. It involves adapting activities based on your current energy state using three colour-coded levels: red, yellow, and green.

  1. Red: Low Energy

    When you are low on energy, identify activities that are restorative and require minimal effort. This could include  

    Avoid high-energy or demanding tasks during these periods.

  2. Yellow: Moderate Energy

    When your energy level is moderate, try activities that balance relaxation and engagement. This might involve  

    • light exercise
    • socializing with close friends in a low-key setting
    • eating leftovers, or
    • tackling tasks that are moderately demanding

    Be mindful not to overextend yourself.  

  3. Green: High Energy

    During times of high energy, focus on activities that contribute to long-term well-being. This could include  

    • more intense physical exercise
    • engaging in creative pursuits
    • meal prepping, or
    • tackling challenging tasks

    Use this time to accomplish goals, prepare for low-energy days, and invest in fulfilling activities.

This system allows for flexibility, helping you navigate the ups and downs of fluctuating energy. You get to tailor your approach to what you need at any given moment.

Remember that self-care is a dynamic and personalised practice. The traffic light system can serve as a helpful guide in making mindful choices based on your energy levels.

Embrace pacing

Pacing systems for neurodivergent people involve managing your energy levels and daily activities. It means knowing and respecting the fluctuating nature of energy. Your energy may be influenced by:

  • sensory sensitivities
  • social interactions, and
  • cognitive demands

Pacing emphasizes finding a sustainable rhythm that prevents overwhelm, burnout, or sensory overload. Systems can include spoon theory, the traffic light system (above) or energy accounting.

A pacing approach often includes

  • the establishment of a structured routine - this provides predictability and stability
  • regular breaks and downtime - this allows you to recharge and manage sensory input
  • breaking larger tasks into smaller, more manageable part - this helps to reduce stress and maintain a sense of accomplishment

Pacing helps to prevent the ‘boom & bust’ cycle. This is the cycle of over-extending yourself on high-energy days. And afterwards needing significant recovery time.

Gamify your life

Woman in purple top & long black hair dances with eyes closed

Gamifying life means turning daily activities into a fun and motivating game.

You could try:

  • assigning points to tasks and adding rewards (small treats, enjoyable activities, or time on a hobby) when they’re complete
  • use a timer and turn a chore into a challenge against the clock
  • create milestones to achieve, offering a sense of progression
  • frame tasks as quests or challenges such as a 7-day tooth-flossing challenge
  • incorporate short restorative mini-games throughout the day, such as breathwork exercises, a mindful moment, or a quick listen to meditones
  • involving friends or family, turning it into a collaborative effort

Remember, everything should be adaptable and flexible. Recognize that energy levels can vary, and the game should be a supportive tool rather than a source of pressure. By gamifying life, you can feel more motivation and accomplishment.


Navigating inconsistent energy when you’re neurodivergent requires a mindset shift. It means letting go of the artificial construct of consistency imposed by capitalism. Embracing your natural ebb and flow is liberating.

Using pacing strategies, such as the traffic light system, provides a practical and flexible approach to managing energy levels. Which in turn can help prevent overwhelm and neurodivergent burnout.

Finally, gamifying life adds an element of fun and motivation. Turning daily activities into rewarding challenges. Remember, it’s about adaptability and support. Not adding unnecessary pressure.

Embrace your inconsistent self and find your own rhythm. Balance ritual & restful self-care in a dynamic and fulfilling practice tailored to your unique neurodivergent needs.

Remember, doing things “consistently” doesn’t mean doing them rigidly. Flexible self-care is still consistent self-care.

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