I'm tired of being tired!
November 24, 2009 8:53 AM   Subscribe

What are some easy ways to get more energy and motivation? Lifestyle-specific details inside.

I wake up at 4:45 every weekday morning and snooze until 5:15. Originally I did this because I thought I could trick myself into thinking I was sleeping in, but now I think maybe it's just a bad habit. I leave at 6:00am and commute two hours to work, work from 8:00 to 5:00, and commute two hours home, arriving at 7:00pm. By the time I get home, I'm exhausted and have just enough energy to make dinner, eat, and go to bed at 10:00. Every weekday it's the same.

When the weekend comes, I tell myself that I finally have some free time I can use to live a little, but I end up sleeping in instead, fooling around doing nothing in particular on the computer, and not getting out of the house.

Fortunately my wonderful fiancee makes sure I don't neglect her or my responsibilities, and she tries to keep me moving. But I just don't feel the self-motivation from within that I had once upon a time, and I miss that. I want to pursue hobbies in my spare time, but I feel like I have no spare time. I want to get back in shape. I want to start (and finish) projects. I want to recultivate old friendships and have company over for games and dinners and movies. I want to try new things and have adventures, like I used to do. I feel like I'm stuck in a rut.

How do I stop feeling exhausted all the time? The good news is, I'm moving much closer to work soon, which ought to help a lot. Apart from that, I'm looking for energy and motivation hacks. Any special habits I can form, or foods I can eat, or stretches I can do? Time is at a premium right now, and since I'm saving up for marriage and a honeymoon in May, so is money. Help me find some vigor to tackle my schedule and get the most out of life again!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
You're feeling exhausted because you are; the commute is taking a lot out of you, and there's not really much you can do about that other than moving closer to your work (which you're doing). I expect that you'll get much of your former energy back after the move.

That being said, the biggest 'energy hacks' for me are:

1. A proper breakfast, with tons of protein and carbs. Eat as soon as you get up.

2. Some light cardio in the mornings before I leave. Swimming was always the best.

3. Weight training 3x-4x per week. Will initially leave you drained, but will ultimately make you more able to handle your day.
posted by sid at 9:17 AM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: yoga sun salutes do wonderful things for me. not just for the stretching and moving around, but for the breathing. it can be tricky putting it all together without a good teacher, but it's well worth the effort. if yoga is your cup of tea, of course. if you're game, stand straight and take a few practice breaths before going into the sun salute.

(and nthing sid: your commute sounds horrible and life-destroying. moving is probably the single best thing you could be doing.)
posted by spindle at 9:24 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Exercise of any kind is critical, whether it's a routine of just 10 pushups in the morning or a full workout after work or whatever. But exercise is the key.
posted by dfriedman at 9:25 AM on November 24, 2009

Response by poster: I usually leave for work in a hurry in the morning (something else that really bugs me). Is that the best time for exercise or will I have the same results later in the day? I try to carve out time for breakfast but I usually go without and have coffee at the office.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:55 AM on November 24, 2009

Nthing breakfast and exercise (though I don't think it needs to be in the morning...maybe you could do a brisk 20 minute walk on your lunch break). Breakfast is super important and I am a mess when I don't in regular intervals.

For me, an acai smoothie gives me tons of energy. I usually drink it instead of coffee. Plus, it's super easy to make and you can drink it in the car during your commute.
posted by too bad you're not me at 9:58 AM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: That's a really rough schedule. Can you work some mini-bursts of exercise into your day? Googling "desk exercises" should give you some ideas, otherwise a few examples might be:
- brisk walk at lunchtime
- always taking the stairs
- stomach toning exercises while seated (pilates style, using your breath)
- arm circles and leg lifts at your desk

The freeware program Workrave is great if you have trouble remembering to take the 2 minutes to do this sort of thing.
posted by susanvance at 10:18 AM on November 24, 2009

What do you listen to on your commute? Try some audiobooks, and some energizing music. Engaging your brain may help a bit.
posted by theora55 at 10:26 AM on November 24, 2009

Response by poster: Great tips so far!

too bad you're not me: How do you make an acai smoothie? Is there a particular recipe you use? I'm not familiar with the stuff.

theora55: I do listen to some good podcasts during the commute; I've found it a good way to keep my brain fairly stimulated en route.

The commute is a combination of driving 25 minutes across town to the train station, riding the train for 80 minutes, and walking 15 minutes to the office. If that makes a difference. Sometimes I try to sleep on the train, but usually I just space out in podcastland.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:38 AM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: That does sound tough. One thing it sounds like you might already know, but I might as well emphasize: dump the snooze. If you know you're not going to get out of bed until 5:15, set the alarm for then and get out of bed immediately. Right now, you're just ruining a half hour of what would otherwise be perfectly good sleep and turning it into something that doesn't give you nearly as much benefit.

I had no idea what my half-hour snooze habit was doing to me until I started dating a guy who was made totally insane by it- I always liked the feeling of waking up and then knowing I could have another fifteen or twenty or thirty minutes. Because it was an easy way to help him be happy, I stopped doing it, and I feel like I need half an hour less sleep now than I did before simply because I'm not transforming the last part of my sleep into crappy, low-quality dozing.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:32 AM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: Acai is nonsense. And I am skeptical of starting your day with a smoothie if getting back into shape is one of your goals.

In terms of energy hacks, I think that ditching the snooze is going to be beneficial. It would turn 30 minutes of fitful sleep into 30 minutes of real sleep if you could just get up when the alarm goes off. I have been interested in this technique for teaching yourself to get up when the alarm goes off, but honestly, I think the thing to do is to just set your alarm for the time when you must get up. No cushion.

Also, judging from your overall level of exhaustion, I think 7 hours is not cutting it for you. At least a couple times a week, just give in and go to sleep as early as you can.

Make your mornings as unstressful as possible: No deciding what to wear, no checking your email. If you don't have a phone that allows you to browse the web and catch up on email on the train, I think it would be a valuable acquisition. That way, you'll always have your email/web browsing done when you're not at home.

I would also try to figure out a way to not have to make yourself dinner every night. You don't have to eat perfectly, but try to figure out three or four not-bad-for-you, not-super-expensive dinners that you can pick up on the way home so you don't have to spend the time doing dishes and cooking. You live in a world where something has to give; I say it's making dinner.

As for making plans to do things with people, the only thing to do is to make plans. Yes, sometimes you will be tired, and sometimes you will commute toward home kicking yourself that you have to go out. But I'm always happier when I do something than when I don't. Don't schedule every day, but maybe pick a day, Tuesday, when you're going to meet a friend to do something fun. And actually do it. Schedule a month of Tuesdays: starting today.
posted by purpleclover at 11:42 AM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: Morning exercise is the best. It gives me energy for the whole day. I drag myself out of bed three mornings a week and go swim laps at the Y in our town. I get up earlier to do this, but it makes all the difference to me. Exercise is the magic bullet for what ails most people. (But I loathe getting up early.)

And breakfast. Some carbs to start the engine, and some protein to take you to lunch.

Sometimes we have to recreate that motivation when it goes away.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:55 AM on November 24, 2009

a) Eat breakfast. I am also not a morning person, so I just have instant oatmeal at the office. Protein, fiber, and carbs. Done and done.

b) I also usually try to make one big thing over the weekend (pot of chili, pot of soup, etc...) that I can eat for a dinner a few times during the week so I don't have to make dinner every single night.

c) I recently started having some kind of green drink in the morning too, like this, and maybe it's just psychological but I feel like it helps wake me up/give me energy.

Congrats on moving soon! I'm sure that will make things much, much better.
posted by grapesaresour at 1:12 PM on November 24, 2009

Best answer: That does sound miserable. I agree with everyone that exercise really, really, helps, but I personally cannot fathom rising earlier than 5:15 in order to get it in, so I won't try to give you advice on that.

Instead, breakfast. I don't fool with this at home, instead I always wait until I get to work to eat. I keep a variety of foods in my desk—oatmeal, peanut butter, bread/crackers, a bowl and a few pieces of silverware that I pilfered from the cafeteria. At the start of every week, I bring in a few pieces of fruit (apples, bananas, etc.). You could eat a piece of fruit or a cereal bar once you get on the train, to stoke the fire as it were, then follow it up with some oatmeal or something a little more substantial once you arrive at your desk.

This is going to sound completely ludicrous, especially with winter coming, but...at the end of your morning shower, try turning it to lukewarm or cold for just a short blast before you get out and dry off. I've not managed cold, but I take extremely hot showers, and the cool blast at the end is actually really refreshing, wakes me up, and gives me a burst of energy that carries me throughout the day. (I have to make sure I've thoroughly steamed myself like a clam in its shell, though, for this to be even remotely enjoyable, though, so proceed with caution.)

Finally, I apologize if this sounds overly obvious, but have you actually identified the hobbies, projects, adventures, etc. that you want to get back into? Have you made a list or figured out a plan for how you might do so? Obtained any supplies if you need it so there's no obstacle to working on them when you have some time? I maintain a big list of projects/experiences/etc. I want to do, but I spend more weekends than I care to admit just like you do—wandering aimlessly around the house, whiling away the hours on the computer, because I just plumb forget what it was that I originally wanted to work on if I don't have a reminder that I did actually want to do that thing right in front of my face. Looking at my list helps me stay focused on those things.

And I second purpleclover that at some point, you just have to start making plans. If I waited until I wasn't tired to make plans, it would never happen. And I never regret hanging out once I'm actually there. Good luck!
posted by anderjen at 1:16 PM on November 24, 2009

IANYD, but if you've lost *internal* motivation, you might be slightly depressed (not clinically depressed). Worth asking your doc about, anyway.

Seconding dumping the snooze button; google it and you'll find doctors and anecdotal evidence alike that it's making getting up *worse*.
posted by tzikeh at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2009

whoops - posted too soon - excess tiredness is also a sign of mild depression.
posted by tzikeh at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2009

I had a similar commute for a while, and I asked a question about it that garnered a lot of good hacks for making the trip a little less onerous. Maybe those answers would be helpful for you as well.

Depending on how soon your move is, checking off the workdays you have left might be psychologically pleasing on some level.

Good luck- it's a tough situation to be in, and I empathize!
posted by charmcityblues at 5:44 PM on November 24, 2009

In developing countries, people may take a lot more than 2 hours and during my stay in one, it took about 50 minutes to an hour for just 8 miles in an open bus (i.e. no air conditioning). So, take solace in knowing that you are moving closer and I completely understand how you feel based on just a one hour of day in and day out commute and motivation issues.
Plus it feels good to know you can move and will be soon if not already done so.

Here's what I suggest

Audiobooks or some kind of talk or something to keep you interested that is not a visual distractor.

Good music with you, this can make the difference between arriving back home or to work with joy and motivation to do something. Music after coming home is a great idea too for motivating yourself.

Give yourself a break, tell yourself, I give myself a break from the chores for the night except in case I have credit cards or other bills to pay, which i will take care of immediately.

Plan your weekend, believe it or not, we all have this notion that the weekend is supposed to fun and frolic and lazing in bed. Lazing in bed throws you off your normal workdays, so maintaining the same sleep pattern is helpful.

Now, lazing in bed is not equivalent to taking 8 hours of sleep when you've been sleeping less the night before or had a rough week. Give yourself permission.

Back to the weekend issue, have fun, make it planned fun, and plan time for spontaneity as well, so that it doesn't take from you, i.e. let's say you plan 10am to 12pm saturday, elaborate cooking, 12-1 lunch, 1-2 rest, 2-4 spontaneity (for example you choose to go see a movie, go do it, or something fun with significant other), 5-7 chat with friends, 7-9 reading.

Often, when we humans are given easier decision factors like making a decision which we can take lots of time with, we procrastinate till the moment comes, set that deadline with narrowed constraints, and you may extract more happiness from your weekend and gain more from it than you think. Remember, in your head your often planning as well dependent upon personal preferences for situations and contexts.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:12 PM on February 3, 2010

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