rejuvenate my brain!
November 7, 2014 3:55 PM   Subscribe

I have a very mentally taxing/stimulating job. When I get home from work, I can't muster the mental energy to do anything but surf the internet. Even a supper with more steps than 2 (open and heat) seem overwhelming. Physically, I feel fine. I'm not physically tired, just completely mentally tapped out. It's starting to cause some tension in my relationship because I am no longer pulling my weight around the house. Leaving my job is not an option: it pays well and I love the work. I am looking for ways to have more mental energy at the end of the day to perform multi step tasks around the house and/or socialize. Any tips? Organization? Meditation? How do you get (more) stuff done? Thanks!
posted by tippy to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
Physical exercise is great for this. Ride your bike, chop some wood, go for a run, whatever you like and can just jump up and do without a lot of preparation or decision making.
posted by contraption at 4:00 PM on November 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

Yes, meditation. here's a list to get you started.
posted by pintapicasso at 4:09 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

In addition to exercising, try to eat better. If necessary, ask your SO/housemates/whomever to help a bit with this until you are more on the ball.
posted by Michele in California at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2014

Make sure you're well hydrated and consider taking a 20 minute nap when you get home. Naps can be remarkably rejuvenating mentally.
posted by shivohum at 4:27 PM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I find I need some downtime after getting home, especially since my commute is short. Can you take 1hr to veg out (or nap) and then tackle your evening activities?

You could also eat throughout the day to keep your energy up and leave 1/2 hr before you feel mentally exhausted (don't work until the last drop so to speak).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:28 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem. 10-20 minute power nap works wonders. Any longer than that and I have trouble sleeping.
posted by pravit at 4:31 PM on November 7, 2014

Do at least half an hour's aerobic workout before you leave the house in the morning. Every morning, without fail. IT. WORKS. WONDERS.

Also, a minimum of seven hours' sleep per night, without fail. IT'S INDISPENSABLE.

I agree with the advice to stay hydrated and take a 20 minute nap when you get home. Also, the optimal dose of coffee is three cups a day, and make sure it's percolated coffee. I say this because I used to know somebody who would drink literally forty cups of shitty vending-machine coffee per day and sleep five hours a night and ask me "why do I feel so shitty?" Not that I'm suggesting you are doing this, it's just an amusing (to me) anecdote. It's late and I'm tired.

I also recommend Edouard de Pomiane's book on French cooking in ten minutes. It gives you plans that enable you to literally cook and consume a meal in sixty minutes end-to-end. Of course this is easy for me to say, as I have an equally taxing job plus over two hours of commuting each day, and I've had a ton of side projects and stuff outside of work on top of those things. But, other things being equal, I can attest that de Pomiane's meal plans are perfectly possible to do.
posted by tel3path at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2014 [17 favorites]

Can you do whatever tasks that are needed to "pull your weight" in the morning instead of evening? I'm also tapped out at the end of the day, but I have enough energy in the morning to sneak in a lot of the daily chores then.
posted by instamatic at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

OH AND! You should take some sugar, since your brain runs on glucose. A glass of orange juice when you get home, and a 20-minute lie down, should be just the job.
posted by tel3path at 5:17 PM on November 7, 2014

I had the same problem: mentally difficult jobs that left me completely spent by the end of a 9 hour day.

Luckily, I was a bike commuter. By the time I'd ridden home, I felt rejuvenated.

Any chance you can ride to and from work?
posted by hollisimo at 5:19 PM on November 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, this is one reason why I run. After a short intense run I often feel like I've just had a power nap. Sometimes it feels like I've turned my mental exhaustion into physical exhaustion, and somehow turned my physical energy into mental energy. It's weird but it works for me.
posted by barnoley at 5:41 PM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

I run into a wall when I get home if I sit down. If I keep going and start something as soon as I get home, I get reactivated and energized.
posted by quince at 5:45 PM on November 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Exercise before work and a long shower when you get home.
posted by mareli at 6:11 PM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Exercise and meditation. (I like running and yoga. Any kind of cardio that really zaps you physically and that you don't have to think about.) Either in the morning or evening, wherever you can fit it in, really.

Also, recent studies on how willpower is a "muscles" that can both be depleted and trained where a lightbulb for me. I feel like it's likely that you're using all your decision-making resources at work and have no willpower left for home, which is why it's hard to motivate yourself to do what you know you're supposed to do — make dinner, housework, etc.

One of the reasons Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck and jeans was to eliminate decision fatigue. Are there any places in your life where you can also eliminate it?
posted by Brittanie at 7:01 PM on November 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Can you outsource some of the housework? Cleaning lady, meal delivery service, nanny, handyperson?
posted by Soliloquy at 7:23 PM on November 7, 2014

I run into a wall when I get home if I sit down. If I keep going and start something as soon as I get home, I get reactivated and energized.

Yes, unless I have a few hours to sit and then enough time to do what needs to get done (which is almost never), I set down my things and immediately start in on the tasks for the evening, or else they don't get done. If it's too early for dinner I might just prep the ingredients (chopping, cleaning any dirty dishes), which seems to give me enough energy to follow through on dinner later.

I also find it helpful to do little things while waiting for other things. So, wash dishes while waiting for the water to boil for tea, scoop the litter box while waiting for the shower to heat up, put groceries away while waiting for the oven to preheat, fold clothes while waiting for dinner to simmer, etc.
posted by jaguar at 7:24 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you live too far to ride a bicycle to work, you could park twenty minutes away and ride in.
posted by mecran01 at 5:25 AM on November 8, 2014

I try to lie down for a little whole in the afternoon at work. There's a corner of a locker room I can hide in and rest for ten minutes (I'm not physically able to nap) and it really helps. Meditation is a less helpful backup if that's not an option.

(I personally find that exercising makes things much worse, which presents its own challenges, but I know I'm an outlier in that.)
posted by metasarah at 6:33 AM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have a smart phone, try using Lumosity's free version of the app. I do the 3 different games it allows you per day during my 15 minute break, and it's really improved my brain's ability to get through a long day of mentally taxing work and still want to use my brain when I get home. You will feel your clarity, focus and ability to multi-task improve, and I personally find it just helps my mood.

Learning another language and practicing a little bit of Duolingo every other day for 15-30 minutes can help, too.

My point is that flexing one's brain muscles in different ways is just as important as flexing one's physical muscles in different ways. One needs to "cross train" the brain as much as they do the body, so the body doesn't plateau and reach a point where it's just maintaining rather than improving.

I use my hour lunch break to go running and do a little yoga (I'm fortunate to have a small gym at my employer) and that helps incredibly; gives me a little afternoon burst. Also, I try to drink 2-3 liters of water a day, starting first thing in the morning. Water does way more for my mental energy than coffee ever will.

I empathize with you because this has been a common problem for me for the last few years. Having a hobby or game that I can look forward to when I get home helps me overcome the urge to surf the web/watch TV. If I get the desire to turn on the TV or surf the web, I'll force myself to choose music over the TV and a magazine or non-fiction book (cookbooks are good for this because I'm usually thinking about dinner at this point) over the internet. All you need is the first step - once I've got music on/books in hand, I quickly realize how much better that is than falling apart in front of a screen.
posted by nightrecordings at 7:21 AM on November 8, 2014

have a good long hot shower when you get home
posted by mattoxic at 11:39 PM on November 8, 2014

I hit a wall several times a day. When I do any of the above suggestions would kill me, including trying to exercise. What I do is go into a quiet room ( if you can get it) and lay on my bed in corpse pose for about 20 minutes with this eye pillow. Then I prop myself up with lots of cushions restorative yoga style and wrap a thick scarf around my neck many times so my head feels cushioned/propped up by the scarf and then lay there for another 10 minutes also with my eyes closed. This "rejuvenates" me insofar as I ever get rejuvenated.
posted by Blitz at 9:20 PM on November 9, 2014

Like many of us, I have the same problem. I've found that kitchen prep on the weekends helps get me through quick healthy weekday dinners, which in turn has me eating earlier, eating healthier and ads up to more energy. Chop veg, boil eggs, cook grains on Sunday and weekday nights will be easier.
posted by gillianr at 9:46 PM on November 11, 2014

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