I need to get my evening back.
July 11, 2007 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Evenings suck. At about 4:pm I go into zombie mode. My last 1-2 hours at work are wasted; I loose all motivation, interest, drive... Getting home doesn't make it any better. Help me out of my evening rut.

Like I wrote, I shut off at about 4:pm. If I haven't made it to the gym by 3:pm it isn't going to happen. I make stupid decisions like buying a gross snack to eat on the way home just before dinner. I walk the dog, and then sit down for 4+ hours of crappy TV. Everything I do (work, read, volunteer, keep house, have sex) happens earlier in the day. How do you keep out of soul crushing twilight ruts? Help me get out of mine.
posted by Classic Diner to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
It is hard for me to tell if you just run out of energy (which is suggested by the early part of the question) or whether there is a kind of depression that sets in (suggested by the end of the question). I have no answer if the real problem is the latter. But if you are just getting too tired and feel too run down to do anything, you might want to drink some strong coffee. In my youth when I had no schedule to speak of I took a nap to solve this problem. Now, java is my best friend.
posted by oddman at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2007

It sounds like you're crashing after lunch, which is pretty common. You might try working out early in the morning and avoiding caffeine and sugar during the day to keep your blood sugar levels in check. I'm not sure what your eating habits are, but I used to experience this alot when I worked in an office.

Switch to decaf or limit yourself to one cup of coffee in the morning, cut out soda completely (if you drink it), load up on protein and veggies and whole grains at lunch, and bring yourself a late afternoon snack of something light, like hummus and carrots or cheese and crackers, to stave off the "crummy snack" trap.

Perhaps a crossword puzzle book or a book of short stories might be good for your ride home. Either may help activate your brain. You might also add half an hour to your dog walk, or have your SO or a friend accompany you for conversation.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try running outside at 6pm, or whenever you get off work. It cuts your day in half, mentally separating your job from your night of fun, makes your dinner delicious, reduces stress, and allows you to decompress into the evening.

Also, a Diet Mountain Dew/Iced coffee will do great things at 3pm.
posted by four panels at 6:42 AM on July 11, 2007

Oops, just realized you might actually DRIVE home, so perhaps some upbeat music your enjoy, or an audiobook for the car?
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:43 AM on July 11, 2007

You might just be a morning person. I am.

Can you structure your working day to better fit with how your energy levels fluctuate during the day? For example today is one of many where I'm able to start early (7.30am) and zip through stuff before leaving at 4pm, before I slump.

Any consistent advice on watching what you eat, and when, will be worth noting. If you're like me, don't exacerbate your slump with the after-effects of a carb-heavy lunch - avoid sweetened stuff and processed carbs so that your blood sugar levels don't plummet too much.

I'm not against the caffeine advice, but I've found that working a little more within my natural cycles and watching my blood sugar more or less eliminates the need for an afternoon shot 'o' buzz.

Oh, and the advice to go for a run just as you're slumping, is excellent - works for me and really wakes me up for another couple of hours.

How well ventilated etc. is your office? Your environment might also be to blame, so if you can do anything to make the light levels, freshness, temperature etc. a bit better, you'll also see a difference. Going for a run outside might pay double dividends if this is the case.

Hope you get sorted, but lunchtime is definitely the best time for sex, so don't plan on changing everything!
posted by dowcrag at 7:00 AM on July 11, 2007

Two easy things to change:

1) Cook more. I've found that making food is incredibly relaxing and time-consuming, as well as healthier than eating out. I set on some music and go wild. On days when I bring lunch to work, I am the envy of the office, and I get more done, too. Invite the neighbors over, go to meet-ups with cookies, start writing and refining a book of family recipes. Give yourself a project to make it worth your time.

2) Get rid of your TV. In our house, the only person who has one is my teenage brother, who uses it for the occasional video game. You don't need one - it's not like you can't keep up with the news online. I realize something like 99% of households have one, but really, it's just not important.

These two things alone, I think, will make your evenings much less exhausting-seeming.
posted by mdonley at 7:03 AM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Keep a diet/caffeine and sleep log, compare this with your activity level. Completely turn off the TV even if it leaves you with nothing to do. And ask your doctor about it. Figure out if there's anything going on at home that's causing you to shut down.
posted by DarkForest at 7:06 AM on July 11, 2007

In addition to the above, great recommendations I would suggest organizing your work in such a way that you have light and/or repetitive task for the time after the lunch-slump.

Also, if you have no time for a run, try going for a short walk after lunch or as an extra break, that always gets me alittle fresher.
posted by Glow Bucket at 7:08 AM on July 11, 2007

Hmm, to me, it doesn't sound like you need more energy to do stuff at night -- more that you need stuff to do at night. Being refreshed, or caffeinated, won't make much difference if there's nothing you feel like filling the newly available time with.

You need projects! And personally, I only come up with projects by taking time off work - even just a day or so - in which I can use the parts of the day where I'm full of energy (the morning) to wander along a river with a notebook or something, making plans...
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Somewhat tangential, but I remember reading a magazine article on Alan Greenspan which claimed that he would wake up and sit in the bathtub for hours in the morning, writing and doing work while his brain was still fresh and could understand what he needed to. So maybe your brain trailing off later in the day is not uncommon.

Also, yeah, the TV. TV is a giant time sink. I'm not one of those "I don't have a TV in my house!" snobs or anything, but it is very, very easy to sit down in front of a TV, then look up and find out it's 4 hours later and you haven't really done much.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:14 AM on July 11, 2007

You need to find some hobbies that allow you to either express yourself, or express your time investment as a tangible reward, not unlike the ones you receive at work after doing a great job on a project. Get into gardening or architecture or water painting or an instrument, anything that will expand your perspective without taking too much of your internal focus away from work or other higher priority objectives you have during the day.

Also it cannot be reinforced enough, turn off that worthless fucking TV and get your mind back!
posted by prostyle at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2007

Lots of great suggestions above. Also, I would suggest:

In terms of prevention, you definitely need to examine your food / caffeine / sleep patterns. I suspect you're having a big shot of caffeine early in the morning and a heavy lunch; if I'm right, try less caffeine in the morning to reduce the "roller coaster" effect, but also maybe try a refresher in the afternoon (something LOW in caffeine - like green tea). Eat lighter lunches, more focused on protein and veggies. You actually need incredibly few calories to get yourself through an afternoon at a desk job; if you need more to work out later, have more food at that point, don't load up at lunch.

In terms of cure, force yourself to get up and do something physical when the afternoon doldrums creep up. You don't have to run 5K or play an entire tennis match; just go for a 15-20 minute walk, maybe sipping that green tea I was talking about. Reduce stress on your commute home; if you drive, see if there's a longer route with less traffic that would get you home in nearly the same amount of time. And when you get home, don't push yourself so hard to get up and go right away! Acknowledge that your day has been tiring, and just rest for half an hour. Don't even watch TV - just lay down on the couch, with a novel or some soothing music. Set a timer so you really only take a half hour refresher instead of falling asleep early, then get up and do your evening stuff.

These kinds of things helped me through the transition from undergrad to the working world, though we'll have to see if the same techniques work in response to law firm life...
posted by rkent at 7:28 AM on July 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have to second the recommendation for getting rid of your television.

Wait! Hear me out.

I love TV. LOVE it. But I could have written your question four years ago. I came home from work at 5, I sat down in front of the TV, and then I ... left my brain. I zoned out. I just bonked, and hard, and most nights would fall asleep there.

Was I slightly depresed? Maybe. But did television give me impetus for not getting up, making a nice dinner, taking a walk, reading, doing chores, or going out with friends? Oh heck yeah. TV is great, and you can get sucked in so easily that it forms this kind of feedback loop - I'm tired, I don't have the energy to get up and do anything, this show is great, I'll stay here, I'm tired, I don't have the energy .... and on and on.

Now I get my news from the radio (BBC, NPR, Pacifica etc) and from my computer. And I watch my television shows and movies on my computer. AND I have a life after work!

(And this is slightly embarrassing, but I'll post is here in case it hlps out anyone else. During my period, I find that Tummy TV - putting the warm laptop on my abdomen while I lie on the couch or in bed - plus a sappy chick flick is the cure for both cramps and moodiness.)

So, try it. Unplug your TV when you get home for a workweek. No cheating. See if your energy level improves, or see if the empty hours motivate you to do something, anything, else.
posted by minervous at 8:03 AM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Getting 30mins+ daylight at lunchtime, or sitting in a well daylit space for the afternoon will help to overcome this.
posted by nthdegx at 8:24 AM on July 11, 2007

I suspect that getting home is making it worse. Have you tried not letting yourself go home immediately? Do you have anything that you have to do in the evenings?

Going home means you're done for the night. This happens to me and I suspect it's nearly universal. I don't know if it's nesting instinct, or what, but it seems very obvious when you think about it -- if you're lying down, or sitting on a sofa, at 6pm, chances are very low that you're going to be doing anything at 9. If you do this over and over, it gets depressing and then you have even less energy.

So, if you don't go home, you won't start shutting down. You can still relax while you're out for the evening, but it's a different kind of relaxation, and it sounds like it's this kind of relaxation that you are looking for. There's a lot you can do that's "going out".

This is historically what pubs are for. It's a shame but commuter culture has done its part to kill it. If you are driving to work, try to drive into the city after work, or leave your car at work and take transit in. Or take transit to work if it's possible.

In the evening, if you place yourself around other people in a casual social context, then I think your problem will in large part go away. I get my evening energy from other people.
posted by cotterpin at 8:26 AM on July 11, 2007

Since everything you enjoy doing happens earlier in the day, why not give yourself something to look forward to in the evening? Any evening groups/organizations/activities you'd like to try?

If you spend part of the evening preparing lunch and dinner for the next day, you eliminate the junk-food-for-dinner problem, too.

I fixed the TV time-suck by canceling my cable and subscribing to Netflix. Watching a movie is a less open-ended event than parking it front of the TV. Even when I have three movies at home, it's not particularly tempting to finish one film and launch immediately into another.
posted by desuetude at 8:39 AM on July 11, 2007

Nthing the lunch advice. Not sure how relevant this is to your particular situation but I used to have your problem and a change in lunch habits helped immensely. Switching from pita and hummus to meat and vegetables has made me much more alert in the late afternoon.

Protein is your friend.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:55 AM on July 11, 2007

I used to have a very similar issue. The best thing I found was exercise. So, if it isn't running, that others have suggested, biking, the gym, basketball, whatever.

Maybe it is obvious to others, but it was a surprisingly difficult lesson for me to learn since when I'm feeling zombie-ish and tired the couch seems like the most appealing option, but almost without exception working up a good sweat after work made me go home happier and with more energy.
posted by krudiger at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2007

I'll throw in 2 cents for Tivo. Some people I talk to think that having Tivo increases time watching TV, but in my experience it really doesn't. Having more control over the TV programs you watch actually lets me watch less TV, just more focused on what I enjoy, and a lot less channel surfing.

I also found when I tried a low carb diet that my energy level during the afternoon didn't crash. While I'm no longer on a strict low carb diet, I eat a lot fewer carbs than I used to and still retain some of that afternoon energy.
posted by aofl at 12:18 PM on July 11, 2007

A friend told me sage advise once. Don't put on your depression pants. What are depression pants you ask? Those are those crappy sweats or shorts that you throw on when you get home from work. They are so nasty that you wouldn't dare step outside in them. They are good for lying on the couch wiping cheese doodles on and well, just giving up on outside life... depression pants.

If you need to change put on something that you can get up and go after work and leave those depression pants in your drawer for those days when your sick.

Sadly, I am completely hypocritical and am currently wearing my depression pants with the TV on.
posted by brinkzilla at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

Warm vodka?
posted by allkindsoftime at 2:33 PM on July 11, 2007

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