Soooo tired, how can I perk up?
October 5, 2007 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm exhausted... how can I management my energy better during the day? What techniques can I experiment with?

So, I have a 55 mile one-way commute to work, get up at 6:00am or so, get to work by 9-9:30am, and I usually leave work at 8:30 and get home by 10:00pm. Whew. Since starting this job six months ago, I don't have time to work out but 1-2x per week (which usually entails arriving late), and my energy consistently leaves me between 2 and 4pm during the day. I normally get a second wind at 5, which keeps me productive until about 8 or so, but my day is all screwed up. Obviously I have no life during the week, which is fine, but I am not sure what I can do about how to manage my energy better and avoid late morning and mid afternoon crashes.

Can any of you offer any advice with regard to exercise, sleep, quantity/frequency of meals to help manage this? I'm not really sure what I can do. As it's a suit and tie job, I don't want to leave for the gym every 2pm, get sweaty and come back to work all disheveled, but I'm afraid that might be my best option.

Thanks in advance for the help?
posted by Tommy Gnosis to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You're asking your body (and mind) to be going pretty much non-stop for 16 hours straight. Chances are, it ain't happenin' any time soon. Schedule easier, routine tasks for your midafternoon lull.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:16 PM on October 5, 2007

Oh, and looking at your other posts, this job seems like it's going to rob you of your mental and physical health no matter what you do. So keep that in mind and go easy on yourself.
posted by sondrialiac at 1:19 PM on October 5, 2007

The obvious question is do you have to work 11 hours a day? I used to have a long commute (1 hr. each way). I like to drive in general, but a rush-hour highway commute gets old fast and took a lot of energy so I felt tired when I arrived. I found that a quick 15min nap or deep breathing session before I walked into work helped. Whenever I could, I'd try to walk at lunch (early exposure to daylight helps me) and sometimes I was able to steal another 15min nap in the car around 2pm. Those were great, but not always possible. For the drive itself, I experimented with music, books on tape, languages, etc. Most days I drove in silence and that seemed to help me marshal energy for the rest of the day. The times I was able to focus on a language CD, for example, it helped me feel psychologically that I'd already accomplished something for myself that day, so I wasn't just resenting work and the drive.

I don't drink caffeine so that wasn't an option for a pick-me-up, but I always had a few bites of dark chocolate mid-afternoon. I tend to like small meals throughout the day--I'd snack on yogurt around 10am, and fruit and/or nuts in the afternoon. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, raw green beans or carrots were always out on my desk, as was water.

There was a gym where I worked and I tried to work out 3x a week. That made a big difference. It was a financial services company but many people used the gym so there wasn't too much guilt about it, as I imagine there might be at many other companies. Getting over your self-consciousness about after-workout sweat will serve you well in the long run. Personally I'd rather work with a recently-sweaty guy in a disheveled suit any day over someone who's too concerned about their appearances to focus on their health. I like people who have their priorities straight (or at least whose priorities match mine, I suppose).

The only other thing I learned to do was pay attention to when my body wanted to fall asleep at night. There were a lot of cues I was ignoring/suppressing, but on the nights I decided to acquiesce to sleep at the right time, I always slept better and woke more refreshed. I'm an early riser, so getting some time to myself in the morning at peak energy made a lot more sense than trying to stay awake until 10pm because that's what adults do or some nonsense.
posted by cocoagirl at 1:21 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you have to live 55 miles from work?
posted by futility closet at 2:41 PM on October 5, 2007

You might try [possibly much] more protein and (possibly much) less carbs for breakfast and lunch. Try eating less overall for breakfast/lunch? Powernap for 20 min at lunch or perhaps later, like 2? Take a walk at lunch? Experiment with changing your caffeine habit, if you have one? Or take up caffeine in moderate amounts? Various things to try.
posted by DarkForest at 3:06 PM on October 5, 2007

Eat 6 meals per day. Space them out. Make sure that they all contain a mix of carbs, protein and fat. Lots of fiber. Drink lots of water. At lunch, no fried foods or anything heavy. End your lunch with a double shot of espresso and walk back to work in the sun, getting as much of it as possible.

Work out more. It will leave you with more energy overall.

Use the midafternoon time for conference calls, expense reports, and other stuff that you can do when you're lagging a bit.

Can you work from home at night? When I was working crazy hours in Europe a few years back, I would work from about 8:30 to 5, take off, go to the gym, have dinner, then work from 8 to midnight from my apartment, which overlapped nicely with the end of the workday in the US. I got way more done
posted by charlesv at 3:45 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

charlesv covered a lot of the points reiterated in this blog post, but I came across it last week and though it was very practical ...
Nine tips for giving yourself an energy boost in the next TEN MINUTES
posted by roundrock at 4:33 PM on October 5, 2007

Do you have to live 55 miles from work?

I ask myself the question every fucking day, futility closet, every fucking day.

Thanks to you all for the tips. I will give these ideas a shot. Certainly something must work better than what I'm doing.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 4:42 PM on October 5, 2007

Make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day. The afternoon lull is very commonly caused by not drinking enough water.
posted by porpoise at 4:57 PM on October 5, 2007

Get yourself some Rhodiola.
posted by caddis at 5:01 PM on October 5, 2007

Those are extreme hours 0_0 If you can find yourself a job that's closer to home / has less hours / let's you work from home sometimes that would be my first suggestion, but if that's not an option I hope these tips help, I use them every day.

- Drink lots of water during the day, your brain needs it as much as your body, aim for at least 2L daily.

- Eat low GI foods often to keep your blood sugar levels stable during the day = consistent energy. I eat 7 - 9 small meals a day. My favourites are:

Yoghurt and muesli
Soups and wholegrain bread
Chicken with noodles and salad
Fish with rice of chips

Google "low gi foods", there's a ton of good recipes out there.

Also avoid carb-heavy foods, particularly at lunchtime, or you're going to get the post-lunch sleepies. The best kind of thing to eat for lunch is something with half carbs, half protien, and some vegies or salad, eg - grilled fish with steamed vegies and a few chips.

- Try to go low on the caffiene or you'll build up an immunity to it. I tend to have a cup of tea in the morning, and half a buzz bite or energy drink in the arvo, and that get's me through the day no problem at all.

- Go to bed at night when you're tired and yawning. This is naturally when your body clock is winding down and if you don't go to bed then you'll get your second wind and be even more tired the next day. I find doing something relaxing and away from the computer about an hour before I go to bed really helps me sleep - reading, drawing, etc.

- If you can go to bed and get up the same time every day, even on weekends, it does make a difference to the consistency of your energy levels.

- Exercise no later than 4 hours before you go to sleep as exercise pushes your body clock forward meaning late exercise makes it hard to drift off. Half hour a day or an hour a few times a week is usually fine. Go for a long walk during your lunch break if it's the only time you have available for exercise, this will also help with the afternoon sleepies.

I hope that helps! Seriously though if you can find yourself another job or talk to your boss, no-one should be expected to work such long hours, they're risking you burning out at this rate.
posted by katala at 7:33 PM on October 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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