The afternoon has crested and the lingering evening hours stand before you, full of potential to work on goals, enjoy family time or go out and socialize. Too bad that you’re so tired and exhausted that the only activity you can manage is a bit of TV watching or web surfing before crashing into bed.
Evening exhaustion is a common malady, especially during the winter season when the sun tells us that it’s time to go to sleep around 5PM. While night owls struggle through the morning, and then get a burst of energy to fuel them through the evening, early birds wake up ready to go but then fade early, often before they should.
Whether you are an early bird or not, if you find yourself too exhausted in the evening hours to do anything but vegetate, there are things you can do to off-set your fatigue. Quiet and calming, the hours between dinner and bedtime can be a productive space in your life, but not if your eyes are half-open. Try the following tips to find more energy during the evening hours.
1. Take an afternoon nap. Napping usually isn’t a possibility when you are taken away from home all day long, but when you do find yourself free from other obligations, try to take a short power nap during the afternoon. Taking an afternoon nap doesn’t make you lazy; in fact it puts you in the company of Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy and Napoleon – all powerful leaders that accomplished great things in their lives. Schedule a 15-30 minute nap in the early afternoon for best results, and stick to it. Even if you don’t fall asleep every day, your body will appreciate the rest.
2. Cut back on caffeine. Coffee and other caffeinated drinks offer a potent burst of energy that many of our mornings depend on. But if you are over-indulging in your coffee breaks and drinking more than 1-2 cups every morning, you may be setting yourself up for an evening crash. What goes up must come down; limit your caffeine intake overall to reduce the inevitable drop in energy that follows the java buzz.
3. Relax naturally. Many people have a post-work ritual of a glass of wine or perhaps a toke of medical marijuana, and indeed these things will wind you down almost immediately. But in the slow evening hours, a little push of relaxation can go further than you want it to. Try a natural method of relaxation such as meditation or take a walk around your neighborhood to unwind.
4. Plan easy activities. Face it: your energy at night is often less than during the day, making a game of soccer far less attractive than a snooze on the couch. Cut the mustard and make a plan to indulge in low-energy, low-brain power activities that you enjoy. Play with the dog, make a collage or work on a creative project. The trick is to make plans so that you don’t wind up doing nothing and wasting the evening.
5. Reduce stress. If your brain is running on the stress hormone cortisol all day long, your body will feel more exhausted than it really should. You’re also putting yourself at a higher risk for chronic disease. Commit to stress reduction techniques that work for you, like yoga or painting.
6. Recognize bad habits. If you come home every evening and immediately feel tired and lethargic, perhaps in the past you have trained your brain to do so. Do you ever “reward” your tired feelings by eating a bowl of ice cream or absent-mindedly online shopping? Recognize the things that trigger your tired feelings and try to avoid them. Stop by a park on the way home from work or plan to exercise in the evening with a friend.
7. Watch your dinner. Are you eating carb-heavy dinner of starches and other sugars, like a pasta dish with garlic bread? No wonder you are exhausted. Such meals make your blood sugar spike. This causes your body to respond by producing insulin, which makes you tired and sleepy. Eat a healthy and balanced dinner of whole grains, lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables to find your energy again.
8. Accept it. Sometimes, your lack of energy means that your body needs to rest. While slobbing it on the couch and watching junk TV every night isn’t a recipe for a healthy life, when it happens now and again, cut yourself some slack and enjoy the break.