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What do you do when you have low energy?

I sometimes have low energy - I feel sick, maybe, sometimes, a little depressed, etc.

The problem is that, during this periods, I still have to work, but it's very difficult for me to do so when I feel like sh#t.

What do you do when you have little energy, or you feel a little sick, but you MUST work?

Thank you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I prefer not to run out of energy. That way, I don't have to pretend I'm working, or build lousy solutions due to problems with concentration etc.

The way for me to stay energized is sports. I swim, run and go to the gym, and I can tell that those periods of high physical activity are the periods where my energy level is at its highest.

It's also important to keep work from piling up close to deadlines - a 14+ hour workday spoils the following 2-3 workdays for me (and not even sports can prevent that), so keeping it in the 8-9 hour area is important.

So basicially my answer to your question "What do you do when you have low energy?" is "Don't let it come to that."

Martin A. Boegelund
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ephedrine =)

(only kidding, don't do this).

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The answer to your problems is yoga.

The Real PC
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fire up the backup generator.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003


Myron Semack
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

A case of Mountain Dew and half a dozen boxes of Scooby Snacks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Rejoice. A low energy day is a good one, because most are no energy days. :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Talk to colleagues. Go to canteen and have a cup of coffee. Take a walk around campus. While doing this not thinking of the work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Martin's answer is probably your best bet, without knowing a lot more about you.

If you're constantly tired throughout the day, you need to get your base metabolism rate up.  That means routine exercise, daily if necessary.  Sitting in a chair programming for 8-16 hours a day isn't good in the long run; while your brain may be getting a workout, your body isn't, and it'll pull your energy level down.  At the very least, get up and walk around whenever you're not in a programming state of mind.

If you're tired only when you get to work, it may be more psychological.  You need a way to make your work fulfilling, either by learning more about it and why it's needed (useful work = fulfilling work -> higher motivation -> higher energy), or - changing jobs...

Paul Brinkley
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

In addition to the excellent advice on getting regular exercise, I take extra vitamins, especially the B-complex varieties.  I typically stay away from the caffeine, though, because after it gives me an energy boost, I usually have a crash period where my energy level hits bottom.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Martin is right.  Also difficult to do. ;)

Things that help:
- See a doctor.  You need to eliminate physical causes if they exist.  It will also eliminate the possibility you take suggestions from this board and something bad happens.  (Exercise good!  Exercise with blocked arteries BAD!)

- Limit Caffeine and Sugar  (some people say eliminate but I just don't want to).  Sugar is especially bad at tripping the insulin switch so you go through highs and low as your blood sugar changes.  Try carb snacks if you must (pretzels are mine).

- Water.  Drink lots, it does strange and good things to you.

- Sleep.  Try this test.  On your next vacation, get up when you wake up and go to sleep when you are tired.  After 3 or 4 days this will give you an idea of how much sleep your body wants. 

This will also tell you what kind of sleep cycle your body likes.  I sleep from midnight to six. One of my buddies sleeps 1 to 5:30. and another sleeps 1 to 8 a.m. 
** serious note:  If you experience any of the following see a doctor:
  - even after sleeping you do not feel rested
  - unable to sleep though the night. Constantly waking up.
  - unable to fall into a deep sleep.

- Exercise.  For me, this dog don't bark.  I find exercising near impossible to get interested in.  However, I can golf, swim,  bike, and walk the dog.  For some reason, you throw the word exercise in it and I just won't.  Want to play a round of golf or bike?  I'm in. 

- Light.  You did not say where you live, but given our profession, this can be big too.  Step outside at lunch.  Get some air and _sun_.  Some people, my spouse being one, are very sensitive to not getting sunlight.  If you live in a cold climate (Sweden, Canada, etc.), you might consider a light box. (Some people use tanning booths, but YMMV).

Now when you try all these things, you are not going to like it.  For the first couple of weeks, your body is going to do everything it can to convince you that you are insane.  (Caffeine headaches, sugar cravings, etc.)  Make it a test of wills.  At the end you can always add things back.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Big Roy said: water.

I totally agree and I'm glad this was pointed out. Strangely, many people in our society get along in a state of mild dehydration. It's because the standard beverages that we consume are diet soft drinks and caffeine based beverages like coffee and tea, most of which are mild diuretics. I can have a pounding headache due only to mild dehydration which goes away as soon as I "hydrate".

Another thing that causes lack of energy (in me, anyway) is monotony. Vary your schedule, try to do different things in a different way each day as much as is possible.

Lastly, low energy is often caused by mild depression.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Another "even more lastly": make sure you're getting enough sleep.

Also, evaluate your usage of alchohol and other depressants and stimulants, which can have a "goofball" effect and hurt, not help your average mood.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The water suggestion is very important. Baiscally have a bottle at your desk at all times, and drink as much as you can comfortably. Don't force it, just make it a habbit to take a  few sips every time you stop typing for a sec.

Also, don't make it a habbit, but I find that when I'm particuarly low on energy and can't focus much, basically if your head feels a little slow and groggy, drinking a Red Bull does wonders for me. Most people think that Red Bull has tons of caffine, but it actually has as much as a cup of regular coffee. The trik is the B vitamins and the Taurine, which combine to provide a detoxifying effect. I hate caffeine, and especially drinks like Mountain Dew and the like, but at least for me when my head needs it, a Red Bull just works.

Of course if you can find the time, physical activity of any kind does more for your mind and your energy than your body.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

You may be suffering from a mild case of burnout. Perhaps you need a complete vacation from work?

Try searching the Joel archieves for "burnout": you'll find lots of suggestions about how to recover.

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Tall glass of milk.  Contains yummy tryptophan for an emotional uplift and some calories for a physical uplift, plus some other good stuff.

Reserve caffiene for when you *really* need to stay awake.  Otherwise, your bod just becomes accustomed to it and it doesn't do any good.


Check with a doctor otherwise.... there's a lot of bad health advice out there and sometimes it really is the beginnings of some sort of major bad problem.

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Red Bull has taurine to complement B vitamins and does all that?

Being a "cat person" I am aware that many high end cat foods (Iams, Science Diet, etc) are pitched as being high in taurine which is supposedly vital for kitty's well being.

So, I will bring a bag of Science Diet TD formula to my desk forthwith.  And maybe a felt mouse for play.



Popup Cat Head
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

1) Try to get into a rhythm of generally going to bed and getting up at the same time of day. Don't stay up late playing Everquest or sleep in super-late on the weekends. It'll throw off your sleep cycle.
2) Take a 15-minute walk at least twice a day. Get some fresh air, sunshine.
3) Make sure you're hydrated.

You also might want to, gradually, eat more healthy and start working out regularly. I got real fat in the years after college (when I had an extremely sedentary lifestyle) and my energy level plummeted. As I've lost weight, eaten better and exercised more, I have found my energy level increasing.

Good luck!


Joe Grossberg
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I think the topic of burnout isn't under addressed.  I got so burned out at my last job that I eventually just quit and started working part time. 

I think I get burned out for a couple reasons

1) I'm not working on something I feel inspired by.

2) I haven't been taking care of myself physically and mentally.

Lately I've been forcing myself to get into shape. 

When you are down it is difficult to see how anything will work, but I'm pretty convinced that all the talk about physical exercise is true. 

I live in tahoe so I am fortunate that I can just skip out and going skiing for a few hours in the winter or climb and mountain in the summer, but mostly I've been taking my frustrations out on a innocent pair of dumbbells a the gym.    It really works!  Getting my heartrate up and pushing my muscles, I think gets my hormones pumping and brings them back into a more normal balance.  It might be mental, but I don't care, it still works for me! 


christopher baus
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I'll second the recommendation of Yoga.

Now, now...I know what you're thinking. If you are anything like me, you view yoga as the domain of those nutty types always in "search of themselves".

But I finally gave in to my wife and decided to try it to see if it would help the tightness and stiffness in my shoulders. (No doubt due to long periods at the keyboard.)

Beyond helping my back to some degree, I was amazed at how quickly it changed my energy levels. I wake up more refreshed and I don't get that major afternoon crash like I did.

YMMV, but it's worth getting a beginners yoga video at your Half Price bookstore and trying it for a week.

Mark Hoffman
Tuesday, August 26, 2003


All the mental and physical benfits of yoga, plus the confidence of knowing you defend yourself in any situation.

Jason Watts
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

One more for yoga.  If you get a good video, you have the benefit of the best instructors (Guru's?)

I was in the 'Yoga is for freaks' camp as well, until I tried it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Ruling out general depression and burnout, I can testify that the diet and exercise recommendations given above have worked for me.

Limiting sugar intake is a must, especially for a relatively sedentary person.  This includes refined carbohydrates such as processed white flour that is in so many prepackaged and fast foods.  Eating too much of that type of food not only makes you feel like crap in the short term, it is a recipe for diabetes and other diseases in the long term.

I try to eat only whole grain bread, rice, etc for a carbohydrate source and supplement this with several fresh fruits and vegetables daily.  No miracle fad diets or anything...just common sense.

Drinking enough water is equally important.  I try to drink at least 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight daily.  If you tend to get a lot of headaches, dehydration could be a prime suspect.

Exercise-wise, around Christmas of 2002, I bought myself a really nice stationary bike with heart rate control because I decided that going to the gym did not work for me.  I found that if I had to "make time" to go somewhere in order to exercise, I  tended to always make a bunch of excuses to get out of it.  Also, since I live in a city with 4 seasons, inclimate weather was another excuse that I always used if outdoor activities were my only exercise source.  Going outside and getting fresh air and sun are important, too, it's just that I didn't want the weather to dictate how regular my workouts were, so now I have a good base program.

Since getting the bike (and actually riding it at least 3-5 times a week) and permanently adjusting my eating habits, I have lost nearly 40 pounds and very rarely find myself plagued by low energy.

Of course, I still get bored and depressed sometimes, but now at least I usually have the energy to do something about it.

Tim Lara
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

One word... awesome.  This has been one of my favorite discussions to read. 

Programmers helping programmers.  We are all connected...  :)

Guy Incognito
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Surf until you can't feel your toes...


Jack of all
Tuesday, August 26, 2003

One thing not mentioned by anybody yet: Breakfast.

It is common these days to have large amounts of carbohydrate at breakfast - breakfast cereals, bread, plus other insulin messing things such as coffee/tea etc. This may be less prevalent in the US where you can go and have t-bone steak for breakfast at denny's for tuppence ha'penny.

I used to have porridge every morning, and suffered badly from mid afternoon crashes. I tried to vary what i had for lunch, with little success.

Then I decided to experiment, and bought a george foreman grill, and now I have either a couple for chicken thighs or a steak if I'm treating myself, plus one or two pieces of fruit (banana/apple), and the mid afternoon crash is gone.

I'm also careful to avoid too much bread at lunch (these posh sandwiches are often more about the bread than anything else (ciabatta, bagette, etc). I what I do instead is ask for a "chicken mayonaise salad sandwich without the bread".

To make sure I'm keeping a reasonably balanced diet, I then tend to go for largely vegetarian evening meal, when a good slug of carbohydrates knocking you out is not such a bad thing.

So far, talking about carbohydrates probably makes me sound like some diet freak, but it is only taking roughly what you already eat, and changing the order.

I also discovered that milk, and to a lesser extent bread, make me tired within about half an hour. This is something that definitely varies from person to person, but I think it is more common than people realise, so it is worth experimenting with.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

To clarify, the chicken or steak is for breakfast, and cooking it is trivial - max 10 minutes, then a quick wipe down of the grill and you're done.

As for exercise, that definitely helps too. Indeed, it scares me how much difference it makes, and so I only go running when I really need to be dynamic on a particular project.

Otherwise, I try and do about 40 minute to an hour's brisk walk every day. That may sound a lot, but with a 20 minute run, i need at least 10 minutes to get changed, warm up and persuade myself that I really want to go out in the rain with few clothes on, plus afterwards it takes at least 15 minutes to warm down, cool down and have a shower, so the best part of the hour has gone.

With walking, the whole hour is exercise, of a level which you can probably keep up 'till you're 80, rather than something which will destroy your knees by the time you're 50, which will force you to stop just when you really could do with it to combat everything else ageing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

oh, and with any change of diet, you're likely to feel worse for the first week or two, even if it is exactly what you need to feel on top of the world.

This especially relates to things like giving up caffeine and processed sugar.

With any change, persist for at least three weeks before passing jusdgment, and think of any bad things as going cold turkey. Giving up any drug-type dependency always feels bad.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The usual correct advice is a better diet, mild exercise, appropriate sleep and rehydration.  It's also possible you're  just bored or demotivated at work.

However if it persists it's worth seeing your doctor.  My wife recently found out she had an underactive thyroid and has started taking tablets to replace the missing hormone.  Suddenly she is staying awake far longer and a load of minor health problems are less severe.

A cynic writes
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

i lost 30 pounds and regained my youthful energy by quitting drinking beer every day after work.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

"... by quitting drinking beer every day after work. "

What did you do with all your new spare time? :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

"i lost 30 pounds and regained my youthful energy by quitting drinking beer every day after work."

Quitting a habit that sized usually requires something like AA. :-p

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, August 27, 2003

I see lots of response to this thread..
May be a website for the same would do good to lots of tech people..

My preferred method is NOT to work. If you engaged in other activity make it a very high quality work and it will automatically bring good attention towards actual work and you will feel ok about doing your work.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

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