View Full Version : OT: How to increase one's mental energy & focus?

07-11-2011, 04:22 PM
Anybody have any tricks or diet regimes that would help to prolong a feller's creative output a bit? I'm going on 64, start every day at 5:30 AM, get home from "working for the man" at 6:30 PM and there just plain ain't much brain power left for learning new stuff & creative thinking.

My physical stamina's still pretty good as I can still push the ol' mower around for an hour & a half in deep grass every 5 or 6 days after getting home from work but it's like my brain shifts out of gear if I go out to the shop and try to work on a project design or learn new software. Large metal bashing goes pretty well but I can't seem to concentrate well enough for close-tolerance or CAD/CAM work until an early morning weekend session rolls around.

I've tried one of my old buddy's tricks but it doesn't work for me. He would get home from work, choke down his supper and settle into his LazyBoy for a 2 hour nap and then go work in his shop 'til midnight or so. When I tried it, I was groggy when I woke up and if I didn't injure myself trying to work half asleep, I couldn't get back to sleep and then tossed & tumbled until time to go back to work.:rolleyes:

What works for yuse guys?

tyrone shewlaces
07-11-2011, 05:07 PM
1) Sleep
Naps don't work for me. Actually they seem to mess things up.
Much better to make sure you're getting enough sleep in one whack at actual bedtime. What time are you falling asleep? Should be getting at least 7 hours every night. Less is something folks often either complain or boast about, but that's the first step to gaining more energy. Too little sleep is bad for us in many ways.

2) Diet
You probably know this already, but if not, try to develop a habit of eating often throughout the day. Of course healthy food is better than junk. The body interprets skipped meals as "fasting" and it makes the blood sugar vary which will make you sleepy & groggy even if you aren't inclined toward diabetes. I remember reading some kind of study a while back which claimed that eating more than the ideal amount of calories per day is easily offset by eating often (3 meals and 6 small snacks) throughout the day to keep your body & mind from crashing and having to adjust all the time.

3) Exercise
Less exercise than you think is highly beneficial. All you need to do is get the heart beating for even 15 minutes per day and you're much better off than no exercise. This helps energy level quite a bit.

So all three above are the basic good habits you already know and hear about all the time. If you're not already in the habit of any or all of them, then the change can be difficult to get going of course. But start with getting enough sleep because deprivation makes your mind weak which makes any mindful approach to living more difficult, plus it's easier to change relative to diet and exercise. Basically, if you get enough sleep you'll have more power to work on the rest and will make better decisions in general. For instance, if you need to quit smoking or something like that, getting enough sleep is an aid to success.

I'm wrestling with this myself which is why it's on the tips of my fingers. But I've noticed a fairly dramatic difference with just a little improvement on the bad habits and that helps to inspire and snowballs the energy it takes to make more progress as I go. My bad habits were pretty deep. Seems like society is set up to make that the default path.

Anyways, good luck.

07-11-2011, 05:33 PM

It looks like you work some long hours.

When I was working, I generally put in an 8 hour day which combined with a lunch break and travel time made it about 9 1/2 hours door to door. You are at 13 hours door to door.

I found that when I worked 12 hour days like that I would start to lose my sharpness and concentration after about 9 hours at work. Pretty much said forget it after I got home.

My advice is to try to trim your work hours down a little. At 64, you are not exactly a kid anymore. No disrespect intended.

When I retired 5 years ago it took a while to get caught up on my rest but I have felt like a new man ever since.

I am now living on about 1/2 of the income that I had when I was working but I wouldn't change a thing.

One of my old co-workers used to tell me to "stop and smell the roses".

Now I know what he meant. They smell great.


07-11-2011, 05:45 PM
Good info there, thanks. I reckon I'm in pretty good shape on most of those suggestions except for the 7 hours sleep. I walk 30 to 40 minutes every day, snack on bananas, nuts, apples, grapes or whatever's on sale during the day along with 3 fairly healthy meals so I can't improve my habits a large amount there. I'll have to work on the sleep thing and I'll bet that'll help. When I get the (what my wife calls) "staring-at-the-monitor-in-a-trance" look I usually give up and go watch TV. Most times I fall asleep, wake up at 3 AM and then can't go back to sleep.

Funny how that works. If I get a successful evening in the shop, I hit the sack about 10:00 and sleep like a baby 'til time to get up & start the workday. Gotta get back into that routine! If the creativity/software thing ain't workin' for me, I'm going to try to force myself to clean up the shop or some mindless chore to keep busy 'til bedtime.

07-11-2011, 05:54 PM
Oops, missed your post Brian whilst typin'.

Yessir, unfortunately I do put in long hours but it's what I'm stuck with. The company I work for has trimmed staff to the bone and we're all doing way more than we thought we were capable of. Frankly, with things the way they are, I'm glad to have a job and will keep on doing the best I can with the situation I'm in.

I dream about retirement but health issues in the family and some good kids without enough income needing help will keep me going as long as I'm able.

Hopefully things will get better and I can smell some of those roses too!:)

tyrone shewlaces
07-11-2011, 05:58 PM
Regarding sleep routine, a counselor once instructed me some pretty basic things and they help.

An hour before going to sleep, don't look at projected light sources such as TV, monitors, basically anything with a display. Technically working in the shop if your machine has a DRO is a no-no;) . I read or piddle with cleaning the house (nothing vigorous) before bed and that works pretty well for me. Meditation would be even better in more ways than one, but I struggle with that. Reading is easier and I am lazy, hehe.

Take a small amount of melatonin (3mg) once per day. I assumed about an hour before bedtime but not sure it matters. It's just a supplement, not a prescription. Replenishes a thing that helps to get good sleep which decreases as we age (along with everything else I guess).

Of course the bedroom needs to be a cave. No lights and no TV droning in the background. Just a quiet, dark place to sleep. Try to get the wife to keep the cold feet off your back at night. Maybe that will hint at something else you can do besides looking at a TV, but might have to read a couple chapters or so to fill up the hour. :D

These three things help me a quite a bit (when I actually DO them) to get good sleep and I feel noticeably better all around.

The irony is the early days of changing sleep habits are really tough because inadequate sleep makes my brain weak which makes me forget to do the routine, so it's tough to get it going. After it's been in place for a week or two then it's easier to remember, focus and do the right thing.

07-11-2011, 06:27 PM
Stop watching television. There have been studies that show a person's metabolic rate is even lower when watching TV than when they are sitting on the couch doing nothing. :eek:

Since the brain uses up to 50% of the energy when the body is inactive you can figure out where the energy use drop is coming from.

tyrone shewlaces
07-11-2011, 06:49 PM
Stop watching television.

But then were will I get my dose of reality? ;)

07-11-2011, 07:22 PM
I read this in a NY Times article a year or two back. They say it really really helps the CRS syndrome to take some language classes. I tried it. (I'm 58.) I checked out a series of CDs from my local library which had Spanish classes on them. Listened to them in my car for awhile, also on my phone while walking. Seemed to help, might give it a try.

It was nice to have a little Spanish when visiting central Mexico last winter too, a side benefit!


07-11-2011, 07:39 PM
Mental ability is entirely a matter of use it or lose it. While you cannot grow new neurons it has been discovered that you CAN grow new interconnections between neurons at any age. The most important thing to do is to learn something new as often as possible. That is one of the reasons that I constantly try out new methods and techniques for making things.

Learning another language is very definitely good for your brain. It is an intense learning experience and builds many new connections. Even if you forget most of what you learned those connections remain and are reused if required. People that know more than one language have a lower incidence of Alzheimer's and a later onset.

07-11-2011, 08:10 PM
The body is a wonderful machine. If you let it, it will embark on a healing and rejuvenating program. That's what's supposed to happen when you're asleep, and it does to some extent. Stress interferes with that. The 'trick' is to learn to let it go. Most people, perhaps all of us, get used to the level of tension that we acquire throughout the day, and through all the trials, minor though some might be. This average level of tension is maintained since we don't usually know what it is to be relaxed and at ease- we can sit back in the easy chair and breathe a sigh and we think we are relaxing, but we only do so to a point.

This is where meditation comes in. Forget any connotations of religion or voodoo, etc- meditation is simply a means by which you can learn to peel away layers of tension, and by doing so you are preparing your body and mind to be able to begin its self-healing program. It does not go against Christianity or any other religion, it does not assume any rules and regulations that must be followed, and it doesn't rob you of any time that you need to do things that must be done. In fact, it gives you the ability to do those things more efficiently.

If you want to feel significantly refreshed in a short period of time, and feel a boost in creativity and personal 'power', this will do it for you.

I have to suggest now that it's best to learn meditation by taking a course through a reputable company. They will want money, you will want your moneys worth, and they will teach you properly. Trying to learn it second hand often is fruitless. I paid for my course, and it was money well spent.

If you've ever taken a drug that you got 'high' on- well this does much like that for you, but you aren't stoned- your judgement is not compromised, creativity is enhanced, and your feeling of well-being is enhanced.

07-11-2011, 08:58 PM
For that Brain power-

Eating the right carbs at the right time makes a big difference.

07-11-2011, 09:06 PM
Guitar help me for that
It is like Evan said it is like learning a other language at 52 my welding hand never was better it help for that to :eek:

07-11-2011, 10:45 PM
Somewhat related to what "weird" linked to...you may find a change from 3 "North American" style meals a day to 5 more "European/Mediterranean" style meals helps.

For me it seems to help if occasionally you just let the brain go to "mush" i.e. don't keep giving it a constant stream of problems to solve or, as mentioned, give it a very new or different type of challenge.
I am speaking as one who is quite sleep deprived and have been for nearly 20 years (still wish for the old days and I doubt it is an "age thing")

07-11-2011, 10:58 PM
Save the jokes, but I'm 62; and had my Doc check my testosterone. In the "low normal" range; went on the lowest dose patch, and while I'm not Hangliding, or chasing the 19 year old girls, my quality of life is much improved. Just seems like I have a better outlook, and more energy. Simply stated, I just seem to "give a damn" again. Took a little time to build up in my system. There's some stuff that you have to watch for before use, but your doc would be up on it.

07-11-2011, 10:59 PM
Has the spouse ever mentioned you have spells of breath holding mixed with snoring and sputtering during sleep? If so you may have sleep apnea which can cause poor sleep, daytime fatigue, poor concentration and oh, best of all, early death.

07-12-2011, 06:16 AM
For that Brain power-

Eating the right carbs at the right time makes a big difference.

While looking into the Paleo Diet (less sugar and grains, more meat and vegetables) I ran across something about the brain also being able to run on ketones, and maybe perform even better than glucose.

07-12-2011, 06:26 AM
Maybe after all those years as a machinist your psyche is trying to tell you it wants to do something new. You might have a mild case of burn-out. If I were you I'd just take a break from home shop work for awhile until you feel a definite urge to get back in the saddle. In the meantime try looking into developing other interests that you've put on the shelf in the past. You might find that your creative juices are still alive and well but just need some new channels to flow through.

07-12-2011, 06:49 AM
if i were to get up at 5:30 am and work until 6pm i would be zonked out

there inst anything you can do ..unless you were super human

think your doing too much now

all the best.markj

07-12-2011, 09:45 AM
My shrink told me (save those jokes too) that stress is the leading factor for brain shutdown. Being on your game all day means the threat of lethargy once the stressful day is done. It can also cause eating disorders, diarrhea, and a host of other issues that appear to be unrelated to stress. She then gave me a few things to consider:

The big #1: Leave work at work. Shut it off... period.

2. Eat a healthy diet (what doctor doesn't say that?)
3. When you get home from work, don't sit, even if it's nothing more than cleaning up the shop or walking through the park. Stay busy (active).
4. No snacks at least two hours before bed.
5. No TV or computer for that same two hours. Read a book, twiddle your thumbs, cut your fingernails, meditate, or do anything that doesn't require bright lights.
6. Do not read in bed. The bedroom is for two things only; sex and sleep. If you're not going to have sex, go straight to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow.

Eventually your body will develop a routine that makes it more alert when you are awake, it will help relieve stress, and will help your energy levels. Don't expect miracles, but expect better than what it is now. And remember the Big #1 rule.

It has done wonders for me, although the healthy diet thing is just so-so for now. My wife says she has noticed a difference in both my attitude and energy levels.


07-13-2011, 08:51 AM
Wow, great advice from everyone, thanks!

Of course, bad habits are hard to break so my plan is to try to make changes one at a time. #1 is to do my best to stay active doing something and not vegetate until 9:30 or so and then go to sleep earlier to add an hour or so to my nightly sleep total. I may have to stick a catheter in though. Dunno if I can add an extra hour without a new pee plan.;)

#2 is to back off on the coffee intake. That's a hard one.