The 3pm panic.

Today has been a nice relaxing day. I planned out a talk that I need to give in February, made some food and spent the early afternoon reading something fairly edifying under a blanket on the sofa with my husband. All rather idyllic. Until my mind screams “I can’t be on this sofa anymore. I have to DO something”.

The thing is that there isn’t actually anything that NEEDS doing right now. I did all the cleaning on Boxing Day so the apartment is in a relatively pleasing state. I guess I could work on my presentation or next grant submission but I have a feeling that this festive period of comparative laziness is actually having quite a restorative effect on my motivation and creativity as well as my scientific luck (I ran a PCR with 7 year old Taq yesterday and it worked!). In fact the only issue is that it is 3pm and either my circadian clock or psyche has a strange relationship with 3pm.

It’s like 3pm is the defining part if the day. If I’m working on a manuscript or grant and close to a deadline, 3pm is always the the point at which the panic sets in: “It’s 3pm and I haven’t done enough work for it to be 3pm!!!”. I get inexplicably grumpy if I don’t feel that I’ve achieved all that I should have by 3pm. I don’t even need to look at the clock to know that it is 3pm. The feeling of restlessness let’s me know.

I wonder if this is linked to growing up in a country where the sun sets around 4pm in winter. My circadian clock wants me to do the things that need doing before it gets dark but if this is the case why does this still happen in summer when in the UK it doesn’t get dark until 10pm. Also, if this is the case then why doesn’t everyone in Northern Europe suffer from the 3pm panic or similar? Maybe it’s linked to growing up with my Grandmother who always seemed to want to accomplish all of the days chores by 3pm. Whatever it is, it is fully ingrained and a hard habit to break.

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