If you’re like many people, shortly after lunch your head begins buzzing, your concentration plummets, your eyes droop and the top of your desk begins to look as cozy as a feather mattress. Here are 13 ways to stay awake at work:
1. Head outside and sit in the daylight for 10 minutes. Better still, have your lunch outside and divide your break between eating and a walk. It will help reset your chronological clock, keep down the amount of melatonin (the sleep hormone) your body produces during this circadian dip and give you a valuable boost of beneficial vitamin D, reducing your risk of osteoporosis as well as various cancers.
2. Choose activating protein not energy-sapping carbs. So a tuna salad without the bread is a better choice than a tuna sandwich. A green salad sprinkled with low-fat cheese, a hardboiled egg and some sliced turkey wins over a pasta salad. The change can really make a difference.
3. Enjoy teatime. Get into the routine of a mid-afternoon cup. It’s a good step towards beating the afternoon doldrums thanks to that little bit of a caffeine burst and the few quiet minutes it entails. Keep a selection of exotic flavored teas (preferably caffeinated) in your office and an aesthetically pleasing cup just for tea.
4. Clean your desk and clear out your email inbox. Both are relatively mindless tasks that don’t require great amounts of concentration or clear thinking, and both will leave you feeling more energized because you’ll have accomplished something visible as well as having reduced energy-sapping clutter.
5. Make an “I was thinking of you” phone call. To your wife, child, siblings, parents, a friend or a retired colleague. A 5 minute keep-in-touch call will lift your spirits for hours and reinvigorate you to get your work done.
6. Put a drop of peppermint oil in your hand and briskly rub your hands together, then rub them over your face (avoid your eyes). Peppermint is a known energy-enhancing scent.
7. Roll your shoulders forwards, then backwards, timing each roll with a deep breath in and out. Repeat for 2 minutes.
8. Consider a morsel of dark chocolate. This is not a license to overindulge, but dark chocolate does have some unique advantages.
Unlike milk chocolate, it is truly a healthy food, closer to the category of nuts than sweets, given the high levels of healthy fat and antioxidants it contains. Plus, it has abundant fiber and magnesium. Additionally, it provides a little caffeine, as well as a satisfyingly decadent feeling. But don’t eat more than one square.
9. Chew some “spicy” gum. Chewing gums with strong minty flavors are stimulating, and the mere act of chewing is something of a tonic to a brain succumbing to lethargy. Plus, chewing stimulates saliva, which helps to clear out bacteria responsible for cavities and gum disease from lunch. Just be sure to choose sugar-free gum.
Plus: Soothe Workplace Madness
10. Plan group activities for midday. If you often work on your own, try to organize work involving others at the time of day when your concentration might otherwise be waning. We are social animals, and interactions always rev us up. But make sure it’s an interesting, interactive activity. Sitting in a room listening to someone else drone on and on will just send you snoozing.
11.Take 10 minutes for isometric exercises. Isometric exercises involve nothing more than tensing a muscle and holding it. For instance, with your arm held out, tense your biceps and triceps at the same time and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. You can do this with your calf muscles, thigh muscles (front and back), chest, abdomen, buttocks, shoulders and back.
12. Keep a rosemary plant in your office. Not only will sharing your space with a live, growing thing provide its own mood boost, but studies find the scent of rosemary to be energizing. Whenever you need a boost, just rub a sprig between your fingers to release the fragrance into the air. Or, if you’re really wiped out, rub a sprig on your hands, face and neck.
13. Have an afternoon snack designed to get the blood flowing. That doesn’t mean a whole milk chocolate bar. The high glycemic index in the chocolate bar (a measure of how high it pushes up your blood sugar) might give you a temporary boost, but once that jolt of sugar is gone, you’ll sink faster than the stock market after an interest-rate hike. Instead, you want a snack that combines protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates (such as whole-grain crackers or raw vegetables) to raise your blood sugar levels steadily and keep them up.