We’re all prone to it: that afternoon slump at the office—you know, when 3 o’clock rolls around and you’re more apt to close your eyes and lay your head on your desk than accomplish anything productive. When you do feel that sleepy urge kick in around the afternoon mark, curb that lull by remembering these 10 tips to increase energy from a range of experts. For example, “A cup of hot green tea, a snack of nuts or trail mix, and peppermint oil. Easy and effective,” says Myrna Beardshear, director of spa and wellness at Red Mountain Resort, Ivins, Utah.
Easy and effective, indeed. How do you think I wrote this story at 3 o’clock?
Never Skip Lunch
“Skipping this meal means your blood sugar levels will remain low throughout the afternoon and continue to drop, leaving you not only tired, but also unable to concentrate,” Beardshear says.
Include a portion of carbs with high-fiber content for lunch (whole-grain or rye bread, whole wheat pasta in a salad, etc.), though go light on portion sizes, Beardshear says. “While they do boost blood sugar, carbs also increase the production of a chemical in the brain called serotonin, which helps to improve our mood, but can make us sleepy.”
Fight hunger at the office by incorporating protein-rich foods—chicken, lean meat, tuna, or cheese—which not only block serotonin production, but boost levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, making us feel more alert and increasing our ability to concentrate, she adds.
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Nosh on Healthy Snacks
“If you weren’t fueled enough with a good breakfast and lunch, snack on foods such as fresh fruit [or] trail mix with nuts,” Beardshear tells us. Or, keep an Altoids container in your desk filled with raw almonds—the protein, fiber, and healthy fat will satiate and keep you steady until dinnertime, suggests Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor.
Kenneth Prange, expert in nutrition and natural therapies at SHA Wellness Clinic, recommends stashing some umeboshi supplements in your desk . “Umeboshi neutralizes fatigue, stimulates the digestion, and promotes the elimination of toxins,” Prange says. “An umeboshi pill per day is regarded as one of the best preventive medicines available.”
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Take Some Tea Time
Don’t skimp on beverages either. Both Beardshear and McGee recommend brewing a cup of mid-afternoon hot green tea. “A cup of green tea or any tea is an instant pick-me-up without the crash of caffeine,” McGee says. Green tea also contains antioxidants that are good for you, Beardshear acknowledges.
A glass of ice cold water also does the trick. Keep one handy at your desk to stay hydrated or take a walk to the water cooler to get your blood flowing, McGee continues.
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Go the Smoothie Route
If tea or water doesn’t do it for you, drink smoothies. “Veggie and fruit smoothies have great health benefits, and they taste good, too,” says Tatiana A. Hultqvist, holistic manager at Chiva-Som. They’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and “drinking smoothies rather than ordinary juice will leave you less prone to snacking,” Hultqvist says. McGee advocates Svelte Protein Drinks, which blend organic soy protein, fiber, and healthy carbs with encouraging mantras that immediately put you in a good mood.
Awaken the Senses with Aromatherapy Scents
Keep a rosemary plant in your office—and for non-plant-people, like myself, before you protest, know this: Studies report the scent of rosemary has energizing qualities. Rub a sprig between your fingers to release the fragrance, or rub it on your hands and neck, Beardshear tells us. Or, squeeze a drop of peppermint oil (also stimulating) in your hand, rub your palms together briskly, hold your cupped hands over your nose and mouth, and inhale, she says.
If you don’t have immediate access to fresh rosemary or peppermint, peel an orange. “The scent will perk you right up,” McGee says.
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Do Simple Stretches at Your Desk
“Twists are great to do at your desk or standing up against a wall to open lungs, hips, shoulders, and back. A twist will pick you right up and also give you a new perspective,” McGee says. As well, “forward hangs are great energy boosters: Stand with your knees slightly bent, then roll forward from your waist and let your body hang like a rag doll. Make sure the head and shoulders are completely relaxed…stay and breathe here for five to eight breaths. Roll back up slowly and feel the energy rise!”
If your colleague in the cubicle next door gives you a strange glance, well, invite him/her to join in. Here are a few other stretches to try at your desk.
No Slouching: Stand Up Straight & Tall
Feeling antsy? Stand up! Rise up and down on the balls of your feet to get the blood flowing, work the buttocks, legs, and abs, and lift you out of a slump, McGee instructs.
Along with simple stretches, deep breaths from your desk when you start to feel tired will help both body and mind take a break, “and they will allow you to keep on working with better energy,” says Nieves González, yoga and meditation teacher at SHA Wellness Clinic. McGee suggests trying alternate nostril breathing to restore energy and renew concentration: Close one side of your nose, breathe in through the opposite side, then close that side and breathe out the nostril that was closed. Breathe in through that same side, close, and exhale out the opposite side. Repeat multiple times. Kapalabhati breaths—incorporating short, sharp exhalations through the nose (essentially replicating blowing your nose repeatedly)—are excellent as well. “This stokes the metabolism, gets rid of stale air in the lungs, and clears the cobwebs from the brain,” McGee says.
Get into an Exercise Routine: Give the Computer a Rest & Move
Taking a brisk walk, preferably outside, will lift your spirits (not to mention give your eyes a rest from the computer screen). A walk “will improve your circulation and help you breathe more deeply so you take in more oxygen—an essential ingredient for the brain,” Beardshear says. “It will help reset your chronological clock, keep down the amount of melatonin your body produces during this circadian dip, and give you a valuable boost of beneficial vitamin D.”
If your schedule doesn’t allow you to step away from your desk, try workplace wellness exercises like office yoga. “Staying active doesn’t always mean dedicating hours at the gym, high-level aerobics, or kickboxing classes,” Hultqvist says. “We can find simple ways to move our body in doing constructive and relaxing activities.” For example, climb stars at your office or clear your cluttered desk.
Sore shoulders from hunching over your keyboard? Treat them to a self-massage with tips from Zeer’s book: Place both hands on your shoulders and neck. Squeeze with your fingers and palms. Rub vigorously. Keep shoulders relaxed.
4 Things to Avoid:
Avoid sugar: While it might seem like a good idea, the gratifying effects of sugar—from processed or packaged foods, sweets, and the like—are short-lived. Use natural sweeteners like stevia, brown rice syrup, and barley malt, which “are better for both your energy and your health,” Prange tells us.
Curb too much caffeine: Skip the double lattes; drink tea instead, McGee says.
Avoid slouching: If you round your body forward, it’ll deplete your energy, McGee continues.
Lose constrictive clothing & shoes: “Your body needs to move and breathe,” McGee says (and no, we’re not giving you an excuse to bring the pajama pants back in style). Same goes for super-high heels because you’ll stand, move, and walk less, McGee adds. ’Nuff said.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons; Robert Banh