Mid-morning doldrums? Afternoon crash? Sustaining energy levels at work all day can be as demanding as the job. Factors like lack of sleep, stress, diet and exercise all play a role in your ability to stay focused.
Fortunately, these factors are all within your control. The following 10 tips can help you maintain your energy through a day at the office and beyond, and remain caffeine-free.
1. Eat Right and Don’t Skip Meals
Your diet is your primary source of energy. Skipping breakfast or lunch will cause your blood-sugar levels to drop, leaving you feeling foggy and sluggish. If rushed, grab some fruit, veggies or nuts to snack on while sitting at your desk. Energy bars are good options for calories in a pinch, but not for meal replacements. Read the label first. If you recognize the ingredients, it’s a good choice; if the ingredients read like a list for a science experiment, pass. Nutrient-rich foods keep you more consistently energized than processed sugars.
2. Just Say No to Caffeine
Stop bingeing on coffee, tea and energy drinks. Not what you expected to hear? While these products provide a quick boost, it’s short lived and requires constant replenishment. Consider green tea as a substitute, which offers antioxidants and provide just the right amount of caffeine without making you jittery. If you’re looking to stay caffeine-free altogether, for benefits such as lower blood pressure, better sleep and decreased anxiety, you have two options: going cold turkey or weaning yourself off. The cold turkey approach may require some easily digestible food like soup. If you elect the wean method, then cut your portions by a quarter and then half a serving each day for a week.
3. Eat Fresh to Stay Fresh
Avoid the vending machine and its cornucopia of refined sugars and processed foods. Nibble on fresh fruits such as apples, berries and bananas. Whole fruit always trumps juice and bars due to the lack of processed sugars and other additives. Stay natural. Mix it up and stay in season. Having fresh fruit at your desk will also cut down on the temptation to check out the options in the vending machine.
4. Go Nuts for Nuts
Along with fresh fruit, fill up on nuts such as almonds and walnuts. Both provide your body with good fats that boost brainpower. Sunflowers seeds are another simple healthy snack. For a more filling midday treat, consider peanut butter on celery or whole-grain crackers. Not only is this combo packed with slow-burning protein and fat, it also provides a quick carb blast that boosts energy. Just make sure you practice moderation when it comes to these snacks. Carbs turn into sugar in your system, and nuts are very high in fat. Too much of either can lead to weight gain.
5. Yo, Yo, Yogurt!
A cup of yogurt is a high-protein meal that will provide a much-needed lift. Sweeten it with a few fresh berries and you’ve double-dipped your way to energy abundance. Fat-free Greek yogurt is a fine choice that’s high in protein and amino acids. Frozen yogurt may sound like a viable option, but it can be high in sugar and is best reserved for dessert.
6. Walk the Walk
Move it or lose it. Staying sedentary for long periods of time will drain you, and just 10 minutes of walking or stretching at your desk can do wonders for replenishing energy levels.
Walk the floor you work on. Interact with your co-workers. Not only will the physical activity bring you back to life, but engaging in conversation and exchanging ideas will stimulate you. If you’re feeling ambitious, hit the stairs. Your blood will get pumping, and the resulting energy boost will sustain you for a few hours. Or take it outdoors and soak in some of Mother Nature’s free vitamin D. A few minutes of sunshine and fresh air will enliven you in a way that artificial lighting and circulated air cannot.
7. Activate your Brain
You’re not a drone. Throughout your work day, shift your mental gears by focusing on something, anything, other than work for a few minutes. Try a word jumble, a crossword or engage in a conversation about a topic outside of the office.
8. Chocolate is Your Friend
Yes, you read that correctly. An ounce of dark chocolate provides a mild stimulant as well as ample antioxidants. It can boost memory and lower cardiovascular risk. Plus, it tastes great. Anything above 70 percent pure cacao is good, but 85 to 90 percent is best.
9. Smells like Energy
Peppermint, lime and grapefruit scents are reported to have the greatest effect on raising energy levels. But before you fill the air with aromatherapy, check with co-workers so you don’t infringe on someone else’s olfactory preferences.
10. Pump up the Jam
Music is a mood modifier. One song can take you from singing the blues to dancing on the ceiling. And while we too think it’s all about the bass, some of your co-workers may not. Wear headphones or use common sense on song selection at work. Don’t drop the beat on explicit lyrics, and keep the volume low – you’re not the office DJ!