IT’S THE MIDDLE of the afternoon — lunch is done, the day is glacially marching on and your eyes are beginning to droop. Is your go-to a Red Bull or another cup of coffee? Or would you rather try something that’s natural and, hence, better for you in every way? We’ve listed some of the best methods to stave off the midday slump without you having to reach for that can or cup of sugar or caffeine so you can stay alert for the rest of the day.
STEP OUTSIDE AND MOVE AROUND
If you work at a desk, one of the best ways to perk up is to change your environment. Head out and take a brisk 10-minute walk. If you’re at home and need to stay near your computer or phone, just get up and move around the house. Embrace your inner Doubtfire and do a dance. The movement will pump oxygen to your muscles and brain, keeping you alert for longer than having some chocolate for a quick energy boost that will burn up in no time at all.
TAKE A POWER NAP
There was a time when taking a nap at work was frowned upon, but bosses are now beginning to understand the importance of sleep. So, if you can, find a quiet corner (or put your head down on your desk) and take a 15–20 minute power nap. A growing body of evidence (as mentioned in issue 63, page 17) suggests power naps rejuvenate you, but make sure it’s about six or seven hours before your actual bedtime so that you don’t disrupt your normal sleep pattern.
LOOK AWAY OR BRIGHTEN THE ROOM
If a nap or stepping outside isn’t an option, just turn away from your computer screen for a few minutes every hour. Looking out of a window to let your eyes adjust to some sunlight reduces eye strain, which, in turn, keeps fatigue at bay. You can even switch on lights in the room — studies have shown that bright lights can help stave off fatigue and sleepiness. Reducing the temperature of your work environment will also keep you awake. Turn down the air conditioning temp or open a window if (baby) it’s cold outside.
STAY HYDRATED AND EAT HEALTHY
Dehydration causes fatigue, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids or eat foods rich in water, like fruits. Some people find snacking keeps them awake, and if this is you, be sure to have healthy bites. Sugary snacks will give you a quick boost, but energy levels will drop quickly once the sugar has been processed by the body. Better to have things like nuts, yoghurt and vegetable sticks instead, which take longer to process, releasing energy to the body slowly over a longer period of time.
TAKE A BREATHER AND EXERCISE REGULARLY
Deep breathing will increase the amount of oxygen entering the body, energising your brain and your muscles. It will lower your heart rate, thus your blood pressure, relaxing you and helping you get on with your work. Regular exercise also improves your body’s circulation, sending plenty of oxygen where its needed.
It has been found that starting a conversation can stimulate the brain, thus keeping you alert. So get chatting with someone, like discussing work with a colleague or anything else for that matter — just make sure it’s something that is interesting. Boring chatter won’t help.
Is laughter is the best medicine? Of course, especially when you’re tired, offering a break from your task. However, if you’re working from home, try playing some music and sing along. Or just sing, even if you can’t carry a tune. Even watch videos of cute animals or a funny video. Go on, have a laugh!
ADD VARIETY TO YOUR DAY
If you have multiple projects going on at the same time, try to switch between them. Like having a conversation, the change up will stimulate the brain. It’s one of the easiest ways to stay engaged and focused throughout the day by eliminating monotony, which can be rather boring. So, where were those cat videos again?
AROMATHERAPY TO THE RESCUE
Although not scientifically proven, experiments involving olfactory stimulation have shown that people who smell rosemary (or rosemary oil) tend to stay alert and perform well on cognitive tests compared to people who use lavender oil or don’t smell anything at all. Citrus smells are also natural stimulants. Aromatherapists recommend peppermint for a boost for energy, eucalyptus to increase circulation, cedarwood to stimulate the brain and cinnamon to improve reaction time.
If, however, you’ve tried all sorts of things to ward off sleepiness (or, on the contrary, find you aren’t getting enough sleep full-stop), you should consider speaking with your GP.