Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow can do it all – raise two kids, write a cookbook, work out like a fiend and make movies, but not all of us are equipped with celebrity super-powers. More likely, we end up crashing every day, between about 2 and 4 p.m. Welcome to the midday slump — something most of us experience at some point during the week. Usually this involves having a mountain of work to get through but no motivation to do it and fighting the urge to crawl under your desk to take a quick nap (no one would notice … would they?) Before you consider stashing pajamas in your filing cabinet or investing in a discreet cot for the corner, we’ve put together some straightforward strategies for maintaining your at-work energy levels and avoiding an afternoon crash.
Start the day off right
There’s no better way to ensure you have enough energy to get you through that mountain of work than by starting the day with a good breakfast. Put the granola bar down, steer clear of the mega muffin – neither is going to do you any favors. Rather than relying on coffee and sugar to kickstart your day, opt instead for the nutrients your body really needs. Get up 15 to 20 minutes earlier (we know it’s hard but it’s worth it) and eat something that will keep you satisfied and give you energy.
If you get hungry during the day (which you likely will), having healthy snacks on hand can help keep your energy levels from falling too far, too fast. This will also keep you from reaching for something loaded with sugar, which, as we all know, gives us a brief boost — then sends us crashing (and wishing we had that cot in our office). Nosh on carrot sticks with hummus, a handful of raw almonds, an apple dipped in almond butter or even a hard-boiled egg.
Make sure you don’t fall into a trap of not drinking enough water. Once you’re on a roll, it can be hard to remember to stop and sip — but staying hydrated is an absolute must if you want to avoid a midday crash. The more tired you get, the more tempted you’ll be to reach for a coffee or sugary soda, which will only dehydrate you further. Keep a reusable bottle by your desk and sip all day. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to make it more palatable, or better yet, fill a larger jug with water and add cucumber and orange slices. Not only does it look inviting, it’s much tastier than plain old H20.
Get up and get moving
Recent studies have shown that sitting is bad for our health, and even if you exercise regularly, being in your chair for prolonged periods can cause a host of problems. But aside from that, being stuck in your office for too long without getting your blood flowing, can cause you to feel tired and unmotivated. As soon as you feel like you can’t concentrate and you’ve read the same paragraph six times and you still have no idea what it says, it’s time to get up and get moving! Rather than email a colleague, instead walk over to her desk to chat about whatever you were going to send. Go outside and walk around the block or spend a few minutes trotting up and down a few flights of stairs. The change of scenery and fact you’re up and moving will make a big difference in your performance once you’re back at your desk.
Take digital breaks
Staring at a computer screen takes its toll on your eyes and your energy level. Make sure to look away from your screen often. When you’re feeling particularly lethargic, step away from your computer and take a few minutes to stretch. That email can wait while you de-stress your body, which often gets very tense when stuck in front of a computer for most of the day. Along with giving your eyes a break, taking time to stretch will do wonders for your shoulders, neck and back – all of which can end up full of knots as you type furiously and scrutinize your screen.
You may be on a deadline or have too many to-dos to count, but sometimes you just need to move to something new in order to re-energize. It’s always optimal to complete one task before you start the next, but when you can barely keep your eyes open — let alone power through whatever you’re currently working on — put it aside and switch to something different. The change is often all you need to get motivated to keep going.
Like starting the day off right, getting a good sleep is the other major key to solving the at-work energy crisis. Sleep is elusive for many of us, but doing everything we can to ensure a decent 6 or 7 hours every night (minimum) is beneficial to health, mood and energy level. Try these tips for getting better Zs.
- Try going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time in the morning so your body gets used to a sleep routine.
- Avoid the before-bed baddies like caffeine, sugar and alcohol before hitting the sack.
- No working until right before you turn out the light. Cut yourself off from your laptop, iPad and phone at least two hours before bed. Checking work email will just stress you out.
- Make sure your room is comfortable – quality pillow, not too hot or too cold and dark enough to sleep easily.