Sitting in an office all day can lead to physical and mental tiredness, especially after lunchtime when a late-afternoon lull can strike. It’s not surprising that a lot of people reach for caffeine to help kick-start their mornings, or to give a stimulating boost to their work performance in the afternoon. While caffeine can certainly perk you up, it has its problems too, with an over-consumption leading to restlessness, irritability, stomach upset and more. If you want to increase your productivity at work, stave off tiredness and help keep your brain switched on and focused, but all without the potential side effects of too much caffeine, here are seven ways to boost energy levels in the office.
If you are already a self-confessed gym lover, you should welcome this first caffeine free suggestion. Similarly, if you have a gym membership gathering dust in your wallet, this is the perfect excuse to finally ‘find the time.’ Various studies have shown that regular exercise can improve your productivity in the office, even if it means spending less time sat at your desk. A 2005 study from researchers at Leeds Metropolitan University showed that office workers experienced a 60 percent increase in job performance, including time management and the ability to meet deadlines on days when they exercised.
Eat the Right Lunch
This one is all about how your body provides energy for your brain. If your afternoons are characterized by a noticeable crash in productivity, it’s probably time you re-evaluate what you are eating for lunch. The food we consume is converted into glucose to promote alertness, but this process can be affected by the specific types of food we eat. For example, if you have pasta for lunch, you’ll get a rapid burst of energy due to the way pasta releases glucose very quickly, but that’s followed by a lull in energy levels and a reduction in focus. The opposite is true of fruits and vegetables, which help in the production of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Including fruit and vegetables in your lunch and snacks can help your brain stay motivated and engaged.
Add Some Greens
This suggestion focuses on a different kind of greens than the ones in your lunch box. Building materials including carpeting, adhesives and curtains can contain the toxic gas formaldehyde, which, when slowly released into the local atmosphere, can affect air quality. Research shows that this can lead to Sick-Building Syndrome, with energy-draining symptoms such as asthma, headaches and allergies. Researchers at the American Society for Horticultural Science are studying the ability of houseplants to reduce formaldehyde levels in the air, as well as other pollutants like volatile organic compounds and ozone.
In my article looking at quick ways to reduce stress, I’ve already mentioned how taking deep breaths can reduce your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This can be a successful technique when trying to overcome anxiety in the office and increase your energy. Integrative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil recommends something he calls ‘The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise’ – Sit with your back straight, close your mouth and inhale through your nose while you count to four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Then exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound to a count of eight. Repeat the cycle.
It’s important to drink water and keep hydrated when doing physically demanding activities like exercising, but it’s also crucial to drink water when you’re at work. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can cause sleepiness and a lack of concentration. Drinking water plays a vital role in blood circulation, absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins and keeps your skin looking youthful. For anyone interested in youth preservation, water is vital. And, if you’re looking for a way to make water even better for you, why not check out my article about the amazing anti-aging benefits of lemon water!
Laptops, phones, tablets, desktops and TVs – our eyes are now experiencing more screen time than in any other time in history. The rise in myopia cases in children has prompted fears of a generation damaged by increased screen exposure, and these same dangers can affect people working in busy office environments. As well as the long-term damage to eyes from staring at screens all day, tired eyes can make you feel bogged down and decrease your energy levels. Simple adjustments to your physical workspace can reduce eye strain, such as moving your monitor just below eye level. The other big change you should be making is to increase your screen breaks, to give your eyes much-needed rest. Jack Dennerlein, a professor at Northeastern’s Bouvé College of Health Sciences in Boston, specializes in ergonomics and safety and suggests a variation on the 20-20-20 rule. As well as taking 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away and repeating this every 20 minutes, Dr. Dennerlein suggests also adding an element of movement. Every 20 minutes, walk 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. Grab some water, chat with a colleague, but don’t just sit there.
Chia seeds are an energy-boosting combination of B vitamins, protein and fiber and they can give you a pick-me-up without the jittery effects of caffeine. Simply sprinkle chia seeds onto a salad or stir them into yogurt. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning concluded that eating chia seeds increased exercise performance for workouts the same way a sugar-laden energy drink would, but without all that sugar. As a bonus, researchers from Mexico uncovered that the antioxidant content of chia seeds was shown to stop up to 70 percent of free radical activity. Taking chia seeds can prevent premature skin aging due to inflammation damage.
There is one extra little secret to increasing your energy levels without caffeine that has worked for me personally. It has to do with building the mitochondria in your cells naturally through a natural supplement called R2. The secret ingredient is the cordyceps mushroom, which we talked about earlier in an article on Chinese traditional medicine. It’s something I take every morning to keep me away from needing that 3:00pm coffee. It takes a few weeks to kick in as it is a superfood, not a stimulant, but when it does, I feel my energy boost all day long.