Workdays can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster ride. Besides the ups and downs of day-to-day responsibilities, many people are also riding stressful peaks and valleys of energy and crashes, while trying to squeeze in as much productivity as they can between slumps.
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Caffeine is a common fix, but the brief spurts of energy it produces offer only a short-term solution. To help you take back your day, here are six ways you can stay awake, energized and focused at work without caffeine.
1. Brief office exercises to get the blood flowing
If you’ve ever gone for a walk to clear your head, you’ve experienced the benefit that getting up and moving can do for your focus. But you don’t need to leave your workspace to get that benefit.
Try some desk squats by moving your chair back a few inches and placing your feet shoulder width apart. Then bend at the knees as if you were going to sit in the chair until you begin to feel the cushion beneath you, and stand back up in one motion.
More of an arms person? Do a set of desk pushups. Place your hands flat on your desk and take a few steps back so your body creates a 45-degree angle with the floor. Keep your core tight and lower yourself down toward the desk by bending at your elbows. Repeat.
2. Healthy foods that naturally stimulate the brain and help you maintain focus
One of the best ways to maintain your energy and focus throughout the day is by eating strategically. To achieve a state of sustained energy, pair carbohydrates and protein.
Carbs such as whole grains take longer to digest, which allows you to get energy from them over a longer period of time. Pair that with a protein, a large percentage of which your body converts into energy, for a long-tail spurt of energy. To kick your focus up a notch, add in some leafy greens. Foods such as spinach or kale are rich in vitamin B folate and vitamin K, which studies show contribute to improved brain function and focus.
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3. Breathing exercises that help with oxygen intake
You probably don’t think about breathing often, but your oxygen intake can impact your focus. Breathing exercises help increase your oxygen intake, which can relax you and allow you to work smarter.
While sitting in a chair, place your shoulders firmly against the back of your seat and sit up straight. Breathe out as much air as you can, and then inhale slowly from your diaphragm, taking in as much air as possible. Hold for a count of five, and then exhale slowly. Repeat for a set of 10.
4. Scheduled breaks away from your computer, to rest your eyes and refresh your mind
You’re in good company if you get a headache, dry eyes or fatigue after staring at your computer screen for a while. Computer vision syndrome can produce these symptoms if you’ve been looking at a device screen for too long. The American Optometric Association recommends taking a 15-minute break every two hours to help combat these symptoms.
Not only will a break give your eyes a chance to rest, but switching up your environment can help refresh your mind. You might also try taking even more frequent breaks with the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, peel your eyes away from your screen and look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This lets your eyes refocus and relax, and helps you maintain your focus longer.
5. Writing that uses your creative energies in a new and free-form way
Take 15 minutes to jot down some thoughts to clear your mind. Grabbing a pen and paper can put you in a different frame of mind than if you’re writing at a computer, and can help you regain focus.
If you find yourself struggling to figure out what to write, try going stream of consciousness: Write whatever comes to mind to get on an initial roll, and then zero in on whatever thoughts come to you.
Being a little dehydrated isn’t just uncomfortable — it can also be detrimental to your cognitive function. Research shows that even mild dehydration can significantly impact short-term memory and attention. To combat this, make sure you’re getting enough water each day. For men, the World Health Organization recommends 2.5 liters of water, and for women, 2.2 liters.
If being tethered to a water bottle all day sounds a little trying, don’t worry. You can get a good amount of water from foods such as fruits and vegetables during the day to help offset the amount you need to drink.
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Some of these techniques may work better for you than others. To get the maximum benefits, try a few in combination over several weeks to see how your body and mind respond. With the right adjustments, you’ll begin to see a tangible increase in your energy and focus and be able to charge ahead toward your goals.
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