7 Steps for More Energy Throughout the Day
It's That Time Again...
Your eyelids feel like lead, your concentration is shot and you have the patience of a two-year old..you know it must be nearing the dreaded two o'clock hour. No matter how much coffee you’ve drank, everything seems to take a nosedive in the middle of the day and crawling back into bed isn't an option. Take heart; you’re definitely not alone, nearly everyone bottoms-out between two and three in the afternoon. So, what’s really happening to you and what can you do to conquer the midday slump?
The Real Energy Thief
The biggest reason for the midday slump is caused by the circadian rhythm, an internal clock that regulates your sleep cycles. This natural, biological clock dips between 2 and 4 in the morning and - unfortunately - again between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. For most of us, the dip in the early-morning hours aren’t the problem; it’s the drop during the day that meddles with your concentration, mood and energy level. To make matters worse, you might be doing some things that make your daytime slump more of a battle to get through, but, fortunately, there are quick fixes to get you going again and banish the midday lag.
Step 1: Get Your Eight Hours of Sleep - Really!
The midday slump won't be so severe if you’re getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Any less than that will leave you feeling more fatigued the next day, and you'll feel like crawling back to bed to catch a few ZZZ's in the middle of the day.
Sleeping under a heavy, or weighted blanket reduces stress hormones; promoting a good night's sleep.
Put Your Gadgets Away
Working on your cell phone, iPad or computer right before going to bed will have detrimental effects on your energy level. Screen time suppresses melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep and leaving you feeling tired and groggy well into the next day. If you must use your computer, cell phone or iPad, there are free apps, software programs and computer glasses that filter out the blue light (the goblin that keeps you awake) and stops the melatonin-robbing, insomnia-inducing effect.
A recent study found that getting plenty of natural sunlight in the day might cancel out the effects of exposure to blue light at night
But If You Didn't Get Your Eight Hours in..
Put your head down, relax, and take a twenty minute nap. Studies show that taking a short nap will improve your job performance, elevate your mood and increase your alertness. You don't have twenty minutes? Close your eyes, let yourself zone out, and relax for five, ten, or fifteen minutes.. you'll feel the difference!
If you're having trouble sleeping at night, listen to Marconi Union's 'Weightless'. It was specifically designed to induce tranquility, and studies show that it works for most people.
Step 2: Eat a Energy-Packed Breakfast
If you usually have a sugary cereal, snack, or a doughnut with your coffee in the morning, you're probably asking for trouble later. You’ll feel the rush from the caffeine and sugar kick right away, but you’ll crash hard after the sugar high wears off; zapping your energy, and making you feel hungrier than you were before breakfast (which also causes you to over-eat, and feel even more sluggish afterwards).
Instead, grab some breakfast power-foods consisting of 300 to 400 calorie (for women) or a 400 to 500 calorie (for men) with carbohydrates, and proteins that'll give you the power-fuel you need to keep your energy level, and mood elevated. Prevent the glucose-caffeine-crash with some healthy, high-energy breakfasts like:
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Two hard-boiled eggs
- Hard-boiled egg and whole wheat toast
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- Multi-grain cereal with fresh fruit
- Scrambled egg with whole wheat toast
- Brown rice with honey and fruit
- Whole wheat toast with tuna and low fat mayonnaise
Women are more likely than men to skip breakfast, citing time constraints
Step 3: Don't Forget Your Water!
Have you ever found yourself sitting down for a meal, eating very little, but drinking all of your beverage? Chances are, you confused thirst for hunger; something everyone has does on occasion. Keeping water with you to drink throughout the day will keep you from becoming dehydrated, which causes fatigue, and headaches even at the slightest levels. If your having trouble making yourself drink plain, old, boring water, spend the money for an infused time-marked water bottle, and watch how fast it disappears with your favorite fruits in the mix!
By the time you feel thirsty, your body has already lost 1% to 2% of it's fluids, and your concentration, and energy levels have already been negatively affected.
Step 4: Lighten Your Lunch
If you overeat at lunch, your body will use tons of energy trying to digest all of that extra food, and you'll end up feeling tired and sleepy afterwards. Try for a lighter meal with more protein than carbohydrates to give you an extra boost of energy, and keep your motor running smoothly until dinner. Some examples of lighter, energy-fueled lunches are:
- Brown rice with salmon
- Vegetable omelet
- Bean burrito (without the cheese or sour cream)
- Tuna (packed in water) sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- Salad with eggs, chicken breast and low-fat dressing
- Turkey on whole-wheat with low-fat mayonnaise
Want a light, protein-packed recipe you can make ahead of time for your workday lunches? Make yourself this yummy, high-protein chicken wrap:
Honey-Mustard Chicken Wrap
- 4 - 6" Whole-wheat wraps
- 1 1/2 Pounds chicken breast
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 Cup honey
- 1 Teaspoon basil
- 1 Teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 Cup mustard
Preheat oven to 375°
- Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- Rinse chicken off and put in dish
- Season with salt & pepper
- Mix lemon juice, honey, basil, mustard and paprika in a bowl and pour over chicken.
- Flip chicken over to coat both sides with honey-mustard mix
- Bake for 50 minutes
- Cut chicken into strips
- Put strips onto whole-wheat wrap
- Top with lettuce & sliced tomato
- Fold wrap
Makes 4 servings
Step 5: Meditate on Your Lunch Hour
We all know that stress robs your energy, and makes you feel fatigued, sleepy, and drained. Meditating for fifteen to twenty minutes a day lowers your stress level, which, saves your energy, and increased your concentration; making the three o’clock hour more tolerable. It's also thought that meditating improves decision-making skills and helps your ability to process information; all the better for making your workday more productive, not to mention a lot more enjoyable. No need for beads, incense and chanting music though; just some quiet time, relaxation and focused thoughts will do.
Want to double your energy level? Meditate! It decreases cortisol levels (the stress hormone) by up to 50%, which means that all of your precious energy isn't being depleted from tension.
Step 6: Don't Sit for Too Long
Prolonged sitting combined with monotonous work will cause boredom, which in turn will make your afternoon lag harder to tame. Oxygen levels also decrease, making you feel even more tired. Stimulate your mind and get the blood pumping by getting up every hour and taking a short walk to the bathroom, down the hall to talk to a coworker or over to the window. Even better, go for a twenty to thirty minute walk around the block or to your car. Studies show that going for that short of a walk can have the same mood-enhancing effects as taking a mild tranquilizer, which will calm your nerves and enhance your mood.
Straighten your posture! Slouching, whether it's to look at your device or while sitting at your desk, decreases oxygen levels, which makes you feel tired, and sleepy. Straightening your posture will help you feel more awake, and energetic.
But if You Can't Leave Your Workspace..
If you can’t leave your desk, keep a lemon-scented candle nearby. Studies show that sniffing lemon has a positive effect on mental stimulation and mood. Keeping a lemon candle nearby (even if it’s not lit) will improve your focus and mood during the afternoon lull.
Don't want to keep spending money on a lemon-scented candles every time the scent fades? Get a lemon balm plant, and keep it on or near your desk.
Step 7: Rock Out!
The way you feel about your immediate environment changes depending on the type of music that you're listening to. Motivational music (whatever type of music that is for you) reaches you at your deepest levels and enhances your mood, makes you feel energized and give you a more optimistic outlook; every reason to listen to it at work! Also, listening to music can override feelings of fatigue because your brain is focusing more on the music than your midday slump feeling. Here are 20 songs to get the pep back in your step:
- Boston - More Than a Feeling
- Lady Gaga - Born This Way
- Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground
- U2 - Beautiful Day
- Michael Jackson - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
- Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop (thinking about tomorrow)
- Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
- The Beatles - Revolution
- Christina Aguilera - Fighter
- Kelly Clarkson - Stronger
- Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
- Irene Cara - What a Feeling
- Eminem - Lose Yourself
- Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
- Madonna - Ray of Light
- Pink - Raise Your Glass
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
- Miley Cyrus - The Climb
- Rascal Flatts - Stand
- Sexy Back - Justin Timberlake, Timberland
Yay! You Made It!
By five o'clock, you should be feeling like you've successfully beaten the afternoon drag. Congratulations! It's a daily battle though and you'll need to make these steps your daily routine to shoo away all the rest of the two o'clock slumps. So keep doing the very basics by eating energy foods, drinking plenty of water and getting your eight hours of sleep in; and if it's practical, get your lemon scents, music and meditation in for the very best results. Take care of yourself to beat the midday slump and your body will thank you for it.
© 2016 Shirley Urso-Farmer