If you're someone who, no matter how much rest you get the night before, you just can't seem to stay as alert or focused in the afternoon as you are during the morning time hours, try not to be too hard on yourself. The reality is, while there is a myriad of factors that play into why this is oftentimes the case, one of them is rooted in the fact that our natural circadian cycle (which basically boils down to our physical, mental, and behavioral changes that transpire within a 24-hour period) actually causes us to have a decrease in alertness once the afternoon hours hit.
While that might be a bit of a relief to know, if a part of you is like, "OK, but my boss isn't gonna give me a pass on that when it comes to finishing up this project that I couldn't care less about once lunchtime hits," there's help on the way. I'm going to share with you 12 things that you can do that can almost instantly give you the extra fuel that you need to keep you from falling out at your desk, so that the end of your day can be just (about) as productive as the beginning. Let's do this.
1. Sing (Not a Sad Song, Though)
Did you know that singing has a way of releasing endorphins into your system? This is a good thing because they are hormones that trigger your brain and nervous system to feel less pain and experience more pleasure. If you're like, "I feel you but I ain't singing s—t in public," I hear you. An alternative is to listen to some music instead. Just make sure that it's the kind that makes you happy rather than the kind that causes you to take a walk down memory lane over some wack-ass ex. Feel me? Exactly.
2. Chew Some Peppermint Gum
If it's around 3 p.m., you've got a couple of hours to go and you have absolutely no idea how you're gonna make it through, pop a piece of gum into your mouth. When you do, it has a way of stimulating your autonomic nervous system which can make you more alert. Also, chewing gum has a way of increasing blood flow to your brain. And while pretty much any brand/flavor can make this happen, your best bet is to go with the minty variety. That's because something like peppermint can also invigorate your senses and make it easier to concentrate. Dope.
3. Put Some Sweet Orange Essential Oil on Your Wrists
Something that I'm personally a huge fan of is essential oils. They smell great, they last a long time and they've got a myriad of health benefits.
On the sweet orange oil tip, something that it has the ability to do is not only reduce anxiety and stress levels but give you a boost of energy if you're feeling particularly fatigued as well. As a bonus, something else that's cool about this scent is it can help to offer up some mental clarity. Just dab a bit on your wrists. The reasons why are because 1) that part of your body is a pulse point and 2) your radial artery runs along your wrists which make it easier for essential oils to be absorbed into your bloodstream.
In other words, if you want a quick "hit" of the oil's benefits, your wrists can make that happen for you.
4. Turn Down the Heat
I know that some of y'all like to keep space heaters around your desk but if you're yawning more than a lil' bit, you need to turn those off and open up a window. Reason being, heat has a way of cultivating vasodilation. That's what happens when your blood dilates which causes blood to rise to the surface of your skin and create more heat which can result in you feeling more fatigued. So, while heat may make you feel more comfortable, if the objective is to stay awake, get a little uncomfortable and cool your body down instead.
5. Drink Some Water
Did you know that if you're feeling drained or fatigued, that could be a low-key indication that your system is dehydrated? That's why it's always a good idea to keep a cup, glass or bottle of water around you at all times during the workday; especially after lunch when you need a bit of a pick-me-up. Oh, and if you add a couple of lemon slices to it, just the smell of the lemons alone can reduce your stress levels and help to put you into a better mood (lemons also help to detoxify your system which can give you more energy too).
6. Nix the Caffeine
If you're someone who feels like coffee is your saving grace while you're at work, I just want to make sure that you know that it's a bit of a complicated solution when it comes to looking for something that will keep you going. The reason why is because it usually takes about an hour from the time you consume it for the caffeine to really take hold of your system. Then it takes around 10 hours for it to clear your bloodstream which could make it harder to sleep at night which can cultivate a pretty vicious cycle of being awake and sleepy when you actually don't want to be, if you ask me.
7. Eat Some Protein
You might've heard somewhere that carbs are a great energy boost. While there is some truth to that, because they can also cause you to gain weight (because you end up "eating more energy" than you actually burn, if you're not careful), it can actually be better to snack on protein sources instead. Aside from the fact that protein helps your body to build and repair tissue, it actually provides more of a long-term effect as far as energy charging is concerned. That's why, another recommendation is to snack on foods that are high in protein including nuts, sweet potato fries, yogurt, tuna or anything containing meat.
8. Take a Walk Outside on Your Break
If you're someone who doesn't take advantage of your lunchtime and regular breaks, you definitely should. When you do, consider going outside, at least one of those times. There is plenty of data to support that even spending 10-15 minutes in the sun (regardless of what time of the year it is) can give your system a Vitamin D boost that can help to strengthen your immunity and also help you to feel more energized in the process.
9. Laugh at Black Twitter
OK, when it comes to this particular point, it really doesn't matter what you laugh at because the reality is that laughter has a way of reducing stress, stimulating your organs, soothing tension and improving your mood. The reason why I shouted out Black Twitter specifically is because, I can't think of a single time when I haven't hopped on that app and cracked up in a way that nothing else has been able to consistently do. So, if you're able to open up your browser to it, I promise you that it's totally worth your while. Not sometimes…every time.
10. Set a Short-Term Goal
If what causes you to feel so drained is because sometimes your work seems, well, monotonous, something else that can put a little bit of pep into your step is to take out 10 minutes or so to set a short-term goal. The clincher here is to focus on something that will benefit you personally — you know, something that you can get excited about because you know that you will directly reap the rewards. First set the goal and then, each day, when you're feeling a little on the low energy side, devote some time to making your goal a reality. Sometimes, it really is something as simple as this that can revive you all over again.
11. Suck on a Cinnamon Stick
Aside from the fact that cinnamon is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that can help to keep viruses at bay, something that's really cool about it on the energy tip is it has the ability to improve how your brain functions and processes information while giving it a bit of a power charge at the same time.
Plus, it makes your breath smell great, so if you can't recall the last time you've had a few cinnamon sticks in your possession, now would be a good of a time as any (they typically sell them at health food stores or even at Target).
12. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to After Work
A word that I happen to like a lot is reward. It means "something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc." and if ANYTHING warrants a reward, each and every day, it's having a productive day at work. That's why, I don't care if it's a pint of ice cream, a pedicure or a new scent of bubble bath, make it a point and practice to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of each day, at least 2-3 times a week. For one thing, you deserve it. Also, it can also help to get you over the afternoon hump because you know that, once all of your work is done, something is awaiting you that will make you smile — and take it from me, sometimes, that is all the motivation that you need. Real talk.
For more inspiration, self-care, and wellness tips, check out xoNecole's Wellness section here.
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