Find yourself fading in the afternoon at the office. Like the end of a marathon, fatigue has more to do with the mind than with the body, according to Roy Sugarman, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist in Sydney, Australia. Use the right techniques and you can get a solid energy boost—even without that afternoon Starbucks. Here are five steps to try, based on tips from Sugarman and recent medical research:
1. Stand up and move.
Your brain equates being seated to being stuck and responds by restricting energy. If you have to sit for long periods for work or other reasons, try standing up every 45 minutes and performing a few lunges. “Nothing too strenuous, but these stretches can give you more energy by telling the brain that you’re still mobile,” says Sugarman, who serves as director of applied neurosciences at Athletes’ Performance, a company that trains professional and Olympic athletes. Or even better, see whether a stand-up desk is an option. I use a height adjustable hydraulic desk and stand up in the afternoons to change my posture.
2. Light it up and cool it down.
The ideal lighting for any work space is bright but indirect; overhead light shining straight down on you can cause glare and eyestrain. Aim lighting toward the walls or ceiling instead, and keep the thermostat set at 68° F to 72° F, because temperatures that are too high can slow down your mental function.
I use two Ott-Lites. They provide natural light for those endless gray days of a Nashville winter.
3. Bring green into your space.
A Taiwanese study found that office workers reported feeling less nervous or anxious when a plant was visible nearby. That’s an important benefit because anxiety can burn up a lot of your energy. The study’s authors stated that nature’s beauty aids in recovery from mental fatigue and “generates opportunities for cognitive restoration.” And other research has linked vegetation to increased productivity. Not a plant person? Dr. Sugarman says simply looking at objects with bright greens and reds—a wall hanging, for example—can have a similar effect.
I have a beautiful bay window with a view filled with green. It provides much-needed aesthetic pleasure in the afternoons. If you don’t have a window consider adding a green plant to your desk decor.
4. Rock out, then have a chat.
“Music, even of low intensity, seems to prevent performance decrements over time,” according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Stay stimulated by playing soft background music, especially if it helps cover up the continuous hum of an air conditioner or other white noise, which can induce drowsiness. The organization also recommends socializing throughout the day via “actively involved” conversations; no eavesdropping on others’ conversations or relying on only electronic communications.
5. Check your neck.
If you need another reason to sit up straight, consider this: For every inch your head tilts forward, the amount of weight your neck has to support doubles, a chore that could affect your daily level of fatigue. Whether sitting or standing, keep your shoulders back, your spine straight, and your head held high above your neck. Letting your head droop puts strain on your neck, making you achy and tired.
Thanks to Consumer Reports for these tips.
Question: Do you have a trick for afternoon energy?