If you’re like millions of Americans, you’ve probably struggled with low energy from time to time– especially at work. In fact, you may be struggling with it right now. And you—again, like millions of others—may frequently try to address and resolve your problem with an extra cup of coffee or a quick-hit sugary doughnut from the breakroom, only to find your waistline expanding and your energy flagging again after just an hour or two. If this sounds familiar, you’ll be glad to know you can break the cycle. There are a lot of ways out there to increase your energy, and many of them don’t require a single extra calorie.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Yes, this isn’t going to help you much right now, unless you have a time machine to take you back to last night; but it really is the most basic thing you can do to avoid afternoon energy slumps. You may be able to use caffeine or sugar to help you through some rough patches; or even some of the tips later on the list, but if you are consistently not getting enough sleep at night it will catch up to you sooner rather than later. Do yourself a favor and try getting a few more z’s.
2. Get Better Sleep
Again, not helpful right at the moment, but you know what they say about a little prevention…. If you feel as if you spend enough hours in bed but still fail to achieve quality sleep, then reduce the amount of light you have in your room—even just the little LEDs from resting electronics may be enough to throw off your circadian rhythms. You can also avoid bright screens—computers, TVs or phones—before bed, or adjust your thermostat a little lower, since most people sleep best at cooler temperatures.
3. Take a Power Nap
If you tried but failed to get enough sleep last night, one way to tie yourself over is with a power nap. Anything over 45 minutes or so can interfere with your ability to rest well tonight, but a quick fifteen or twenty minute nap may give you just the extra boost you need.
4. Take a Cold Shower
If you work from home (or at a very well-equipped office), a quick cold shower will work wonders for your future ability to concentrate, and it won’t add an ounce to your waistline
5. Drink Enough Water
If you’re feeling the urge to visit the vending machine, instead drink a big glass of water instead. Many people confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst, and if you’re dehydrated it can make you feel cranky, draggy, or even depressed.
6. Take a Quick Exercise Break
Getting your heart pumping—even just for two or three minutes—can really help you feel alert. If you’re too embarrassed to do jumping jacks in your cubicle, go up and down the stairs a few times instead. If that’s not enough to get you breathing hard, try for sprints—but watch your step.
7. Chill Out
If you work in an especially warm office or are prone to feeling afternoons of grogginess, try taking an ice pack to work. Leave it in the freezer in the break room, and whenever you’re struggling pull it out for a refreshing pick-me-up. Take off your shoes and slip it under your feet, or lay it along the back of your neck if that’s more comfortable for you.
8. Switch up Tasks
If you routinely juggle several different tasks at work, you know sometimes you’re at your most productive when you drop everything consolidate your focus. However, doing that too much can lead to burnout, so if you’re feeling particularly tired it may be time to change it up. Get to a good stopping point and leave yourself a note, if necessary, detailing what you still have left to do, and then switch over to a new task. The more different the better, but even just a slight change can make it easier to pay attention again.
9. Play Energetic Music—Whatever Your Style
Sure, hard-hitting rock may not be your favorite, but even if it’s not there’s still some music out there that can get your blood flowing. Whether it’s epic movie soundtracks, blues, or the 1812 Overture, put it on and crank it up (within limits, of course—your co-workers may not want to hear it leaking out through your headphones).
10. Try Deep Breathing
This may seem counterintuitive, since focused deep breathing is frequently cited as a way to relax, but stress frequently makes us tired, so calming down may actually help to wake you up. This is especially true if you work in a high-stakes career, or are going through a difficult time in your personal life. Close your eyes and take between five and ten slow, deep breaths, and try to let all other thoughts leave your head. This may take a little getting used to, but once you’ve mastered it, it can be a quick and powerful technique for refreshing yourself.