Workday Happiness: Staying Bright and Alert

Have you ever had a colleague who always seems to be chirpy and bubbling with energy every single day? They stay super bright through endless emails and meetings, then off they zoom out of the office to pick up the kids, go to the gym, make dinner and paint the dining room before knitting 50 scarves for the elderly. Whereas 5 o’clock comes and you’re not entirely sure where you’ll find the energy you need to drag yourself to your car.

We work hard, so it’s only natural that our energy levels will start to wane throughout the day, especially towards the end of the week, or simply if we’ve not slept as much as we need to.

Feeling drained and lethargic at work obviously affects focus, concentration and accuracy, but feeling like this on a regular basis can have a derogatory impact on your overall happiness in your job. You’re much less likely to feel positive about work if you leave every day feeling like you’ve spent hours trying to stay awake, and all you do when you arrive home is to curl up into the foetal position in front of the TV.

However, don’t spend your days envying your constantly energetic, bubbly, scarf-knitting co-worker. There are small changes you can make to your workday habits to make sure that you stay as bright, alert and energetic as possible all day long!

Give these tips a try and see if you can give your workday energy levels the boost they need:

The most important meal of the day

You’re sick of hearing it. We’re sick of hearing it. We all know how important breakfast is. Yet many people are still skipping this crucial meal or are eating entirely the wrong things in the morning. Breakfast is your fuel for the morning, eating the right foods can keep you going and give you a skip in your step.

A balanced breakfast including slow release carbohydrates, vitamin rich fruit or vegetables and a protein source such as lean meat, Greek yoghurt or eggs may not be the easiest options to grab but will make you feel ready to take on the world. Sugar and simple carbohydrate-rich breakfasts such as some cereals, white bread and pastries won’t keep you full until lunchtime and will spike your insulin levels, meaning that come mid-morning your energy levels will plummet. Need some breakfast inspiration? Take a look at our article full of great healthy breakfast ideas.

Fuel yourself

You also need to think carefully about your lunch and snacks while at work. Avoid large, stodgy lunches that will leave you feeling lethargic. The balance rule applies here, too, to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the post-lunch slump. Snacking on healthier options such as nuts and fruits (apples in particular can be a life saver!) will also help you maintain steady energy release throughout the day. If you’re thinking of going to the gym after work, make sure you have a snack around an hour and a half before you do – this way your body will have the fuel it needs to pump all that iron!

Staying hydrated is also essential when it comes to combating drowsiness at work. Drink plenty of water (not sugary or fizzy drinks), especially if those yawns are starting to creep up on you, to keep your brain and body alert.

Move

If you’ve been sat in your office chair all day, it’s understandable that your body may start feeling overly relaxed and ready to drift off into slumber at any second. To give yourself some energy, and boost those endorphin levels, try incorporating some activity into your day. Go for a quick walk in the fresh air to blow away those cobwebs, and don’t forget that getting some natural sunlight can do wonders for your mood and energy. You could even try some gentle (and subtle) stretches at your desk to get your blood flowing.

Have a chinwag

Now, don’t think that this is an excuse to spend all day at work nattering to Lee about how terrible the match was this weekend (nice try). However, taking a couple of minutes to have a quick chat with a co-worker can give your mind the break it needs to refresh itself.

In fact, any positive interaction can improve your mood and stimulate your mind back into a more alert state. So, send that funny text or make a personal call on your lunch break. Let’s face it, a good laugh or even a smile can work miracles.

(Just make sure you’re not distracting yourself or others.)

Appeal to your senses

Sensory stimulation can have a noticeable effect on how awake and alert you feel throughout the day. For instance, did you know that certain smells or flavours can invigorate you? The aromas and tastes of mint, lemon, rosemary and cinnamon are all known to be revitalising; you can harness these by putting drops of their essential oils on a piece of your clothing, or a handkerchief, ready to sniff as required! Or, if you prefer, you can get chewing gum and lozenges/sweets with these flavours.

Sound can be beneficial, too. If your workplace allows it, pop in your headphones and put on some upbeat music that makes you feel like dancing! This can really perk you up and help to keep you focused – not too loud, though!

Mix things up

It’s 3pm and here comes that dreaded, unavoidable mid-afternoon slump. Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with you for needing to fight falling asleep on your keyboard with every fibre of your being. It’s actually natural; the regulatory systems in your body that keep you awake and make you fall asleep are battling it out between 2pm and 4pm. Don’t worry, you just need to make sure you’re ready to soldier through.

Is there a particular task you need to do that you either know you’re good at or that you really enjoy? If your deadlines allow it, save this task for when that slump hits – it’ll be easier to take this on than something complex or difficult, make sure these tasks are done when you’re much more bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Or if you’re working on something and you find yourself struggling to focus, switch to another task for a while – this may help you to feel more engaged, so that you’re ready to finish what you were doing with increased concentration. There is also evidence that suggests picking up your pace can help wake you up; read a little quicker, type with a little more purpose. Speeding up can kick your body and mind back into action.

Don’t forget to take breaks from your computer and your desk, too. Both monotony and staring at a screen for too long can make you drowsy. Take a little time to rest your eyes or to move around a little and stretch your legs.

Get a good night’s sleep

This one is obvious; if you get enough sleep, you’ll be at your best at work and less likely to debate having a siesta under your desk. If this is something you struggle with, take a look at our article on drifting off at night.

Seems simple enough, right? Implement these techniques when at work, and you’ll definitely start to see the benefits.

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