If you’re like 14.3% of America, you don’t get enough sleep during the night. I know that when I wake up on anything less than six hours of sleep, I curse myself almost every time. I sit at the edge of the bed and think to myself: Why did I have to watch that last episode of “Shark Tank”? I would get home from work, finish up an assignment due by midnight, squeeze in a show or two on Netflix, fall asleep, and wake up at 6am to do it all over again the next day knowing I won’t be able to see the back of my eyelids again until at least 10pm. The long hours themselves were of course brutal, but it wasn’t the hours that made me dread the day; it was the complete physical and mental fatigue I felt throughout the day as a result of not getting my hours in. If you find yourself at a point in life when getting in your full amount of hours every night just isn’t plausible and it begins to interfere with your your performance and alertness at work, it may be time to explore ways of optimizing your mind, body and energy throughout your daily activities. Beginning your next work week (or even today if you need that boost like yesterday), try some of these tips to keep your mind sharp and alert, and your energy levels moderate following a night of not-so-stellar shut-eye.
1) Have Coffee For Breakfast, Then Taper Into Green Tea As the Workday Winds Down
Of course the obvious thing to do to kickstart your day would be to start with a nice, hot cup of joe. However, if you’re anything like I am, the alertness effects of the coffee disappear after about a good hour and a half, and you’re back on break for another round. Before you know it, you’ve had 7 cups of coffee throughout the workday, running back and forth between the restroom and your desk, and you may be a little too jittery for your own comfort. This isn’t most people, but I’m one that can have a hard time sleeping if I’ve had too much caffeine throughout the day. The trick to finding that caffeine “buzz” sweet spot and maintaining it is switching to a source with lower caffeine content per serving. Wala, enter green tea. Green tea has 25mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup, whereas coffee has 163mg. After your morning joe, switch to a pack of green tea. I drink the teas from Bigelow, switching between both black and green tea throughout the day (sometimes I need slightly more energy, and black teas have a little more caffeine punch). Tg Green Tea is also a good one. Warm up a cup of water in the microwave for two minutes, then dip the pack in there and enjoy. Green Tea has been linked to prevention of heart disease and stroke, possibly assisting in lowering LDL in the blood. It has numerous other health benefits as well, including being great for the digestive system and gut health, so this mid-day power-up is definitely worth a habit of getting into.
2) Keep Healthy Snacks Prepared and Readily Available
This one may seem to get beaten into the ground in terms of eating healthy in general, but there’s no denying that evidence points to the fact that if something is readily available to eat, chances are it will be eaten. It would only be fitting that this would apply to what you eat throughout the day to maintain your energy as well. This is where pocket snacks like almonds and sunflowers, which are high-fat, omega-3 rich healthy snacks, come in handy. When I gas up, I often grab a small 4 oz bag of Snak Club Raw Almonds and eat them throughout the day. The leftovers I have I just add to my almond jar in my office, allowing me to stock up on my energy supply. You can also grab a bag of sunflower seeds, with or without the shell. You can find them at your nearby whole foods market, or even a local grocery store, and pick up a some sea-salted sunflower seeds.
Also, try sliced or prepared fruits. The night before your workday, take about 10 minutes to cut up a couple of oranges and apples, put them in a zip-log bag, grab a banana or two, and put them in your lunchbox. That way it’s basically effortless to reach for a nearby healthy snack if you get hungry or a little zapped of energy.
3) Learn the Power of the Nap
Ahh the nap, a.k.a. the “pet nap,” or what I like to call, the “power nap.” This one was quite difficult for me to master. I’ve always been an active mind at night, often having difficulty falling asleep, so doing so at will was quite the feat, especially since, at one point in my life, it felt like there simply was no time to take naps. Ironically, however, it was because I had such a busy life that it was somewhat necessary and within my best interest to give up TV or Bleacher Report time for 20 minutes of shut-eye. 20 minutes may not sound like it would make much of a difference, but believe me when I say your mind will thank you for it later in the day. I used to think that part of what constituted as a “nap” was that I had to fall into a deep sleep. However, falling into a deep, REM sleep in 20 minutes is probably the last thing aside from death that you’d want to do in a 20-minute nap. Going into REM sleep, then having it prematurely interrupted, is what causes the headache and grogginess you may experience upon waking up from your mini slumber. They key is understanding the concept of a power nap. It is a time to power off and turn off your mind. You may not technically be sleep, but even closing your eyes and emptying your brain of problems, worry and concern for 20-45 minutes works wonders not just for your conscious psyche and overall alertness, but also your subconscious and overall mental well-being.
When we’re constantly in our heads or performing tasks, our brains accumulate waste. This waste contributes to impaired cognitive functions such as problem solving, reasoning, and memory performance. Shutting your eyes and turning your brain off from thinking and worry for a short period of time is the essence of the power nap; it helps to clear some of that waste from your brain to give you a second wind at whatever task(s) you may have for the day. If it’s damn near impossible to get a power nap during the day, if you have a job that permits scheduled breaks, try going somewhere where it’s just you and turning off for 10-15 minutes. No talking. No thinking. No phone. Just you. You can just sit quietly with your eyes closed in a rest state, or you can take that time to focus on breathing and mindfulness, connecting to the moment. Whatever it is that you have to do get away from the mental and physical energy-absorbing daily tasks, go for it. This too is a way to recharge, eliminate that brain gunk, and provide you with a second wind for the day.
Get Over that Energy-Hump, Get Ready For Round Two
Getting tired during the day will definitely happen, especially after a nice, fulfilling meal, or when the workday seems to be at its slowest. Sometimes it’s just inevitable. However, much of the time, there are areas in our lifestyle that can assist us, and give us that extra flame under our bottoms to get over the hump and finish the rest of the day strong. Drink some tea, keep some fuel foods nearby, shut off for a moment; find a method, or combination of methods that best works for your schedule, and maximize your day and energy to the absolute best ability you can. I can guarantee you that those who are successful will tell you that part of their success is having the energy to stay alert and focused to keep motivated and prepared for the tasks at hand throughout their day.
© 2017 Anthony J. Richard All Rights Reserved