Workdays seem to have gotten longer, yeah? Lately it seems we’re all feeling the slump that comes with pushing through the workdays. Between working remotely, virtual learning, and transitioning back to working in an office environment, it’s understandable to feel anxious, overwhelmed, and tired. Whichever your situation may be, we think we can help you stay awake at work without caffeine.
You might be here because your coffee schedule is more consistent than your sleep schedule. While grabbing a cup of coffee at every yawn is definitely tempting, there are natural ways you can make your body more awake and active without running for an espresso. Coffee can cause various symptoms that range from headaches, fatigue, irritability, and overall difficulty concentrating. While it can be intimidating to think of cutting out the cup of joe because it’s part of your morning routine or helps revive you, we’re here to give a few alternative methods to help keep your mornings running smoothly.
1. Prepare to Stay Awake
Whether you’ve spent the night tossing and turning, stayed up too late streaming your favorite TV show, or simply just can’t go to bed…we’ve all been there. This can set you up to want to sleep in the next day or even reach for that 5 hour energy drink to get you through your meeting. However, you’ll want to be in the right headspace for when you start working. This means mentally talking yourself up, motivating yourself — even saying it out loud in the mirror if you feel like it. Because you’re going to have to stay awake void of coffee.
After you’ve weathered the long day, don’t try to oversleep to compensate for the sleep you missed. The idea of making up lost sleep by “catching-up” is widely disputed amongst doctors. It’s best to stick to your normal sleep schedule and allot yourself extra time on the weekend to rest.
2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The best way to stay awake and refreshed at work is to have a restful sleep behind you. This is easier said than done sometimes, but here are best practices for a good night’s sleep:
- Maintain a consistent room temperature and keep your room dark.
- Avoid screen time and blue lights before bed by keeping your electronics in another room.
- Using a sleeping app or soft music to help you relax.
- Avoid taking power naps longer than 20 minutes throughout the day.
3. Take a Cold Shower Before Work
Some of us take cold showers as part of our regular schedules already so this may seem like a no brainer, but for me personally, I avoid them at all costs. However, there are several benefits to taking a cold shower first thing in the morning. Cold showers are known to boost energy, speed up your heart rate, improve circulation, and relieve muscle soreness. As you are transitioning away from caffeine, consider hopping into the shower to jump start your day!
4. Start with Breakfast
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” has been a mantra drilled into our heads since we were young. However, our parents weren’t mythologizing breakfast; it actually is one of the most important aspects of your day. It’s meant to be your biggest meal by giving you most of the energy you’ll use throughout your day. Breakfast helps to kickstart your energy for the day after you have had a long night of sleep. Studies show eating breakfast within the first two hours of waking up can help you consume less fat throughout your day, give your body much needed calcium and protein, and help your overall mental performance. Before you start loading up on waffles and pancakes, keep these tips in mind:
- Avoid greasy foods.
- Avoid too much sugar.
- Plan your breakfast ahead of time so you won’t forget.
- A healthy and balanced breakfast should give you all the essential nutrients your body needs.
5. Go for a Walk
A nice walk keeps your body alert and ready. Loosen up, and try not to think too much about work as you take a stroll. More than that, sunlight will naturally make you more awake and energized.
This is also a good time to get more connected with nature, and stimulate your brain with a new or less-familiar environment.
We totally understand that working up a sweat isn’t always doable when you’ve got a meeting an hour later. But you don’t need an intense gym session in order for it to be effective. On the days that you are having to power through, a quick workout session can help increase productivity and elevate your mood. Keep a pair of athletic shoes at your desk and use any 15-20 minute stretch of time to incorporate functional movements that won’t overwork your body. Even a few jumping jacks can increase your heart rate and stimulate your nervous system. Try just getting out of your chair and moving around a little bit. Maybe you do some laps around your building, or walk up a flight of stairs, or use your office gym to get some steps on the treadmill. Having regular physical activity also gives you the opportunity to relieve stress, connect with coworkers, and battle fatigue.
There is nothing worse than sitting down for a long stretch of time in front of the computer without some relief. Taking a break from work every so often to stretch out your muscles is vital to improving your mental and physical health. Sitting for prolonged periods can cause stiffness in your muscles, which can result in loss of energy. Start scheduling time between your work day to get up and get that blood circulating. Going up and down the stairs, trying to touch your toes, and rotating your joints can not only improve flexibility but leave you feeling refreshed.
Don’t forget to focus on your breathing as you stretch. More oxygen in your body helps keep you awake.
Have a glass of cold water with you throughout your workday. Fatigue is a symptom of dehydration, and dehydration can easily be ignored when you’re fatigued.
Hydration equates to being more energized. When you don’t have enough water in your system, you don’t have enough oxygen either; consequently, your body has to work harder to circulate the oxygen properly. Try keeping a thermos handy to help keep your water cool throughout the day so it doesn’t get warm.
9. Have a Healthy Snack
You don’t want to go a full shift without getting more food in your belly. Lunchtime is great, but healthy snacks along the way can be really great for staying awake. Make sure not to overindulge, and give your body a snack that it will thank you for.
Foods with too much sugar won’t help here! It may be true that sugar gives an energy boost, but when eaten in high quantities, you’ll have a big energy drop after the sugar rush ends.
You want a mix of carbs, fats and proteins. Carbs will give you short-term energy, while fats and proteins keep that energy from running out too quickly.
Some healthy snack ideas include:
- Low or non-fat Greek yogurt
- Veggies and hummus
- Fruits and nuts
- A granola mix
10. Listen to Music
Play music that energizes you! Music will distract you from fatigue and stimulate the senses.
Bonus points for playing music you’ve never heard before. Your brain will work even harder processing the new information. Also, if you’re not in a position to distract coworkers, singing along will be even better for you.
11. Chew Gum
Boredom makes you more tired, and it’s really easy for many of us to start to feel bored at work. So, if you’re bored and tired, chewing gum just might be a small help.
It’s been shown that chewing gum keeps you more focused and alert. It increases blood flow to your brain and prevents yawning, which is your brain telling your body that you should sleep.
12. Splash Cold Water on Your Face
It’s a trick seen in movies and film everywhere. But if you haven’t tried it yet, or if you haven’t tried it yet today, as you sit at your desk — take a short break to splash water on your face. It’s an instant energizer to make you more alert. You can also simply wipe your face and neck with a wet cloth if you prefer.
A soft massage on your body’s pressure points helps delay your circadian rhythm. Some areas that may work for you are between your thumb and index finger, on the far side of your arm above your elbow, and the back of your neck. Massages have been known to reduce work-related health issues and improve mobility, reduce anxiety, and relieve tension. You can often feel when your muscles are tightening whether it’s sore neck, lower back pain, or stiff shoulders. Make sure you listen to your body and give it doses of self-care throughout your work day.
14. Start a Conversation
Talking to a coworker, or making a call to your family or friends, can be a great way to get your mind moving. More in-depth conversations, or conversations where you are passionate about the topic, are definitely better for keeping you engaged. If you’re working remotely, you can participate in or host virtual events. Maybe a routine lunch or trivia game to interact with your coworkers throughout the day. We understand between meetings, deadlines, and schedules it can be an overlooked pastime we take for granted, but never underestimate the power of a light hearted conversation.
15. Work in a Cool Room
A hot work environment makes us all lethargic. If possible, keep the room nice and cool. If that means bringing a desk fan to work, it may be a worthwhile investment.
16. Keep a Bright Work Environment
Light is very important to staying awake; a dark environment is a signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Keep the room bright to stimulate the mind, even fooling it into thinking you’re not tired. This can be as simple as opening up the blinds/window, working outside (when there is little to no outside noise), or moving your desk to a brighter lit room. Especially in the winter season, we need as much sunlight as possible to keep our spirits up.
17. Work on a Pomodoro Schedule
The Pomodoro technique dates back to the 80s, and the idea is that you work in 25 minute intervals with short breaks in between.
For many people, this practice makes them more productive. And for the purposes of staying awake, the short breaks are a good distraction time so your mind can focus on other things. Try using your phone or a stopwatch to keep time and then evaluate whether you were productive or focused you were during that interval. Adjusting how you work and for how long can be a great way to determine at what times of day you are more productive and why.
18. Switch Tasks
When you’re doing monotonous work all day, it’s easy to become less productive and more tired. If possible, switch to another task that needs to get done or other jobs that you are excited to work on.
Even take some time to schedule how you’ll work the rest of the day. Plan out your day’s schedule in the way that gets you through without feeling groggy and restless.
19. Power Nap
A 20-minute nap might just be a fix for the rest of the work day. With only 20 minutes, your body gets the rest it needs if you didn’t sleep enough the night before. You shouldn’t depend on the naps to get you through the day, and napping longer than 20 minutes may have you waking up feeling drowsy and unfocused.
When you wake up, have a cold glass of water ready to give you a nice boost of energy.