It seems like there’s an epidemic of sleepiness in the world today. Whether you’re a parent of young kids who don’t sleep well, a frenzied college student, or a person who suffers from insomnia, being tired is really common these days. But a strong cup of coffee isn’t the only way to wake up: the next time you find yourself hitting an afternoon (or morning) slump, try these tips to help you function more effectively when tired.
I know it seems counterproductive, but exercise actually can give you a boost of energy. A morning workout can help you get through the first part of your day more easily, as can a workout when your afternoon slump hits instead of an energy drink. Some studies suggest that taking a break from work to exercise will give you a productivity boost that will help counteract the time you spent away from the office.
If you can’t get away for a real workout, just jumping up and down at your desk or doing a little stretching can get your blood flowing enough to make you function better and feel a little more energized.
What’s more, if you are tired because you’re not sleeping well, regular exercise can help you sleep better. Check out my article on How to Fall Asleep Fast for more on that.
If you can’t get out into fresh air and sunlight, find some bright light indoors. Either way you’ll get an energy boost, but natural light is better, because increasing your levels of vitamin D—which you’ll do if you step outside for 15 minutes—can make you feel more energetic and less moody and stressed. You could even combine these two tips and take a walk in the sunshine for a double boost of focus and improved energy.
You might think that drinking coffee is the best way to fuel your brain when you’re not feeling up to working, but water is what your body really needs when you’re tired. Being dehydrated makes your body work harder, which can make you feel even more fatigued. So drink up, and keep drinking so you’ll stay hydrated through hard days.
While you’re at it, splash a little water on your face or jump in the shower to feel invigorated in a hurry.
If you’re low on energy most of the time, changing what you eat can make a big difference. Eating breakfast literally fuels your brain so you can start the day with more energy. Likewise, eating every three or four hours and sticking to healthy foods keeps your body fueled properly.
What’s should you? A smallish meal of healthy carbs, some protein—particularly those with healthy fats like Omega 3s, which are great for the brain—and fiber would be the best choice. The fiber helps give you sustained energy as opposed to a high and crash cycle you’d get on if you ate processed foods and sugary drinks for your snacks.
When we’re stressed we tend to breathe more shallowly, which can make us feel tired and sluggish. Pay attention to your breathing and take a minute or two to take some big, deep breaths. Do what the yogis call “belly breathing,” which means you should really see your stomach move out and in as you inhale and exhale. Try inhaling to a count of five, holding your breath for a couple of seconds, and exhaling to a count of five as well. Breathe through your nose and out through your mouth.
For bonus points, visualize a calming scene (or keep a picture of your “happy place” on your desk to look at while you’re breathing) or imagine good energy entering your body as you inhale and stress leaving your body on the exhale.
If you can do so where you are, listen to some music that makes you feel good. Even better if you can dance around and literally get your blood pumping. Of course just taking a little mental break and maybe feeling a little silly does wonders for your attitude and can make you feel more energetic as well.
If something in particular is draining your energy and you can’t deal with it right away, write down what’s bothering you. Acknowledge that you can’t deal with the problem right now, or if you can, do so. If it’s something completely beyond your control, recognize that. Then let go of the problem by tearing up what you wrote, sealing it in an envelope and throwing it away. Getting that thing off your mind and your chest will make it easier to focus on what you can do and what you need to be doing, which will make you feel more energetic.
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