7 Caffeine-Free Ways to Increase Alertness
Do you need caffeine to get through your day? I’ve experienced every over-the-counter wakefulness supplement produced before 2007 (when I smartened up) and can promise you that it all has the same effect: A brief period of increased alertness is followed by a dramatic increase in lethargy (a crash) or anxiety and fidgeting. Consume enough caffeine combined with whatever jungle juice is in vogue and you’ll eventually turn into an over-clocked grouch.
Perhaps you already are? You don’t have to be. Here are 7 ways to increase your alertness and subsequent productivity without reaching for that 6th cup of coffee before lunch:
1. Drop Napping
A quick version of the power nap, a drop nap takes only a few minutes and will usually give you enough of a boost to get through the last few hours of work. How to do it? Sit in a comfortable chair and hold something in one hand that, when dropped on the floor, will make enough noise to wake you from a shallow sleep. Hold the object you’ve chosen so that it will drop to the floor when you relax your hand and let yourself fall asleep. As soon as you fall asleep the object will drop and you’ll wake up with a boost of alertness. If you’ve ever fallen asleep for a few seconds while driving you already know what it feels like to wake from a drop nap!
2. Micro projects
A micro project is any small project that can be completed in a very little time. Taking a few minutes away from your sleep-inducing labor to work on a small project of your own can provide the excitement and immediate fulfillment needed to get your brain back in gear for the less interesting work you face.
Get your hind parts out of that seat and release some of that lethargy and tension with a few minutes of stretching! You can start with some basic stretches and move to more complex ones as you feel comfortable.
4. Competitive games
Play a game that makes your mind work as you push for a win over another, preferably somebody you know. The combination of competition, strategy, and social interaction will give you the boost in brainpower you need to keep going. WeeWar is a recent favorite of mine. The combination of strategy, simplicity, and a bit of luck make for a fun way to take an “alertness break” from my work while connecting with a friend.
Your brain is mostly water so it makes sense that you’d need to keep yourself hydrated for maximum alertness and productivity! They Mayo Clinic recommends three hydration styles to make sure you keep your body stocked with fluids:
- Replacement – The idea is to replace all the fluid you lose throughout your day. The average adult loses about a liter of water each day due to evaporation through the skin, breathing, etc. If you sweat a lot or live in a very warm climate you’ll want to up that amount appropriately. Combine that amount with the amount of water you lose as urine and you’ll have a good idea of how much fluid you should be consuming on a daily basis to stay healthy.
- 8 by 8 – 8 ounces of water 8 times per day (about 2 liters total) is an easy way to remember how much you need to keep from getting dehydrated and losing precious brainpower because your body is struggling to operate.
- Prescribed quantity – Check with your doctor or registered dietitian for a more exact idea of how much water you should be consuming based on your body weight and gender.
Trading that 4pm cup of coffee for a glass of water may have the extended benefit of guarding you from the hours-long affects of caffeine that might otherwise keep you up late.
Fight away the drowsiness by connecting with a friend for a short conversation. Making plans for the weekend or just chatting about something that’s on your mind can give you a big mental boost and get you back into the game quickly. Keep your conversation short so you don’t end up spending any of your new-found wakefulness on chatting while you still have work to do!
Depending on your fitness level, you should be able to engage in an activity that raises your heart rate for a few minutes without breaking a sweat. Feel stupid doing crunches or jumping jacks in your cubicle? You’d feel much worse if you were caught sleeping on the job! If you have more time and don’t mind getting sweaty, take an hour to make use of that gym pass you bought in January or go for a run. You’ll come back mentally refreshed and enjoy increased alertness for a few hours as your heart continues the increased blood flow to your brain.
What about you? Have you got into the habit of gulping caffeinated beverages whenever you feel a bit drowsy? Perhaps you’ve broken free of caffeine and have a tip or two of your own to share?
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