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Published on January 21, 2021

Here’s What To Do When You Are Getting Exhausted At Work

Here’s What To Do When You Are Getting Exhausted At Work

Workplace fatigue and exhaustion have been significant issues for decades, way before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to Gallup, 85% of employees report being disengaged or actively disengaged at work, which results in nearly $7 trillion of lost productivity on an annual basis.[1] $7 trillion is lost every year because employees are distracted, disengaged, fatigued, exhausted at work, and essentially prioritizing other tasks to get done while on the company’s clock.

Many Employees Are Becoming Exhausted at Work

How did we get here? A study done by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace uncovered some alarming news. According to their study, 95% of HR leaders stated that employee burnout was sabotaging workforce retention.[2] From the sounds of it, this is a problem for the majority, not just the minority.

Business leaders worldwide are coming to grips with this because these problems aren’t going away anytime soon. These issues have been further projected into the spotlight because of the unprecedented events 2020 placed on our current workforce. Left to their own devices, people are creatures of habit.

At some point in your life, I’m sure you struggled with brushing your teeth and taking a shower in the morning. Hopefully, your parents helped you work through those stages to allow you the time to lay down foundational habits of personal hygiene, which have become automatic at this point in your life. Because of this, I suspect you have no issues brushing your teeth and showering in the morning before getting ready for a workday.

But when was the last time someone gave you instructions and exercises to facilitate your workplace habits of productivity and execution of tasks? Have you ever had anyone give you guidance on this? Most haven’t.

While this appears to be a significant issue in our current workforce, there are viable solutions out there to treat this work-related pandemic as long as you are willing to change your habits and implement simple changes into your daily work life. Even if you decide to implement one of these changes, you could see a significant shift in your productivity and output, potentially setting you up for that next promotion, increased pay, and a higher quality of life.

Unfulfilling Work Can Suck the Life Out of You

The first question you may need to ask yourself is, “Am I doing what I truly love?”

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Unfortunately, that question can only be answered by you, but it’s one of the most simplistic and foundational questions you need to figure out before taking the next step and investing in your future.

A majority of people are unhappy with their jobs, as Gallup found that nearly 70% of correspondents stated that they were unfulfilled and dissatisfied with their current place of work.[3] If you find yourself part of this trend, maybe it’s time for you to look for a new job?

HR Drive conducted a survey and found that half of their respondents stated that they would sacrifice up to 29% of their current pay to work at a job they enjoyed, which clarifies that people are willing to surrender financial gains for personal growth and gratification.[4] If we spend an average of 90,000 hours at work throughout our lifetimes, we need to make sure that we enjoy it and find fulfillment in what we do.[5]

Fatigue Can Signal Poor Health and Nutritional Deficiencies

If switching your career isn’t an option, there are many alternatives to choose from to optimize your energy levels even when you’re exhausted at work. While our workforce and office landscape has completely changed with the stay-at-home orders from COVID-19, we can still implement simple steps to enhance our productivity.

Exhaustion at work isn’t always because of the work itself. It could also be due to poor health and nutritional deficiencies, manifesting as altered cognitive function, poor sleep, and an inability to complete tasks on time.[6] Work merely brings out these inefficiencies and causes further strain on our brains and bodies, which may not have been able to keep up with these demands in the first place.

Nutrition and diet will forever be foundational to our health. Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated back in 440 BC, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Food is the keystone to our overall health and wellbeing—for a good reason. Your food choices influence your immune function via the bacteria living inside your gut, which contains roughly 70% of your body’s immune system.[7]

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Yes, you read that correctly. Your food choices directly affect your immune function!

More importantly, your food choices also affect serotonin production, the feel-good neurotransmitter that becomes skewed in conditions such as depression, anxiety, and different psychiatric disorders. Over 90% of your body’s serotonin production is housed within the gut and influenced by food choices affecting your bacterial profile.

Snacking on healthy foods throughout the day is always an option, but too much food can sway your blood sugar levels and cause daytime sleepiness.

For an even more efficient way to optimize your brain and body, intermittent fasting may be a better approach because it can help you dampen body inflammation, optimize cognitive processing, and even lose weight. Changing your food choices can directly correlate to changes in your mood and energy levels.

Take a Walk to Recharge Your Batteries

At some point, you may become exhausted at work and may need to step away from it to clear your mind. Taking a break from your work can be one of the most efficient means of improving your productivity because it allows the brain to switch gears and change your state of thought. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through physical exercise.

Movement is “the language of the brain,” as Anat Baniel states, and this statement is heavily supported by peer-reviewed literature and evidence-based articles. Exercise can directly influence brain activity through multiple mechanisms, such as increased oxygenation, enhanced gene expression, decreased stress responses, improved processing via the frontal lobe (The CEO of the brain), and optimized blood flow throughout the brain and body.[8]

We also have data showing that different exercise forms can yield different cognitive-based outcomes, specifically relating low-intensity exercise to improved cognitive processing and attention.[9] High-intensity exercise can also play a critical role in optimizing connectivity between networks responsible for affective and emotional processes. The choice is yours to make.

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Exercise isn’t just important for the body; it’s also important for the mind. It can improve your ability to learn and remember information, specifically, because physical movement increases the production of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which is responsible for facilitating long-term changes in neural networks and optimizing connections throughout the nervous system.[10]

A 10-minute walk could be the best way to supercharge your productivity and take a much-needed break from your work. Try it out for yourself and see how you feel!

Find Time to Take a Cat Nap

There’s a reason you sleep a third of your life away: It’s vital for high performance and optimal brain function. And while taking a quick nap when you’re exhausted at work may seem counterintuitive for productivity and hitting work goals, the science backs it up.

Sleep disruption can cause significant cognitive and emotional problems, leading to fatigue, brain fog, and altered mental processing.[11] It’s no longer viewed as an option as research shows how important it is for the formation and consolidation of memories, further enhancing our brain’s abilities to learn and create new ways of thinking.

The importance of getting enough sleep at night is rarely disputed, yet taking a quick nap in the afternoon or mid-day could also prove highly beneficial, especially before a big meeting or after studying material for some time. And since 53% of adults nap regularly, there’s a near 50/50 chance you’re in the camp of viewing afternoon naps as a waste of time.[12]

Short bouts of sleep (around 10 minutes) have been experimentally shown to improve alertness and cognitive performance, lasting for up to an hour following a nap.[13] Once again, taking 10 minutes away from your day to focus on optimizing your brain and body could yield significant dividends down the road towards productivity and success in the office.

Putting It All Together

Effective workers don’t work consistently for 8 hours and clock out at the end of the day. Being efficient doesn’t always mean being consistent, so we need to understand how work takes its toll on the brain and body. Most people possess the ability to put in an 8 hours workday in 5-6 hours, especially when you consider that the average worker only works for 2 hours and 23 minutes out of their 8-hour workday.

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Yes, once again, you read that correctly! The rest of their day is used to search the internet, read articles, look for other jobs, and do whatever else workers can get away with while their bosses aren’t looking.

So, if you’re interested in putting in an entire day of work, use your brain and body to your advantage by creating effective daily habits of success. Using science can vastly improve our outcomes and potentially get us an edge to increasing our future earning power while also avoiding getting unnecessarily exhausted at work.

As always, it will be up to you to make it happen.

“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” —Arnold Schwarzenegger

More on Regaining Energy

Featured photo credit: Joyce Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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Dr. Erik Reis

Peak-Performance Leadership Consultant

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Last Updated on April 30, 2021

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Stay Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Coffee is a way of life for many employees. Caffeine gives them the boost they need to help them get through the day. But as we know, like sugar highs, eventually the caffeine boosts wear off. The million-dollar question at the office for many people should be googling is, “how to stay awake at work without caffeine?”

According to Gallup, a staggering 85% of workers are “not engaged” at work.[1] That means the majority of the workforce around the world view their work negatively or are doing the minimum required to keep their jobs. As a result, it should come as no surprise that people are getting tired at the office.

Perhaps, you’re like one of my clients. Every morning he starts off his day like many people all over the world. He heads into the kitchen, pops in a capsule in his Nespresso machine, and then sits in front of the TV while sipping his gourmet coffee. Then, throughout the day, he’ll have one or two more cups, especially if the Sandman is visiting.

According to The National Safety Council, 43% of workers are sleep-deprived so it’s not uncommon to see people with a cup of joe on their desk.[2] Add in the meetings that seem to drag on and the hours we spend in front of a computer screen and the battle for our focus is very real.

Caffeine has become the drug of choice for millions. People use coffee to jolt themselves back into focus. Starbucks has even made coffee hip and cool, not to mention pricey. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Thankfully, there are better, healthier ways to stay awake.

Here are some tips on how to stay awake at work without coffee.

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1. H2O

We all know the importance of drinking water. What most people don’t realize is the effect it can have on our focus and productivity. If you’ve ever been on a 6-hour plane ride or longer, upon landing, your body feels heavy. The reason is dehydration. The adrenaline from the excitement of heading to Disneyland with our family can mask our lethargy for only so long. Once it wears off, our body will feel it.

The same thing happens at the office. The more dehydrated our body is the worse its functions. Headaches are largely linked to dehydration. Hydrating our body has numerous health benefits that are relatively unseen including the elimination of toxins from our bloodstream, improved digestion, lubrication of our joints and eyes, and increased concentration.

Just how much water should we be drinking? According to The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink about 2.7 liters a day, while men should drink about 3.7 liters.[3]

Despite knowing we should drink more water, many people don’t. Why is that? Simply put—boredom. It’s lacking in taste. Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew, or Monster Energy are what people turn to instead. It doesn’t hurt that they have caffeine in them either, giving them a double shot of energy in the form of sugar and caffeine.

How do we combat this? Easy, by making water “cool.” Liven up your water by adding ice cubes made out of 100% fruit juice or add wedges of fruits to your water infusing them with a hint of your favorite flavors.

Suggestion: Download an app or set up alarms to notify you throughout the day to drink water. Your body will thank you.

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2. Good Night’s Sleep

Like water, this should go without saying. It should, but with 43% of workers being sleep-deprived, it needs to be said, over and over again. Too many people shortchange their sleep because of work or fun.

For most people, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything they want to. Burning the midnight oil before a big presentation or project is understandable but long-term, our body and performance will suffer if we push our body too hard.

A few years ago, the WSJ coined the term “sleepless elite,” referring to a small group of people that only need a short amount of sleep every night. Scientists estimate they make up only about 1% of the population.[4] You might be one of them. Only you know how effective you can be on a few hours of sleep. I’m not one of them, and chances are likely you aren’t either. I’ve only ever met one person who fit the bill, but the impact it is having on their body is still unknown.

We are all unique. Each of our bodies functions slightly differently, but for most people, seven to eight hours a day is needed for optimum performance. But it’s not just about quantity but also quality, which is why it’s important to have a 30-minute cool-down before getting into bed.

Turn off all screens. If possible, switch to yellow light. If not, simply turn down the lights. Turn off notifications on your phone. Do everything you can to make your environment conducive to sleep. Finally, reading a chapter or two in a good book to make yourself sleepy is a great way to get ready for bed. Doing these simple things will dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

Suggestion: Create a daily cool-down routine to ensure the quality of your sleep.

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3. 80% Rule

In Japan, there’s an expression, “8 bun me,” which refers to eating until you’re 80% full. It’s actually a stroke of genius, especially for those looking to get more done at work. Knowing how to stay awake at work without caffeine is a real challenge for many people, but adjusting your diet is a great place to start.

When I first moved to Japan, I often found meals to be much smaller than those in America. I’m not going to lie, it bugged me at first. I found myself still hungry after lunch. Over time though, my body adjusted.

The problem with a full stomach is that it pulls blood away from our brain, which is why many people feel sleepy after lunch. Not feeling full after lunch will allow you to operate at a higher level at the office.

Most of us have been taught to have a light breakfast, a more robust lunch, and a big meal for dinner. Ironically, it should be the other way around. The problem is a big meal for dinner is something most people don’t want to change. Therefore, we should go to work on the other two meals.

For many people in the West, breakfast consists of a banana, cereal, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So, by the time lunch rolls around, it’s not surprising they’re hungry. The large lunch leads them to be sleepy in the afternoon. Instead, consider having a more substantial breakfast that will see you through the day. That way, lunchtime can be nothing more than a snack, allowing your mind to stay sharp until you finish up for the day.

Suggestion: A few small changes in your diet can lead to improved productivity at the office.

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4. Breathing

Breathing is another undervalued technique to boosting our performance. Patrick McKeown’s The Oxygen Advantage, James Nestor’s Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, and Wim Hof’s The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential all delve into the power of breathing and oxygen.

Brendon Burchard, the bestselling author of Life’s Golden Ticket: A Story About Second Chances and the creator of High-Performance Academy, says, “I don’t hope to have energy. I generate energy.” He does this through a series of breathing and physical exercises and it’s remarkable how effective these are in helping us boost performance.

Suggestion: Take the time to learn how to breathe as it can an effective way to boost energy or relax your body.

5. Reward Your Body

Another long-term solution to help us stay awake at work is by rewarding our bodies. Our bodies work hard for us. The daily grind can take its toll on our bodies over time, which is why it’s critical to reward our bodies.

Massages are an excellent way to reduce pain and muscle soreness while improving blood flow and reducing blood pressure. Nice warm baths can also achieve similar results. Massages and baths help battle insomnia, reduce injuries and anxiety, help with joint pain, and much more.[5][6]

Suggestion: Schedule regular massages into your month.

Bottom Line

Learning how to stay awake at work is a real challenge for millions of people the world over. Many turn to caffeine in the form of coffee to give them the boost they need, but it’s a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Instead, we should focus on changing a few of our daily habits. The results will astound you and with any luck, you’ll be able to kiss the caffeine habit goodbye.

More Tips on How to Stay Awake at Work

Featured photo credit: Ilya Pavlov via unsplash.com

Reference

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