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7 Caffeine-Free Ways to Increase Alertness

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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:

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    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.

    3. Stretching

    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.

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    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.

    5. Hydrate!

    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.

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    6. Phone-a-friend

    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!

    7. Exercise

    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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    Image: Jraj7

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

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    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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