Do you find yourself sitting in your cubicle at three-o-clock in the afternoon completely zapped of all energy? You don’t have to always be dragging in the afternoon. As it turns out, some of your regular habits may be stealing your energy. Here are a few surprising energy thieves and some ideas to combat them.
Being Addicted to E-mail
We all think being wired to e-mail, voice mail, IM, BlackBerry, is supposed to boost productivity and free up energy. The opposite is true. If you continually halt what you’re doing to answer e-mail, check voice mail and attend to a thousand other beeps and buzzes, your attention becomes diluted, which leaves you feeling depleted.
According to John Salerno, MD, a New York City family physician and director of the Salerno Center for Complementary Medicine, “The brain needs a lot of physical and mental energy to multitask, which gets drained.” Continually redirecting your attention from the BlackBerry to other stimuli siphons more energy and distracts your brain further.
It is recommended that you switch off electronic gadgets during your most productive hours of work, which usually tends to be in the morning. Try to limit yourself to checking e-mail once every hour, instead of looking at it whenever it beeps. (Hint: Turn off the beep sound.) Whenever something pops into your mind that you need to remember – call back a friend, e-mail softball coach, write it down and take care of it later.
We may be used to living in enclosed spaces with lots of stuff like a refrigerator door packed with artwork, a full of mail, a desk that’s little more than a shifting pile of folders and paper–but it’s not how we’re meant to live, says Dr. Salerno. “Clutter signals disorder, which makes us anxious. Our brains sense that anxiety.”
Do your best to clear visual clutter, so when you look around, your eyes can “rest” rather than dart from mess to mess, says Janice Ash, organization expert and owner of I Declutter!. Instead of layering papers on a bulletin board, leave a small border of space around them. Clear the front of the fridge of all but the most current kids’ artwork, and make a habit of leaving the kitchen counter stuff-free before bed each night.
Have you ever sat around for an hour or more not tackling a chore or work because it’s just so unbearably monotonous? Mental foot-dragging, boredom and lack of motivation are draining, says Dr. Salerno. “Put simply, we like to see results, and getting things done gives us a mental energy boost.” So avoiding tasks deprives you of that high.
Try finding a friend or coworker who you can call or e-mail to enlist in a time challenge. “Say, ‘I’ll check back in with you in an hour, and we’ll see if we’ve gotten these reports/ organizing chores done.'” Or promise yourself motivational rewards for completing the task at hand, suggests Dr. Salerno.
We all know that not sitting or standing straight is bad for your body. But all that hunching over a computer screen or cradling a phone on your shoulder wreaks havoc on your energy level, too, says Pia Martin, a San Diego health and wellness chiropractor. “When you sit for long periods, you tend to slump forward, leading to rounded shoulders and a tilted lower spine. Your muscles contract, and blood flow is impaired,” which limits the amount of oxygen to your brain.
Remember to sit up straight! Your legs should be at right angles to the floor, your arms at right angles to your keyboard. Be conscious of keeping your shoulders down, not up near your ears. Adjust your computer screen so your eyes gaze at the middle of it. And don’t just sit there, if you have to, set a timer to go off hourly to remind you to get up, stretch and get a drink of water.
Toxic Indoor Air
Humming copy machines. Cleaning products. Dry-cleaning chemicals. Synthetic carpeting. Even the desks in your office may be contributing to the load of toxins you breathe each day, because all of them release chemicals into the air. “No one knows for sure how much harm these cause to our bodies, but they do build up over time, and can drain your energy by potentially interfering with thyroid function and overloading the body’s detox system,” says Frank Lipman, MD, a New York City physician and author of Spent: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again.
If you’re feeling tired, go outside for 10 minutes to breathe fresh air. Indoors, cultivate houseplants, which are remarkably good at absorbing toxins. When purchasing office furniture, remember that there are companies out there like New Life Office, who use low-VOC paint and glue on refurbished office cubicles.
Eating Too Much at Once
Consuming a big meal is always something that will cause a dip in energy later, but that effect is most noticeable in the afternoon because the slump happens at that reach-for-coffee-or-sugar hour: 3 p.m. Here’s what happens: You fill up on a carb- and calorie-rich lunch and, as nutrients are absorbed by your body, excess glucose is dumped into your bloodstream, and your body releases insulin to process all that sugar. “A better idea is to spread out what and how you eat throughout the day to keep energy levels steady,” says Gloria Tsang, RD, founder of HealthCastle.com.
Eat every four hours, instead of the usual six. To reform lunch, “try to brown bag more often than eating out,” says Tsang. It’s a fact that if you buy takeout or dine in a restaurant, you’re likely to eat more. Four hours after lunch, have a snack. If you’re going to eat dinner a couple of hours later, keep the snack small, such as half a turkey sandwich, or a yogurt and some crackers. Other ideas: Drink liquids (water, tea) all day. “Dehydration makes you tired, too,” says Tsang.
For more ideas on how to get your energy back, see thisarticle by Denise Schipani on Yahoo! Health.