Diane Malaspina, a Yoga Medicine® E-RYT 500 instructor and Therapeutic Specialist, discusses the benefits of a regular meditation practice and how it could help boost energy, fight fatigue and enhance mood.
Maybe it happens mid-morning, as the minutes tick like molasses toward lunchtime. Or perhaps it’s after lunch, as your full belly lulls your tired brain into an unproductive stupor. It might even strike during the last hour of your shift, when it’s too early to clock out physically, but it seems too late to get your mind focused on a new task.
We all succumb to the workplace slump now and then. The key to combat it is to find quick and easy power boosters to keep you energized and on track until it’s time to wind down and head home.
Talk a short walk.
A quick five- to 10-minute walk provides a change of scenery and has an energizing effect, notes Hillary Cecere, M.S., RDN for Eat Clean Bro. “Studies have shown that taking a short walk can result in an improved mood, more energy and even decreased food cravings,” Cecere explains. Plus, she says taking a walk outside offers even more benefits from exposure to sunlight, which is thought to increase levels of serotonin—a hormone that stabilizes mood and increases focus—in the brain.
Fuel up with a small power snack.
Instead of eating a large lunch and consuming foods that are high in refined sugars, Cecere says it’s best to stick to small meals and snacks that contain high-fiber whole grains, veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats to maximize energy levels.
As a bonus, when you prepare a special snack, you can look forward to it and set aside time to enjoy it, notes psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling. “It’s a little bit of a break, or recess, to look forward to, like when you were a child,” she says. “Plus, snack time can foster a bit of creativity and create an opportunity for social time.”
Drink plenty of water.
By keeping a water bottle at your desk, you’re more likely to stay hydrated, energized and on task. “Dehydration can cause fatigue and leave you feeling sluggish,” warns Cecere. “If you’re unsure whether you’re drinking enough water, check your urine. It should always be light yellow or clear. If it’s not, up your water intake.”
Take a power nap (if possible).
When you’re struggling to keep your heavy eyelids open long enough to draft an email or parse a spreadsheet, tat’s your circadian rhythm telling you to take a nap, notes fitness and nutrition coach Jill Brown. If you’re fortunate enough to have that as a viable option, stop fighting that natural impulse and step away for a quick 20-minute snooze.
Do an energy breathing exercise.
If napping is more dream than reality, Brown suggests “energy breathing” as the next best energy booster. Sit up tall or stand, breathe in deep and slow from your nose, and exhale fast from the mouth. Repeat at least 10 times, or for a full minute. “This technique increases oxygen to the body quickly,” explains Brown. Better yet, follow that up with a 10-minute walk, also focusing on that breathing pattern to circulate oxygen through your muscles.
Clean your workspace.
Piles of papers, dusty surfaces and generally disorganized spaces can bog you down and serve as a subconscious distraction. Take a break from your screen to clean and organize your workspace. “Less clutter results in more productivity,” notes Cecere. “I often find that when my space is clean, my mind is clear.” Plus, just the act of standing and physically straightening your surroundings will give your brain a jolt of energy.
Do some calf raises.
Health coach Cheryl Russo swears by this exercise as a quick pick-me-up. Stand behind a chair and place your hands on the back of it, then lift your heels off the floor and push up through the ball of your foot, then lower back down. “This move improves circulation in the lower extremities and energizes fatigued legs,” Russo points out.
Do a quick yoga sequence.
Russo shares some of her favorite energy-boosting yoga poses:
- Standing mountain pose: Stand with your legs hip distance apart and your back straight. Roll your shoulders back so your chest is open and the crown of your head reaches toward the ceiling. With a big exhale, raise your arms overhead and interlace your fingers, reaching up out of your rib cage. Lean toward the right and left. Repeat for a few rounds.
- Standing tabletop position: Hinge forward until your back is parallel with the floor, gently placing your hands on the back of a chair or on your thighs. Stay here for a few breaths.
- Cat/cow (standing): Start in the standing tabletop position. For the cow pose, roll your shoulders back, let your belly and chest release toward the floor and inhale deeply. On the exhale, round out your back, draw your navel toward your spine and lower your head toward the floor (cat pose). Switch back and forth a few times.
Do a five-minute bodyweight circuit.
When you’re feeling sluggish, a mini workout can do wonders for energy levels, with the bonus of burning some extra calories. Bertus Albertse, founder of Body20, suggests this five-minute exercise routine to increase blood flow to the muscles and also to harmonize your left and right brain hemispheres for better problem-solving skills, coordination and overall productivity, while releasing the feel-good hormone serotonin. Perform each move for one minute, taking breaks as needed.
- Wall Squats: These isometric holds activate the glute and leg muscles.
- Standing Lunges: These improve blood flow for better circulation, while increasing the heart rate and metabolic processes.
- Plank: This move activates the core/stabilizing muscles for better posture and back support.
- Pushups: This exercise engages the upper body muscles while also activating the stabilizers for improved posture.
- Triceps Dips: Use your desk or chair to dip your way to toned arms while increasing the blood flow to your fingers.
Take a meditation break.
Instead of taking a coffee break, try a meditation break.“Meditation elicits a calming effect on the nervous system, and also contributes to mental clarity and focus,” says Diane Malaspina, Ph.D, Yoga Medicine® therapeutic specialist. “Endorphins are released during meditation, which naturally boosts energy, wards off fatigue and enhances mood.”
You don’t even have to leave your desk to squeeze in a quick meditation. Start by sitting tall and making sure the hips and legs are comfortable. Close your eyes and follow your breath. After a few moments of centering your mind on your breath, begin to count each inhale, with the goal of maintaining attention on your breath for 10 consecutive inhales. If your mind wanders and you lose count, start again and repeat until you can maintain focus on the breath for 10 straight inhales, Malaspina suggests.