Published March 01, 2012
Sitting at your desk all day, though not physically taxing, can be exhausting.
“Over time you build up tension in your muscles, and end up becoming fatigued and exhausted,” says Erik Peper, professor at the Institute for Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State University.
In fact, some of the work habits you’ve developed, especially if you’re tied to your computer, may be draining your energy. Here’s what you can do to raise your energy level at work, and avoid that afternoon lull.
1) Take a 2-second micro-breaks. When you’re using your mouse or keyboard, you unknowingly tense your muscles, actually holding them tight, essentially not moving a muscle fiber. This tension starts to build up as body-wide fatigue. To try to relax the tension, take one to two-second micro-breaks by dropping your hands to your lap and letting your arms, shoulders and hands go limp—and relaxing your stomach, which may be clenched as well.
To remember to take micro breaks, time them to something that occurs often. For instance, take a micro-break every time you get an email or phone call, or when you’re reading on your computer don't need to click or type anything, or at the end of each sentence you type.
2) Take deep breaths. Just as you tend to clench your muscles when doing fine motor skills at the computer, you may be breathing shallowly as well, if not completely holding your breath for seconds at a time when you’re doing fine motor skills. Think about breathing deeply, with your diaphragm, rather than taking shallower breaths in your chest. Your abdomen should become bigger when you inhale and smaller when you exhale. Deep breathing tends to relax all your muscles as well.
3) Take a walk, not a coffee break. If you’re feeling an energy lull in the afternoon, rather than get a cup of coffee or a caffeinated soda, go for a 20-minute walk. Exercising increases your energy and gets rid of muscle tension. In addition, a new study on mice suggests that if you eat after exercising, your brain gets a boost of energy, lending support to the theory that exercise enhances cognitive function. A great strategy would be going for a brisk walk and then eating a low-fat snack.
4) Wiggle and squirm. Being fidgety can also energize your body and release muscle tension. You can do it without others knowing simply by moving your feet in circles, tapping your feet, shifting your weight from one buttock to the other, or gently bouncing your shoulders up and down as if your are giggling. You can download a free break-reminder program like Mindful Clock or Free-Eye Rest and Break Reminder .
5) Eat protein for breakfast. Breakfast foods—bagels, muffins or cereal—tend to be chock full of carbs, and although carbs can give you an energy boost because they are quickly converted to sugar, which is used for energy, their energy punch doesn’t last long.
For a longer boost, eat some protein with your carbs to slow the rate of digestion. Try peanut butter on toast, cream cheese on a bagel, a hard-boiled egg, yogurt, a handful of nuts or a high- protein breakfast bar.
Laurie Tarkan is an award-winning health journalist whose work appears in the New York Times, among other national magazines and websites. She has authored several health books, including "Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility." Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.