Self: From Desk to Dawn
Work won’t wear you out, once you’ve tried these top tips for keeping fresh and focused the whole day through.
Whether it’s a case of the Mondays or the four-o’clock drag, we’ve all felt the weariness of the work day weigh down before. It’s hard to focus when your stomach is grumbling or your back aches from hunching over a computer all day. We talked with Susan Racette, associate professor and nutrition/exercise physiology expert at Washington University, and Danielle Clapper, a registered dietitian at St. Anthony’s Medical Center, to gather some tips on fighting desk fatigue and keeping yourself happy and energized all day long.
Breakfast is key. Our minds need fuel to function at their finest, so don’t starve yours by skipping out on the morning meal. Foods with plenty of complex carbs and proteins are best—carbs are brain food, and the more complex they are, the longer they’ll keep you going. Try a bowl of whole wheat cereal or oatmeal with low-fat milk, a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter or a breakfast sandwich with low-fat cheese and turkey bacon or sausage. Fruits like bananas, berries and oranges are also fantastic fuel and easy to eat on the go.
Take a hike. Even if you don’t have time for a full morning workout, you can start the day strong by squeezing in some mild activity. Take the dog for a walk instead of just letting him out, or park a block or two farther away from work. If you can walk, bike or take public transportation to work, do it—it’ll get your blood moving much more effectively than simply walking from the car to your desk.
Plan ahead for lunch. For the same reason that you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you shouldn’t decide what’s for lunch when you’re already hungry. You make rash decisions when famished, and as a result, you’re likely to end up eating way too much or choosing heavy, greasy foods that’ll only weigh you down later. Instead, bring a lunch from home, like a low-fat frozen dinner, whole wheat crackers and cheese or a sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Get moving. One of the best ways to break out of desk fatigue is to set a reminder to get up and move around every hour or two. Visit the restroom or refill your water bottle. Take a long phone call on the move if you can, pacing the hallways or a making a lap around the office while you talk. If you want to take it up a notch, stairs are a great opportunity to get your heart rate up quickly. Take five minutes each day to walk or jog up and down a couple flights, and you’ll have your afternoon exercise in the bag. The endorphins will make for a great caffeine-free afternoon pick-me-up, too.
Pick up an after-work hobby that you can look forward to, like a softball league, kickboxing or rock climbing. Signing up with a friend or colleague can help make sure you both stick with it—and it’ll be a much more enjoyable and social experience.