Remember that episode of "Seinfeld" when George found a way to squeeze in some afternoon shut-eye without anyone knowing by taking a nap underneath his desk? I think about that episode regularly when it's mid-afternoon and I'm trying to meet a deadline and all I really want to do is to crawl under my desk and rest for a few minutes. But if it didn't work for George, I know it won't work for me. I need to find a way to power through.
It's always tempting to reach for caffeine or sugar to get through the slump. Fortunately, there are much better ways to get a little boost without ruining your dinner or a good night's sleep. Here's our list of easy ways to wake up when you're feeling sleepy.
1. Get Up
If you are chained to your desk, then at the very least you can stand up, shake out your limbs, run in place, (try to) touch your toes or do whatever you can in the confines of your workspace to get your body moving and your energy flowing. If you have some wiggle room, take a walk or even a quick run to really get that blood pumping. Bonus points if you can get out into the sunshine and fresh air.
2. Tease Your Brain
If you can't get your body moving, try to get your mind moving in a different direction. Try a crossword puzzle or game of Sudoku or at least switch tasks so that you're working on something new. Mentally changing gears may help you to perk up and shake off the afternoon cobwebs.
3. Add a Lemon
Research shows that the scent of a lemon is invigorating and can help stimulate your mental juices. Suck on a lemon drop, drink some lemon tea, or go for the gusto and bite right into a lemon. That should wake you up!
4. Chill Out
Step away from the hot cup of coffee and drink a glass of cold ice water instead. The cool water will wake you up and rehydrate you for extra energy. Need even more? Splash some ice cold water on your face or rub an ice cube on your temples or wrist for a brisk awakening. "Cold triggers the stimulating hormone adrenaline," internist Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., the author of "From Fatigued to Fantastic!" told the "Today" show.
5. Grab a Mint
Like lemon, peppermint is an invigorating scent that can help perk you up. Keep a few peppermint candies in your desk drawer that you can grab in an emergency. You can also chew peppermint gum, add some mint to your ice water, or wash your hands with peppermint soap for the same effect.
6. Rock Out
Upbeat music can wake you up and get you going, so grab those headphones and pull up your favorite zippy tune. Research shows you can up the energy levels even further by singing along. And if you really want a boost, get out of your chair and get those feet moving too with a quick dance session at your desk. (OK, sure; this one might get you some looks if you work in a traditional office!)
7. Breathe Fire
Not literally, although the thought of breathing fire might give you the surge of adrenaline you need to wake up. A much easier — and safer — way to breathe fire is to practice the yoga breathing technique by the same name. The "breath of fire" illustrated in the video above helps to increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, which can help give you that energy boost you need to get through the day.
8. Change Your Mind
You may be able to trick yourself into feeling more energetic by simply telling yourself that you are. In a recent study, participants who were told they slept well (regardless of whether or not they did) performed better on cognitive tests than those who were told they slept poorly. Just repeat to yourself over and over again that you're wide awake and full of energy and you may be amazed when you are.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and improve concentration. If you practice regularly, it can be a excellent tool to use when your energy is bottoming out in the afternoons. If you've tried meditation before but just can't seem to get the hang of it, it's possible that you're just not doing the right type of meditation for your lifestyle. Check out this link to find the right meditation style for you.
10. Grab a (Healthy) Snack
Many of us like to reach for a snack to help wake up in the afternoon. The problem with that isn't necessarily that we're eating; it's what we're eating. Muffins, chocolate and vending machine fare may sound great, but they aren't the healthiest of options. The act of chewing can help to wake you up — especially if it's something crunchy. So reach for an apple, a handful of almonds or some baby carrots instead of those processed and sugar-laden treats.
One reason laughter is so therapeutic is that it releases endorphins, just like exercise and massage. Those feel-good hormones not only help to dull pain, but they also can give you more energy. So take a few minutes to watch that hilarious video everyone has been talking about. You'll laugh your way right into a better afternoon.