We’re not built to sit at desks and work on reports for hours on end — but for good or bad, caffeine has now made this possible. Coffee has indeed become the universal drug of the worldwide desk jockey, but with the jitters and anxiety it can bring, that might not be such a good thing. If you’re struggling to cut out your cup of joe entirely, then maybe you just need to try replacing it.
#1. Prioritize good sleep.
First on the list is sleep. Nothing beats away at drowsiness like making sure you get your full eight hours the night before — and don’t try to cheat it. Cutting even an hour from the recommended sleeping time can lead to a huge loss in productivity and focus. To get the most out of your day, set a bedtime and stick to it.
#2. Get up, stand up.
Sitting down can lead to severe drowsiness — which only gets worse if you have a habit of slumping in your chair. Find a way to stand as much as possible throughout your workday, and make sure you’re maintaining a straight back when sitting.
#3. Chug H2O.
Our bodies need a lot of water, especially in the mornings and in the afternoon. Make it a daily habit to drink some water when you wake up, to make up for the fact that your body hasn’t had any for the past eight hours. Staying hydrated helps your brain retain strong cognitive function and gets your body’s metabolism going, avoiding a sleepy, drowsy state.
#4. Go for a brisk jog.
Just 20 minutes to half an hour of light exercise can massively boost your energy and alertness — avoid going all-out in your workouts, as you’re more likely to be tired afterwards. If you need a good time to get your weightlifting on, though, opt for an early morning workout. If you’re feeling extra drowsy, get up and do a handstand (against-the-wall or freestyle) if you’re physically able, to rush blood into your head. Otherwise, bend over and touch your toes.
#5. Stand in the light.
Our body’s natural sleeping cycle is controlled by what’s called the circadian rhythm, also known as a biological clock. Exactly how that biological clock is set depends on our environment and, most importantly, light. If it’s bright out, our brain will tell our body to stay awake and do things. If it’s dark out, our brain is more likely to induce sleep — so make sure you’re getting adequate natural light/sunlight at work.
#6. Listen to music.
The key to staying awake while working is to keep your body’s senses alert — to jar your brain into staying at high-alert as much as possible. Music is the best way to do that with your head — but avoid mellow pieces, calming hip hop, chillstep or anything else that might lead to shut lids. Think hard rock, chiptune, drum and bass — anything you can bob your head to, whatever your tastes are. Keep your volume down low — that way, your brain will subconsciously stay active to try and discern a song’s lyrics and beats.
#7. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Eye exercises are a great way to keep your eyelids from getting heavy. Roll your eyes in an exaggerated manner whenever you feel like they’re no longer cooperating as they should, and look from left to right, up and down. Blink rapidly. This should help your eyes focus on the task at hand, and it’ll help you refresh your head a little if you’re falling into the “fuzzy zone” of thinking.
#8. Eat light, and eat often.
Eating heavy breakfasts and lunches will leach your energy as your body fights to digest your meals. Skip the sausages and bacon in the mornings, and eat a fiber-rich breakfast to help with digestion. Eat a light lunch and opt for a lot of healthy snacks like nuts and baby carrots to keep your energy levels up throughout the day without slowing yourself down with difficult digestion. Avoid sugary drinks/snacks, because of the dangers of a blood sugar spike and crash.
#9. Try tea.
If you’re not completely cutting out your caffeine, then opt for green tea instead of coffee. Not only does green tea have much less caffeine than its darker, bitter counterpart, it’s also got an amino acid called L-theanine that causes a sort of “calm attentive” effect in your brain, keeping you focused without the jitters.
#10. Get a good old splash of cold water.
Nothing startles your brain like sudden changes. When you’re feeling sleepy and drowsy, getting your face wet and cold immediately causes your mind to react, shaking you up a good bit. It works best in the morning, right before a workout — but it works well in the afternoons as well, when you’re hitting your daily slump.
#11. Avoid getting warm and comfy.
When your body is exposed to heat, you get drowsy. The opposite happens to you when you’re cold. Extreme cold forces the body to work harder to regulate your body temperature, to keep your organs functioning without becoming affected by the drop in heat. Take off your jacket, keep a fan on your face or lower the temperature on the AC to stay awake.
#12. Consider chewing gum.
Although it’s not really recommended, working your facial muscles is a great way to stay awake and keep your brain occupied just enough to focus on your work without falling asleep. Just be careful not to overwork your jaw, causing locking and headaches.
Another alternative is to eat ice — chewing combined with the cold of the ice will keep you awake. Make sure to eat unsweetened gum (neither sugar nor sugar-free) or make your own.