The Best Ways to Stay Awake Without Caffeine
Everyone knows that feeling of desperation and hope when reaching for a cup of coffee to get through the day. But since caffeine is a stimulant, it's not ideal to reach for another cup when you're feeling sluggish in the afternoon or evening. Who wants the possibility of anxiety and irritability right before bed, anyway? You get enough of that without caffeine.
Whether you're trying to cut down on an evening habit or want to go cold turkey, there are other science-backed ways to maintain the laser focus you need to watch the clock for the exact minute you can leave the office.
Crank up the jams
That's right, turn up the tunes. Listening to your favorite music affects many parts of your brain that can motivate you, improve your mood, and increase energy. Your brain’s auditory nerve system is pretty complex, but you get the gist. Music excites your body by increasing the flow of oxygen to your heart, and releases endorphins. Fun fact: classical music in particular has been found to help people concentrate and relax. Ever wonder why so many people have headphones in at work? There's your answer.
Drink lots of water
The human body needs a lot of H2O, so keep a bottle of water handy at all times, because dehydration will bring your energy levels way down.
If you feel yourself getting tired at work, sometimes just going outside to get some fresh air and some sunlight will do the trick. Take a walk during lunch -- sunlight and physical activity activate parts of your brain associated with memory and mental energy. And you want both of those!
Eat a (healthy) snack
It's probably not a good idea to turn to chocolate bars (which also contain caffeine) for a quick high, since that sugar rush will leave you down in the dumps 10 minutes later. Low blood sugar will make you feel drowsy, so if you're feeling sluggish, find nutrient-rich foods to snack on. Carrots, oranges, nuts, avocado, or beans are good options to have on hand.
Just be careful with lunch. If you eat too large a meal, you risk falling into the dreaded food coma while you digest, instead of diving back into the daily hustle.
Try deep breathing
Taking a couple of long deep breaths is scientifically proven to help reduce general stress and anxiety, neither of which help productivity. Not only that, getting more oxygen in and out of your body can make you feel more energized and recharged. Try any of these breathing exercises to increase energy.
Mindlessly chewing gum has proven to be much more than a tasty breath freshener -- it can augment alertness and energy, and help you stay focused on whatever task you have at hand. So a major "HAH!" to all the teachers who made you spit out your gum in class. Keeping your mouth busy also keeps you from clenching your jaw, which leads to shallow breaths... and breathing is important, as you know.
Take a break from your screen(s)
Having your gaze glued to a computer screen can seriously strain your eyes, making it hard at times to even keep them open. This one’s a little harder to combat, but what helps is making sure to look around every once in a while, or positioning your screen about 40in away.
Watch cute animal videos
Not a typo! Interactions with animals make everyone feel good, but watching them do cute stuff online is fun too. Specifically, cat videos are known to boost energy. Luckily, there's no shortage of those -- now go out and drink some more water!
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Bianca Heyward drinks coffee imported from Colombia every day and is suspicious of those who don't need a triple shot of espresso to wake up each morning. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, but not until she's had her coffee.