What are some tips for staying alert in the afternoon?

Stay sharp and alert through the afternoon with these 5 simple hacks:

ONE. Get creative with your lunch break.

Why would you eat the same food at the school or office cafeteria every day, have the same types of conversations with the same people, eat without focusing on the food in front of you, then come back to your desk and still not feel like you can make it through the afternoon? Rethink your lunch break so it gives you more energy for the rest of the day. How?

Make your own lunch and bring it to work. Prepare what you need the night before so you need only minutes in the morning to add the freshest ingredients.

  • A protein-packed sandwich. Layer tuna or sardines with slices of avocado, tomato, lettuce and cucumbers, add some cheese and mustard, then squeeze lemon juice on top. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are responsible for improving brain cell communication and regulating neurotransmitters that boost mental focus.
  • A big salad with fresh spinach and lentils. Lentils are rich in vitamin B which can help improve brain power, while dark leafy greens such as spinach may reduce cognitive decline. For a protein boost that will keep you fuller, add some grilled chicken or salmon.
  • Pack dinner leftovers in a glass container with a lid, then add fresh vegetables on the side that you can dress up with some olive oil and lemon juice, or another dressing you like, or just have them whole or sliced to snack on (carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, kale, broccoli, olives, etc.).

TWO. Get your body moving right after lunch.

When you’re done with lunch, take a walk. Not only is it beneficial to keep moving after a meal, but you also give your brain some much needed rest. Monitor your steps with a pedometer or one of the many apps you can download on your phone; most phones already come with a built in health app that automatically logs your steps daily. What can you do with this time?

Feed your brain right. Select an interesting podcast to listen to on your walk. Here are some ideas:

  • Optimize with Brian Johnson (my top pick: More wisdom in less time to help you live your greatest life. Condensed big ideas from the best books on optimal living and micro classes on how to apply these ideas.)
  • The Inquiry (a debate on a controversial topic in the news and 4 experts challenging each other with 2 views, for and against the topic)
  • Intelligence Squared (the world’s leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion, led by great orators and sharp minds)
  • Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod (creator of The Miracle Morning, provides ideas to cultivate a morning routine and boost productivity)
  • Planet Money (stories about smart people, economics, politics)
  • Radiolab (show about curiosity, interesting ideas, science, philosophy)
  • This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt (a podcast dedicated to intentional leadership, with the goal to help you live with more passion, work with greater focus, and lead with extraordinary influence)
  • Happier With Gretchen Rubin (a fun show led by bestselling author of The Happiness Project, with small ideas you can apply to your life to exercise your happiness muscle)
  • Radio Headspace (a podcast to give you inspiration for a healthier, happier life, with topics such as mindfulness, being happier, and changing the world)
  • Question of the Day (a show for people short on time and long on curiosity, with a lot of good humor in trying to answer the question at hand)

THREE. Take a power nap to renew your mental energy.

Naps can maximize productivity by helping your brain absorb new information; they are also good for your heart health, they lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety, and can even improve memory and learning. You may need to get creative to find the space to nap, but it’s possible! Here are a few ideas:

  • Find a 20-30 minute block of time mid-afternoon when you don’t have classes or meetings. Give yourself an extra 30 minute buffer so you don’t have to rush anywhere right after your nap.
  • Find a place where you won’t be disturbed. If you’re studying or working from home, it’s easy: it can be your bed, a comfortable couch, or a big armchair. If you’re at the library, it might be a table tucked away in the back, next to a wall, so you’re not disturbed by people passing by. If you’re at work, it could be your car, an armchair in a small conference room nobody is using or in a common lounge area after everyone’s done with lunch and things are more quiet.
  • Block away environmental noise with noise-cancelling headphones, and listen to music that can help you relax (it can be classical music, a playlist ofchillout tunes, or simply sounds of nature). Don’t want to listen to music? Get a good pair of soft silicone ear plugs like these and relax in silence.
  • Have a small cup of coffee. Caffeine takes about 30 minutes to kick in, so time it by drinking a cup right before your nap. Don’t drink coffee? Try green tea instead, as it also contains caffeine. When you wake up, you’ll feel more alert and ready to tackle your work.

FOUR. Fuel up right with the right snacks.

Resist the temptation to have a candy bar when you feel tired; you may feel the sugar rush soon afterwards, but then you’ll inevitably also feel the slump once it passes. Instead, prepare a snack or two ahead of time to get you through the day:

  • A fruit and nut mix. This mix of dried fruit and nuts can be prepared ahead of time, it’s portable so you can bring it with you to school or work, and it’s especially good for an energy boost when you need it mid-afternoon.
  • Fresh fruit. Rich in vitamin C, fruit boosts mental agility and gives you energy. Eat it whole (apple, banana, tangerine, pear, peach) or dice several different types of fruit in the morning, then bring to work or school and have as a fruit salad (watermelon, papaya, mango, berries, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple).

FIVE. Train your mind to get calm and reenergize.

Meditating can declutter your brain of the thousands of random thoughts that fill your mind and distract you from the brilliant work you could be doing. This small practice doesn’t require a lot of time, is simple to follow, and has many benefits, including better focus throughout the day, more concentration, improved ability to cope with the day’s events, and a greater sense of calm. It can feel as refreshing as taking a nap, so consider this option in case a nap is not your thing. Try the Headspace app to start with just 10 minutes; it’s fun and easy to use. All you need is a chair and your headphones.

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