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Caffeine-free ways to stay mentally alert at work

23 January, 2015

Fact: According to Roy Morgan Research (2013) the average coffee consumption of Australian adults is 9.2 cups a week. This is a decline from previous research findings that found we averaged 10.2 cups.

Grabbing a quick coffee on the way to work, during meetings, between meetings, at lunch or for afternoon tea are common in workplaces across the country.

Are you drinking about 9 cups of coffee per week?

People who work long hours (60 hours+ per week) and parents of young children are said to be keeping the average high.

Caffeine makes you feel alert (or awake) for a short time. Its effect peaks in your bloodstream within one hour of consumption and can last between 4-6 hours.

Attacking your central nervous system, caffeine has the following negative effects on your body. It can:

  • give you the shakes
  • make it hard to fall asleep
  • make it hard to stay asleep
  • increase your heart rate and even cause uneven rhythms
  • increase your blood pressure causing hypertension (meaning your blood is pumping with more force than required around your body)
  • cause headaches or dizziness
  • dehydrate you because it’s a diuretic – ie it makes you go to the toilet more than your body needs to.

Doesn’t sound good, does it?

Let’s take a look at some other ways we can maintain mental alertness at work with fewer side effects.


Avocado-and-mint

1. Eat Well

Brain foods will increase your focus and concentration.

Try adding these brain foods to your daily diet:

  • Fruit – blueberries, apples, grapes
  • Nuts – especially walnuts and even peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Leafy green salads for lunch. The greener the leaf the better.
  • Fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines (perhaps pop a mint after eating these!)
  • Chocolate – it MUST be dark. And yes, I know it contains some caffeine, but a few pieces of dark chocolate (with all its antioxidants) are actually good for you.

Stretch-exercises

2. Exercise

Most of us have the exercise story down pat. But for those of you who think running to meet the bus or train counts as exercise, here are few stretch exercises that can help boost your focus:

  • The Seated Twist
  •  The Chest/Shoulder Opener
  •  Seated Pigeon
  •  Hip Flexor Stretch
  •  Hamstring Stretch

3. Adjust The Room Temperature

An interesting study by Cornell University (New York) found that “When temperatures were low (20 degrees Celsius) employees made 44% more mistakes than at optimal room temperature (25 degrees Celsius).”

Thermal comfort can have a large effect on productivity. Try it.

4. Take Your Lunch Break

Taking regular short breaks and a 30-minute lunch break improves concentration, improves physical health and decreases fatigue.

Here are five tips to help you take back your lunch break.

The typical excuses of “I’m too busy” and “I don’t need a break for lunch” might be working against you. Try it for yourself. Take your lunch break regularly over the course of a week and see if your focus improves by the end of the day.

5. Peel An Orange or Pop A Mint

Scents and spices can transform your mood and productivity.

In a corporate office environment, simply peeling an orange will appeal to your senses and helps with anxiety and frustration. Mint is said to have the same effect, so you could drink some peppermint tea, or keep a packet of strong mints at hand.

If your office does allow, here are some other scents and spices that are good for focus and concentration.

  • Cinnamon
  • Lavender
  • Grapefruit

What other non-caffeine ways help you stay alert?

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