September 11, 2012

Office Zombie Bad! 3 ways to stay alert at work–naturally!

courtesy of AgoraGames.com

*Note: this is the second in a series of trainings entitled “Office Awesomeness—Stress, Energy and Performance Training for the Nine to Five Superhero

I really get it.  You don’t want to be a zombie at work.

It’s no fun for you, and it’s generally not the best way to score points with your boss.

And I know, our modern lifestyle often seems insane—working extreme hours, crashing late every night, under-slept, under-hydrated, meals consisting more of “proprietary processed ingredients” than actual whole foods.

I’m not gonna lie—it’s f’ing tough to resist the urge to reach for the 5-Hour Energy shot or whatever other chemical fuel is in grabbing distance.

The typical strategy is “just maintain.” Keep the steady burn through work and treat yourself better when you get home—or when you retire.

Harken to me Hero!  There is another way!

courtesy of Adminsecret

The whole point of the Office Awesomeness training is to steadily introduce simple, free, and immediately available alternatives to the less-than-healthy habits you may have gotten yourself into.

Here’s a simple analogy for building up a reliance on external, chemical boosts of energy: each time you use coffee, energy drinks, candy, carbs, pharmaceuticals and the like to stave off fatigue or give yourself that extra boost, you are withdrawing from your savings account.

Remember, we build up a savings account for emergencies, for big purchases, to rest easy at night, and to build up interest over the long-term. In this analogy, your body’s ability to naturally produce, maintain and increase it’s own clean energy is your savings account.

But caffeine, simple or processed sugars and other “pick-me-up” substances have a high toll on the body and this savings account—especially when used every day.

By substituting a foreign and artificial substance into your body each time you start to get tired, unfocused or in a low mood, you are teaching your body to depend more and more on these outside inputs instead of strengthening your body’s natural ability to do the same thing—and this depletes your savings.

And a day comes when you realize the cup of coffee isn’t simply providing a quick boost, but has completely taken the place of any natural vibrancy you may have once had.

Remember the E-Z chairs from Wall-E and the comical yet sad results? Yea, it’s like that.

Here are few articles exemplifying the intense side-effects and potential dangers of these chemicals taken daily:

Ready to consider some alternatives?

A quick disclaimer.

I drink pu-erh (fermented Chinese tea) almost every morning. Ever since living in Argentina, I love me some good Maté. I’ll even have a latte at my local cafe once every week or two. And I have an incredible soft spot for home-baked ginger cookies and Trader Joe’s mango sorbet.

I am not an absolutist, saying something is completely to be avoided (within sensible reason). My main priority with this and other articles is to offer more wise choices and balance into your daily life and overall lifestyle.

Taking the first steps—three to be precise.

What other option is there when fatigue hits, you’re still in the middle of your work day, and you’ve gotta show up strong?

Below, I demonstrate three methods to keep you alert, intelligent and Red Bull free.

These methods are simple, immediately effective, and fabulously free (and savings-account-sustainable over the long-term). Let’s do this thing!

1. Self-massage for your face. (two minutes)

A simple face massage has been shown to:

  • >>improve mood
  • >>reduce mental stress
  • >>stimulate focus and creativity
  • >>relieve nasal-sinus congestion
  • >>relieve cerebral-sinus pressure (relieves sinus headaches)
  • >>relax eye strain (from too much computer use or reading)
  • >>boost immune system response through lymph stimulation and detoxification
  • >>increase circulation
  • >>decrease wrinkles
  • >>increase vibrant and glowing skin

Amazing huh?!

What’s more amazing is that this technique has been passed down through the living wisdom of preventative medicine. Thanks ancestors!

Use the guided exercise below to learn a super simple self-massage that will leave you feeling fresh and alert (and looking more youthful and sexy).


Music Credit: Lotus, “Greet the Mind”

2. Breathe, damn you!  Breathe! (two minutes)

Oh breathing...

Conscious breathing is like a good magician’s trick—it’s so obvious we look right past it.

Right past it to coffee, Red Bull,and Youtube viral videos (475 million views, really?!).

Controlled breathing is used by yogis, singers, musicians, asthmatics, long distance runners and Office Awesomeness heroes (including you)!

Now, it has been found that most of us have adopted very unhealthy breathing habits that we enter into unconsciously throughout the day.

There are many negative effects linked to unnatural, improper breathing patterns, as well as many positive effects linked to natural and healthy patterns.

Now, some of the many benefits of deep or complete breathing:

  • >>calming and focusing the mind
  • >>reduction of physical tension and stress
  • >>natural painkiller (by releasing endorphins)
  • >>improved organ circulation (deep breathing movement massages internal organs and blood vessels)
  • >>releasing toxins (body is designed to release 70 percent of its toxins through breath!)
  • >>better digestion (by massaging the vagus nerve and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system)
  • >>strong immune response (again, vagus nerve and parasympathetic response)
  • >>less internal inflammation (healthy breathing reduces the acidity of blood and body, thus reducing inflammation and even creating a cancer-resistant environment)
  • >>reduction anxiety (note that deep breathing may have the opposite effect in a panic attack)
  • >>gain conscious control to release fear, anger, shame, and other negative emotions
  • >>improves spinal cord, nerves and brain (through increased oxygen in the body)
  • >>reduces impulsive eating and weight gain (better breathing means nourishing your body more fully through ways other than eating)

Holy crap—healthy breath is amazing (and fabulously free)!

And, when you learn to inhale through the nose, you are adding the benefits of warming, humidifying and cleaning the air that enters your body.

So, let’s learn a simple and effective method of deep breathing.


The cool thing is that you can be really covert with this breath, doing it practically any time you desire the numerous benefits listed above.

3. Chew your water—seriously. (30 seconds)

Now, I know the coloquial phrase “chewing water” means ‘impossible’, but just bear with me.

The practice here is to chew a mouthful of water—plain and simple.

Before you start to give me that incredulous look (yes, that look), hear me out.

There is both an ancient art and modern science to chewing water.

The sages of India, China, Mongolia, Egypt and other ancient cultures maintained that our saliva is richly encoded with our personalized metabolic profile (though they may not have used that exact term).

When you chew water, this living metabolic information mixes with the water (also full of living information) which is then swallowed and dispersed through your digestive system.

These sages taught that doing this practice keeps your body in better overall balance and tuned in to its nutritional and biochemical needs.

Now, if that is too woo-woo for you, here is a modern scientific angle:

First, studies show that 37 percent of people mistake signals of thirst as hunger pangs because the thirst mechanism is so weak. Dehydration symptoms (i.e. feeling weak, dizzy and irritable) mimic those of hunger and add further confusion between the two signals.

If you think you are feeling a hunger pang, especially between meals and at other odd times, reach first for the glass of water than for the trail mix or candy bar. Chances are good that your body was really asking for hydration all along.

This practice will keep you super-hydrated, and it will also cut down on overeating. And generally, when we are snacking at work, we are reaching for salty, sugary, carb-based processed foods anyway.

And it is exactly these kinds of foods, eaten when the body is not hungry but thirsty, that will seriously slow down your physical and mental energy.

Second, when you chew, you stimulate saliva production. Saliva is an amazing substance that contains among other things amylase and lysozyme.

These two substances have powerful benefits to the body, including:

  • >>cleaning the mouth of stuck food particles
  • >>inhibiting bacterial growth in the oral cavity
  • >>improving freshness of breath (by cleaning and disinfecting the mouth and throat)
  • >>sending an extra boost of digestive enzymes to the stomach
  • >>making respiration easier by coating the mouth and throat
  • >>tricks the body into greater alertness because it thinks food is coming.

So by chewing your water, you activate saliva production, which is then able to work its magic in your mouth, throat and GI tract.

When you combine the first and second scientific points, you get the modern support for chewing water at work to stay alert and healthy!

Now, this is a super-simple technique, and really doesn’t need to be over-thought:

  1. Take a swig of water
  2. Chew it good until it becomes more viscous or thick (usually about 30 seconds to a minute)
  3. Swallow!

But just so you have at least one example, I have included the short video below that is hopefully as memorable as it is stupid.  Enjoy!

Obvious music credit: The Muppet Show “Mah na Mah na”

Imperfect Action

Now, these methods aren’t so much about “getting it right” (I really dislike that mentality). The point instead is to start seeing your environment differently, start listening with more sensitivity to your body, and realizing you have many more positive and healthy choices than you may have thought.

Try each of these out, but don’t get overwhelmed. It is much better to give a full try to only one of these techniques than to try all of them and get flustered.

Really put these techniques and principles to the test, seeing the results that you get—regardless of what I or others say. These results speak most loudly. But, give each technique a fair and thorough try.

And again, these are the techniques that have been passed down through living human history, forming the foundation of simple and free preventative self-care. Own your heritage!

Onward and Upward!

If you dug this article, try out the whole Office Awesomeness training program.  It’s free, blog-based and full of simple yet profound ways to super-charge your daily lifestyle.

Alert and Awesome,
Eka, aka SuperSpark

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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