We're all sometimes a little guilty of overestimating how much we'll get done later or tomorrow, and one particular black hole for dreams is the schedule we plan around our work. When we think about the average 40-hour workweek, there would be another average of 8 hours per day from which we can carve out time for hobbies or adventures we swear we'll have. So why do so many of us end up curled in the foetal position as soon as we finish?
Falling asleep straight after work is often a sign of feeling drained from the day's activities. However, sometimes it can have causes other than physical exhaustion. The way we spend our time outside of work is important to build good mental and physical health, so if we're missing out on that time, we can feel the consequences accumulate. At work, sitting on an office chair all day or feeling tired from anxiety can greatly play into the post-work slump.
Slouching, leaning, hunching... sitting in an office all day can wreak havoc on our circulatory system. It can also cause problems with our back and neck muscles, leaving us stiff and in pain after leaving the office. Muscular tension and poor circulation can both mimic the feeling of fatigue. Circulatory issues increase the likelihood of inflammation, blood clots, and even stroke. However, there are simple remedies.
Maybe not in the short term, but once the intense boost wears off, the body is left with low energy reserves. Due to caffeine's diuretic effect, the body also absorbs less water whilst caffeinated and the urge to use the bathroom increases. This can increase the likelihood of dehydration and result in sleepiness, headaches, and irritability.
According to some research, 1 in 3 adults in the US report not getting enough sleep. This in turn can cause mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. On a regular basis, sleep deprivation can have serious consequences for physical health, too. Studies have found that ongoing sleep deprivation can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. On a lesser scale, sleepiness can dampen our motivation and willingness to engage with meaningful activities in our spare time.
Due to the tumultuous events of the past few years, work strain is on the rise. Factors such as funding cuts, fear of losing work, and heightened pressure to produce results despite this, can cause constant worry. This can make a person feel exhausted throughout the day, and cause them to use their personal time for recuperation. Tension at work can cause a variety of harmful consequences.
A lesser-spoken reason for a meagre personal life is the lack of adequate planning. As we age, our social circle becomes busier with more formal duties such as work and childcare. It is much more difficult to find time for connecting with friends. Even when we can overlap with a day off, we might then feel tired, irritable, or ill, to actually commit. Even for solo activities, a lack of planning in advance can make us terrible at instigating something fun! Once the timer is up for work, the mental change from work mode to relaxation mode makes us feel passive and even apathetic for the rest of the day.
It may seem a little strange to say unhealthy habits cause unhealthy habits, but it's true! The more time we spend lounging on the sofa or ruminating about work, the more we reinforce neural pathways to reproduce those behaviours. One article explains that habits form within something called a habit loop. This is a three-part process involving a cue, a behaviour, and then a reward. When we think about getting home and seeing our comfortable sofa or TV, the cue is strongly suggesting we relax. The behaviour of relaxing brings the reward of forgetting the day so far and relieving physical tension. This reinforces the behaviour of resting or sleeping after work and makes it much more difficult to break the routine.
Despite the many valid reasons for developing bad habits, there are plenty of clever life hacks around to help you get your solo time back in shape. We can implement these at different times throughout the week so that at the end of the day you feel more energised to be fully you.
According to US statistics in 2018, 67.87% of adult women worked in an office. When taking into account the effects of Covid on the job sector, many more people are now working at desks from home. Particularly if committing to long workdays, it is of high importance to make sure our bodies get enough movement throughout the day to keep healthy circulation. Nowadays, there are plenty of alternatives to the standard desk and chair.
Try out sitting on a yoga ball instead of a desk chair to keep your quads and abs active throughout the day. It also helps to maintain alertness as there is some balancing required! The yoga ball method is a guaranteed way to improve circulation, add some fun, and decrease pressure on the sit bones.
Ensure there is plenty of natural light in your workspace. This helps to improve focus and keep our circadian rhythm as it should be, reducing daytime fatigue. Ensure there is plenty of fresh air by either keeping a window open or having air ventilation. One way to improve air quality and add a sense of serenity to the workspace is to introduce a variety of house plants. The top 5 oxygen-producing indoor plants are the Spider Plant, Areca Palm, Snake Plant, Money Plant, and Gerbera Daisy.
One of the healthiest ways to boost your energy at work is to incorporate a standing desk into the office. By allowing for your whole-body movement throughout the day, a standing desk improves circulation vastly, maintaining normal levels of blood flow to the brain and other organs. If it isn't impossible to use a standing desk, you could instead factor in regular periods of standing and stretching in-between tasks.
You don't have to totally ditch coffee to improve its effects. You can instead improve your routine so that the jitters aren't as strong, keeping your energy levels steady throughout the day.
One way to improve the positive effects of caffeine and decrease its nervous effects is to ensure you've eaten first. Coffee can have terrible effects on the body if you have low blood sugar. It is recommended to at least have a snack before your morning coffee, the healthier the better!
Keep drinking water alongside the coffee. It is recommended to drink two cups of coffee for every one cup of water. This keeps you hydrated and improves the absorption of caffeine.
There are plenty of different types of coffee that can provide more balanced effects on the nervous system. This includes four sigmatic coffee, which is made with nutritional mushroom blends, CBD coffee, which provides a non-psychoactive calming effect to balance out the caffeine, and low-caffeine coffee, such as some Arabica blends.
Finally, you can always get your energy hit in a more balanced way by substituting coffee for tea. Green tea contains the amino acid l-theanine, which has calming and focus-improving effects on the brain.
Likewise, ginseng is a more regulated way of beating the afternoon slump. A serving of ginseng tea or a capsule can contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, but without the spike in energy levels. This means ginseng is just as energising as coffee, but without the high-intensity jitters. Ginseng also has incredible health benefits as it is an antioxidant, can improve memory and brain function, and can strengthen the immune system.
If your energy levels lag during the day, there could be an issue with your sleep routine. It is recommended to get around 8 hours of sleep every night; without that, you may be craving a siesta period all day!
Some light exercise, such as yoga or a steady walk, a few hours before bed can help your body to relax.
One way to get to sleep earlier is to avoid technology for a few hours before bed or to set a warm filter on screens so that you don't get any blue light shining into your eye. Blue light mimics daylight, which is why our brains switch back on whenever we look at a bright screen.
One more helpful tactic is to make your bed more comfortable. Choose soft, natural fibres and ensure to change the sheets every week. Keeping the bedroom well-ventilated and cool can help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more productive.
Stress levels at work can be difficult to control, especially if you work in a fast-paced role or you have a difficult teammate. However, there are a few ways to respond to issues at work that don't involve filling out a new resume!
If work issues are leaving you exhausted and worried about the next day, it may be time to speak to someone you trust. That could be a co-worker, boss, therapist, or one of your closest friends. If possible, try to engage with your "higher self" while speaking up about the issues you're facing. That is the adult part of you, who can look at things objectively whilst vouching for your needs to be met. This can be helpful to separate your fears from reality and instil self-confidence.
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment in an accepting, non-judgemental way. By practising mindfulness at work or for a few minutes on your lunch break, you can create some space away from the urgency of your workplace and remind yourself of your true goals and values.
Certain exercises such as yoga, Tai Chi, and low-intensity aerobics stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce stress, worry, anger, and inflammation. They do this by stimulating the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system. Put simply, these exercises slowly move the body in a way that affects the whole nervous system and create a full-body sense of calm. The benefits to the circulatory system and nervous system can stop you from feeling tired throughout the day and even reduce body weight.
There are plenty of ways to re-charge your daily routine so you can get more out of a busy schedule. Because we tend to feel exhausted at the end of a busy day, it is better to organise plans preemptively, such as on the weekend.
When it comes to catching up with friends, most people in their adult life have a lot to work around. An example of how to work through this is to create an online poll for social events is a great way to keep up with a friendship circle.
Think about what type of energy you use throughout the workday, and make plans to remedy that. For example, if you do a lot of talking on the phone to clients, you may wish for something more passive such as going to the cinema. If you do more physical labor, you may want to plan something soothing once in a while, such as a spa day. By factoring in something soothing or exciting at the end of the day, We are less likely to be half asleep once we get back home.
Once you've figured out the changes you want to make throughout the week, create a schedule. Once the new habits feel normal, you are much less likely to revert to watching tv or fall asleep after work. If you made changes to your morning routine, set an alarm and ensure you get enough sleep beforehand. Remember, the more you practise a habit, the more likely it is to stick.
Feeling tired constantly can be a symptom of other health problems that can be serious.
If your energy levels are mainly dipping throughout winter, you could have low vitamin D levels or seasonal affective disorder. Both of these issues can have unpleasant effects on your body and mood.
If you're feeling drained physically and mentally, this could be a sign of depression. Stay aware of your mental health and reach out if you are experiencing issues.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is quite a common cause of fatigue, so it is worth watching out for. An estimated 1 million Americans are affected by ME/CFS so please seek medical assistance if you feel tired on a regular basis.