An afternoon slump, whether it is literal (posture) or figurative (energy), can affect us all from time to time. Many people find that, around 3p.m., their eyelids begin getting heavy and their posture starts to slump. When this happens, it’s tempting to reach for the caffeine or begin scrolling through social media out of boredom. But before you try the usual pick-me-ups to help shake off that sluggishness, consider a few of these simple tips. Many of these suggestions take less than a minute and, as a bonus, can be done right at your desk.
Posture is part of the problem
Research shows a slumped posture can have a physical effect on the body. This is because slouching decreases the amount of oxygen available to tissues (especially the brain) because the lungs and chest are compressed as one slouches forward. Lack of oxygen to the brain hinders abstract thinking. One study at the San Francisco State University reported that students were better able to solve math equations while sitting up straight with their shoulders back, as opposed to being slumped over with their shoulders compressed.
Here are a few ways to improve your posture — and, thus, your performance — at work or school:
•Set an alarm on your phone, watch, or computer to go off every 20 to 30 minutes. When it sounds, get up and move your body in some way. Take a short walk to get water or use the bathroom, or try to march, skip, or dance in place. Break free of a desk rut by working in a few pushups, lunges or squats.
•Have your vision professionally checked. Many instances of poor posture are the result of people leaning in toward their computer screen because they can’t see well.
•Ask a colleague or friend to snap a picture of you from the side when you’re not expecting it, especially toward the end of the day. This will give you an unbiased view of your work posture. Do you have room for improvement?
•Working on a laptop? You’re almost surely collapsing your posture, bringing your head down to see the screen. A simple fix: Buy a detachable keyboard and raise your laptop on a riser or some thick books. The goal is to have your screen at eye level. This will prevent poor posture and decrease upper neck and shoulder tightness.
Go for better flow
“Increasing energy is all about improving lymphatic flow,” says postural alignment specialist Justin Bradley. The lymphatic system consists of the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and adenoids, as well as multiple channels and nodes throughout the body. While the lymphatic system plays a role in protecting us against infection and disease, it also contributes to our energy levels. “Lymph travels through the joints in your body—your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles,” Bradley explains. “When you drive to work, sit at a desk all day, drive home, and relax on the couch, you’re not moving your joints through their full range of motion and, as a result, lymph becomes trapped and grows stagnant.”
Bradley recommends performing moves that realign your joints to get your energy flowing again. The following overhead extension is a simple way to do just that:
•Stand with your feet pointing straight ahead and about one fist width apart.
•Extend your arms in front of you, drop your shoulders, interlace your palms, and point them away from you.
•Bring both arms overhead so your palms face the sky. Gaze upward toward your hands as you actively work to keep your arms straight up without leaning back.
•Hold for 30 seconds as you breathe deeply.
You can also try this desk-friendly yoga sequence designed by Katy Hanlon, a certified yoga instructor, to help stimulate energy and focus.
Seated Tadasana with Cactus Arms:
•Sit up tall and engage your abdominals, stacking your head directly over your torso.
•Keeping a soft bend in your elbows, extend your arms above your head. Palms should be facing out, fingers spreading wide, and wrists aligning over your shoulders.
•Inhale through your nose, reaching high with your hands without shrugging your shoulders to your ears.
•Exhale through your nose and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bend your elbows out to the sides until your upper arms are at shoulder height, creating “cactus” arms. Lift your heart toward the ceiling and, if you have no neck issues, release your head back slightly.
•Repeat 10 times.
Reach for Energizing Oils
My doctorate studies required numerous hours of sitting in class, followed by long study sessions. Essential oils were a helpful tool for boosting my energy, while also increasing my focus and memory. Specifically, I would reach for peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary oils. Citrus oils, such as orange, lime, lemon and grapefruit can also be used to revitalize and invigorate. The simplest way to use these oils is by applying one to two drops of the oil in your palm, rub your hands together, and then cup your hands around your nose and inhale deeply.
Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.