Q I have an office job that keeps me at my desk in cube-land for hours at a stretch. Sometimes it's hard to stay focused and find that I run out of energy. What could I do to avoid energy slumps?
A Some simple movement and nutrition steps will help, and also look at your life outside of work.
The inner game
Start with an assessment of your day. Notice the time and what you've been doing when you have the most energy. It may be certain times of day, after you've had a particular thing to eat or drink, or after a certain task. Also notice when you slump, focusing on the same items. Take an even broader look to determine the effect of activities outside of work, for example, exercise, stress and sleep. Try keeping an "energy diary" so that you can more easily identify patterns.
Evaluate what you're not doing. Look at your diet and whether you're moving around during the day to identify gaps you could address. Include whether you take breaks when you can and how you use them.
Consider the opportunities you have (15-minute breaks every morning and afternoon) plus the constraints (limited space and privacy) so that you plan energizer options that are feasible. Also look at inner constraints you may be imposing, such as fear of reactions from co-workers or simple inertia -- change does take some effort and determination.
The outer game
There are many ways to get energized at work, even if you have a fairly constrained job.
Getting some movement is a great option. During breaks, make a point of stretching, walking, or doing some simple exercises to fire up. You can find workplace exercise ideas online. While working, try standing for a while. If that works for you, you may want to explore standing work stations, which have health and energy benefits, and are available in some corporate environments.
Go inward and focus with breathing exercises. Finding some inner stillness provides a fresh burst of energy, and may help you build your stamina and resistance to stress. These can be short and simple -- just a few deep breaths -- or could be more extensive during a break or outside work.
Drink plenty of water. If you typically drink a lot of coffee or soft drinks, start substituting water, and try a fresh glass of cool water if your energy level is sagging. Likewise, eat foods that will stabilize your energy. Pack them with you or know what works for you at the cafeteria. Keep snacks on hand so that you don't have to default to a candy machine.
Outside of work, move toward or maintain a balanced life, or at least carve out pockets of time for yourself if your life is very busy. Even a half an hour each day with no demands can help. If needed, explore ways to develop a deeper sense of meaning, including spiritual practice and community engagement.
Finally, build in some fun, both inside and outside of work. Find people you like; find things to laugh about.
The last word
Build up your energy boosters and drop the energy drains; it will help maintain your day-to-day zest at work.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.