Hacks That Can Keep You From Feeling Overwhelmed During Your Workday

Some of you might remember going to kindergarten class (or maybe even the first and second grade) and having naptime. Back then, you probably wanted to stay up the entire time and play with your classmates, but now — now that you're an adult and working to pay the bills — you'd probably give just about anything to be able to put a mat on the floor right in front of your desk and sleep for an hour or so.

Even if you can somehow muster up the energy to focus on what you need to get done during the first part of your workday, there is something about that time between lunch and leaving that not only seems to drag on forever but can be somewhat overwhelming too. Mostly because, when you feel drained, that can make it hard to concentrate and that makes it close to impossible to be as focused and productive as you would like.

Hopefully, these hacks can make things a little easier on you. All of them are helpful, all of them are scientifically proven, and all of them have ways of getting you over the hump.

Breathe deeply

In order to stay alive, we all have to breathe; that's a given. But did you know that there are more studies coming out that connect deep breathing to things like reducing anxiety, relieving pain, preventing insomnia, removing toxins out of your system, reducing stress, and helping you to feel more energized? The reality is, when you feel overwhelmed during your workday, that can make you feel anxious and that can result in you experiencing a shortness of breath, as noted by Medical News Today.

So, the moment you sense that you need a bit of a "boost," get comfortable, close your eyes, and exhale for a count of four. Then inhale for a count of four. If you repeat this pattern a few times, you should start to feel more relaxed while also feeling more energized at the same time. It's an easy way to get "refueled" whenever you need it.

Do some stretches

Have you ever noticed that right when you wake up in the morning, one of the first things that you end up doing is stretching? Have you ever wondered why? The main reason is because while you're in your bed for six to eight hours at a time, not only do your muscles relax (and based on your sleep position, even contract a bit), your heart rate slows down too, as noted by Harvard Health Publishing. Stretching helps to get more oxygen into your system while also helping to get your muscles going for the day.

Along these same lines, when you stretch periodically while you're working, it helps to increase blood flow throughout your system (via The Journal of Physiology). Your brain will appreciate it because that will help it to perform better. Your muscles will love it because the more oxygen they receive, the more endurance you will have. So why not do a few stretches at your desk, as Healthline suggests?

Straighten up your back

If you're slouching in your chair, that could be another reason why you're feeling worn out. That said, how can you know for sure that you are indeed a victim of bad posture? Well, if your back doesn't touch the back of your chair, if your shoulders are hunched over, if your head constantly learns forwards or backwards, if your muscles feel tight, and if you're randomly getting headaches, you may have bad posture. The reality is that doing something as simple as straightening up your back will not only help you to feel more comfortable as you work, but it's also a way to help you boost your confidence level and your overall mood, as noted by SFGate. That can help you to complete the tasks that need to be done.

By the way, if you're wondering what kind of chair can help you to sit better, look into investing into an ergonomic one. It's the kind that's specifically designed to support your natural body structure while encouraging good posture.

Turn on a blue light

Fluorescent light bulbs, LED lights, and even the lights that come from your smartphones and computer monitors emit a blue light. This kind of light helps while you are working because it has a way telling your body to remain alert. Some research says that it also tells your brain to reduce its melatonin levels (via MedicineNet), so that you don't find yourself feeling quite as drowsy (which is why you shouldn't spend a ton of time on your phone before bedtime).

There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to this point. One, that you give your eyes a break from blue lights after work. Otherwise, it could put unnecessary stress and strain on your eyes which could lead to blurry vision over time. And two, if you're looking for a bulb to put in a lamp that's sitting at your desk, just keep in mind that warmer hues such as yellow and orange will relax you while cooler shades of white and blue will help you to stay alert throughout the day. That's exactly what a blue light is designed to do.

Snack on some berries

There's nothing wrong with snacking throughout the day. As a matter of fact, there's plenty of scientific evidence that it can raise your glucose levels if they happen to drop in between meals. The key is to snack on things that are low-calorie and holistically beneficial for you. One of those things is berries. Berries are considered to be one of the healthiest foods to snack on because they're high in fiber and vitamin C, they help to balance your blood sugar levels, they can combat body inflammation, they can lower your cholesterol, and yes, they can get your energy levels going (via Healthline). That's because the flavonoids in berries help to improve cognitive function. And when your brain is performing better, more energy comes as a direct result.

Just a note: You can get the most nutrients out of berries when they are in season. That's why spring and summertime are the best time to buy them, although harvest calendars can let you know when they are in season in your area during the fall season too.

Sip on some water

We're made up of 60% water, so it makes perfect sense that we'd need to consume a good amount of it throughout the day. Aside from the fact that water helps the digestive process, protects your organs and your joints, and stabilizes your blood pressure, as noted by Harvard Health Publishing, water also supports oxygen flowing through your body, so that you can get the energy you need to get your various tasks done.

Another bonus: Did you know that when you're dehydrated, it plays a direct role in feeling fatigued? Since literally 75% of Americans are not only considered to be dehydrated but chronically dehydrated, it actually makes perfect sense why a lot of people either feel totally stressed out at work or they struggle to keep their eyes open — they aren't getting enough water into their system. That's why keeping a full bottle on your desk is always a good idea.

Intentionally blink your eyes

Most people learned in elementary school science class that blinking helps to keep their eyes moisturized. That's not all, though. Blinking also keeps debris out of your eyes and gives your eyes the oxygen they need in order to function properly (via Healthline). 

You know what else blinking does? It gives a recharge to your brain. Yep. Accordingly to the Los Angeles Times, every time that you blink your eyes, it briefly shuts down your brain and boosts it back up again. Pretty sure you can see how that could prove to be a real lifesaver if you've got a deadline coming up and you feel too worn out to complete it. By sitting up, taking a deep breath, and intentionally blinking your eyes a few extra times, you might notice that you feel a little more awake and alert right after you do it. Blinking is an ultimate energy-boosting health hack. No doubt about it.

Check a few things off of your to-do list

There's not one person on this planet who hasn't had a day at work where they felt as if they are doing a ton of stuff while still getting absolutely nothing accomplished at the same time. A part of what can result in someone feeling this way is they don't begin each day with a to-do list, according to CNN

The first key to success when it comes to to-do lists is to not inundate yourself with a ton of things (five to seven items is more than enough). The next tip is to do the big tasks first and the smaller things afterwards. You'll be amazed by how much of a sense of accomplishment that this gives you! Even if you don't get every single item done, if you're able to check off at least three things before the end of your day is done, not only will you feel really good about yourself as you're shutting your computer down for the day, but you'll also feel compelled to keep going during those moments when you might be feeling a little on the sluggish side.

Listen to a movie score

Some people need to be able to work in total silence. Understood. But if you're someone who can multitask in the sense that you're able to have background noise going while you're checking things off of your work list, putting your headphones on so that you can listen to music can also be a really good idea. In fact, it's been scientifically proven that music helps to reduce anxiety, relieve pain, and also boost your memory and improve your mood, as noted by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Something that is super fascinating about music is, if you listen to a movie score, you might feel an extra bit of "umph" because some scores are created to make you feel more motivated and inspired. So, if you've got a particular score or soundtrack that you never seem to get tired of, try listening to it while you work. It might surprise you just how easily it can encourage you to complete the tasks that are at hand.

Take a walk outside

Did you know that, according to Healthline, 42% of Americans are vitamin D deficient with 63% of Hispanics and around 82% of Black people being even more effected by not having enough of this nutrient in their system? With things like muscle weakness, joint pain, mood swings, and fatigue being some clear signs of having this kind of deficiency (via Cleveland Clinic), it's important to consume foods that are high in vitamin D (including salmon and orange juice that's fortified with vitamin D) and that you spend some time in the sun since it's a natural source of vitamin D.

Although taking a walk outside on your break or during your lunchtime shouldn't be treated as the only way to get this vitamin, what makes it such a good idea is you can get some exercise in as you're absorbing this particular nutrient. Since exercise is also a stress reliever and energy booster, it's a win-win all the way around.

Avoid processed foods and eat complex carbs instead

Stopping by the closest drive-thru on your lunch break can be really tempting when it comes to cost and convenience, but there's plenty of data to support the fact that junk food really isn't the best thing for you. Not only can consuming processed foods over a long period of time significantly up your risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even certain forms of cancer, junk food has a way of making you feel lethargic — which is the last thing you need when you're trying to get through the final hours of the day. 

Instead, opt for complex carbs. They're the kind of carbs that are found in whole plant foods, which means you're able to receive an energy rush in a far more natural (and healthy) way. Some foods that top the complex carbs list include beans, potatoes, quinoa, whole grain bread, and bananas (via Harvard School of Public Health).

Catch some z's

Something that's kind of unfortunate is, when break time rolls around, a lot of people will either work right through it (remember, you've earned your breaks and lunchtime) or it will never even cross their mind that they could use those 15 to 20 minutes to get a bit of a catnap in. While the thought of stretching out on your bed at home for 60 to 90 minutes may be the only way that you personally define taking a good nap, the reality is a catnap can do your mind and body a whole lot of good!

According to WebMD, 20 to 25 minutes can give your body a good amount of rest, a 10-minute nap can shake you out of your grogginess, and even six minutes worth of shut eye can significantly help your level of alertness as well as your memory. Just make sure to go somewhere with as little light as possible and to set your phone to wake you up. A catnap is supposed to help you complete the day, not keep you asleep so long that you forget you're actually at work!

Do some journaling

On the onset, it might seem strange to recommend doing even more writing as a remedy for feeling overwhelmed, tired, or stressed out when you've probably been hammering away at your computer all day long. The thing to keep in mind here is that journaling requires a different kind of focus. It's about pulling out a book (or your smartphone) and jotting down your feelings. 

Why is this helpful? Look at it like a way to privately vent. One benefit is it can help you to stop internalizing your emotions (which can be an automatic de-stressor). Secondly, when you write your thoughts down and you're able to see everything in black and white, it has a way of providing clarity which can help you to figure out what your next steps need to be. All you need to devote is a good 15 minutes to this practice to help you to work more effectively, as noted by Greater Good Magazine. Give it a try. You might like how it makes you feel.

Have a piece of dark chocolate

If nothing else on this list brought a smile to your face, this one just might. According to scientific research (via Sci-News), dark chocolate has the ability to improve your moods by as much as a whopping 85%! The conclusion comes from the fact that there are properties in dark chocolate that can help to relieve anxiety and increase blood flow (via Chemistry Central Journal). When you add to that the fact that dark chocolate can also do things like lower your blood pressure, reduce oxidative stress, and protect your skin from damaging sun rays — dark chocolate really is the gift that keeps on giving! 

Just make sure that the brand that you eat has no less than 70% cocoa in it. In other words, eating a candy bar isn't really the objective here; the more chocolate and less sugar that you snack on, the better.

Give yourself something to look forward to

Your life isn't all about work. If you don't keep this in the forefront of your mind, you're bound to feel overwhelmed during your workday and feel totally drained. Another effective way to keep both of these emotions from creeping in is to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of your workdays. According to Vice, making plans to treat or celebrate yourself will not only motivate you, but it can also make you feel better about the present because you know that something awesome is going to happen in the future.

So, whether it's scheduling a mani-pedi, getting yourself a bottle of wine, ordering your favorite meal as you head home, meeting up with some friends to laugh and catch up — whatever it may be — on the days when you've just about had it, give yourself something to look forward to by planning to do something after work. It can make the time go by so much quicker and energize you in ways that nothing else can!