Heavy workloads and too much time in front of computer screens can drag down academic energy levels. Don't give in to the 9-to-5 (or is that 9-to-9?) slump: here are five no- or low-cost things you can do to rejuvenate at work.
Get out of the office.
Take your work to someplace else—anyplace else will do when those four magnolia-painted walls are doing your head in.
Most academics see very little of their campus outside of buildings they are required to use, so download the campus map and look for someplace that looks promising. More inspiring locations to mark that pile of 45 essays may range from a botanical garden to a little-known library. Just the walk between your office and somewhere else is a great head-clearing exercise.
Theatre and music departments often have rehearsals going on during work hours, and these can offer a fantastic free way to reboot mentally on your break.
Get off the campus.
Perhaps you actually need a longer walk, one that takes you off the campus and into the surrounding community. What parks, cafes and perhaps even pubs might help? If you’re new, ask colleagues or postgrads which places they rate. But watch out—the temptations of cake (or worse yet, beer) may wreck your best intentions. Plan to be virtuous by sticking to coffee or a healthy lunch during work hours.
Keeping a bicycle at work enlarges the range of possibilities. In fact, a 20-minute bike ride in any direction can do wonders for your mental state.
Join the club.
So many students are on a health kick these days that most campuses have a long list of sport and fitness activities on offer. The cost is almost always budget-friendly, and the location couldn't be closer. The only surprise is that so few academics take advantage of this obvious resource.
If you’re worried about time, talk to your university’s Occupational Health or Wellness programme, and then involve your line manager in the discussion. Chances are that staff agreements are already in place that will help you ask for a bit of flexibility to keep your health in good nick and your mental faculties sharp.
Stretch at your desk.
No need for leotards or mats—there are simple, effective yoga stretches you can do to get the creaks and aches under control. It works so well that Vanderbilt University has actually created a guide with simple poses you can do without leaving your office chair (see Resources).
Have a look on YouTube for more yoga-based ideas for desk-workers.
Reaching for a snack when energy levels fall is a great idea, but most vending-machine options are high-sugar/high-carbohydrate products that can actually leave you feeling more tired after the initial sugar rush. The best choice is plenty of water, and something that’s high-protein and high in vitamins and minerals. Try a small portion of one of these, and get back on track:
- Peanut butter or cheese on whole-grain crackers
- Hummus plus carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes
- A small bag of dry-roasted nuts
- Plain yogurt and fresh fruit (bananas, cherries or berries work well)
- Raw cacao nibs mixed with coconut and a couple of chopped walnuts or brazil nuts
Desk Yoga Workout from Vanderbilt University