How To Keep Awake At Home When You WFH

12 easy-peasy tips to help you stay alert and productive when the midday ZZZs come a-buzzing.

By Chris Ong      22 March 2021

We have all been there, felt that; you start the workday feeling like you can complete all of your “Mission Impossibles”, only to have your energy fade fast by the time afternoon rolls around. Be it because of a heavy lunch, the after-effects of a sleepless night, the tedium of emailing, the all-too-convenient lure of your nearby bed or whatever else the reason may be, the struggle of a mid-afternoon slump is real. Try these simple, natural and cost-free ways to remain bright and perky through your WFH day (and your umpteenth Zoom meeting).

Take a nap
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Take A Nap

Strange but true, taking a snooze even after you have already woken up does work. A short siesta (10 to 20 minutes) can help let you have a rest between work tasks, relieve you of sleepiness, and also aid in increasing your alertness, learning and memory. But, before you slump off to slumber land, make sure you do not take more than one and don’t take one that lasts hours. Also, if you are an early sleeper, don’t take it too close to bedtime – six or seven hours before is best. If not, these battery-recharging naps might end up disrupting your circadian rhythm and disturb your nighttime sleep (which might cause a roll-on effect of sleepiness the next day and through the week).

Take A Walk

So many reasons why you should. You get a break from work; breathe in some fresh air; replenish some sunshine-blessed vitamin D; feel the refreshing natural light on your face; have oxygen pumping through your veins, muscles and brain; get inspiration from what you see outside; feel re-energised mentally, physically and even emotionally; and so on and so forth. Build it into your timetable by taking a stroll to get lunch, a hot drink for your tea break or even to collect your daily mail.

Give Your Eyes A Break
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Give Your Eyes A Break

It could be that you aren’t feeling sleepy, but that your eyes feel strained, dry or fatigued from your constant and lengthy stare-fest with the computer screen. Don’t rub away the tiredness – instead, look away from the screen and at some distant greenery outside your window, or close your peepers for a few minutes.

Eat Some Snacks, Drink Some Tea

A tea-time snack or hot drink can help you maintain a steady blood sugar level (low blood sugar can lead to lethargy and mental fogginess) while boosting your energy level. But, remember to restrict yourself to certain kinds of snacks and drinks: no added sugar, preferably less caffeinated or even caffeine-free and lighter in calories. Also, have them in limited portions, and certainly not right after your lunch or frequently. The last thing you need is to disturb your natural sleep cycle (because of the caffeine) and blood sugar levels, and put on some unnecessary or unwanted weight gain (because of the additional calories). Opt for healthier snacks and drinks like yoghurt, nuts, fresh fruit and tisanes (herbal caffeine-free teas) like lemongrass or chamomile (see here for some tea options).

Just Drink Water
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Or, Just Drink Water

If you are on a diet or are sensitive to caffeine, just sip on water throughout the day. According to the Health Promotion Board, eight to 10 glasses (250ml each) will suffice (but your are free to imbibe more if you feel the need to). It’s healthier (zero calories- yay!), keeps you hydrated (dehydration can cause fatigue) and refreshes you (throw some ice cubes into a jug for extra “refreshingness”).

Keep Your Work Area Cool And Bright

When the weather gets too warm or the room too stuffy, torpidity can settle in. Don’t immediately reach for the air-conditioner switch to turn your room into an igloo – if it’s too cold, your body will get so chill you might be tempted to go hibernate. Throw open the curtains and windows instead – it can not only cool your living and work space naturally, it lets in fresh air and sunshine. And speaking of sunshine – a dimly-lit room might lull you into sleepy-mode or even cause strain on your eyes. Either increase the intensity of your light source or just keep your windows open to suffuse your space with more natural light (see here about how else you can work like a boss at home).

Turn On Some Music
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Turn On Some Music

You will be surprised how listening to songs can change up your mood and perk you up instantly. Choose your fave hits and stream them out loud, or if that is not advisable ’cos there might be other folk around you, wear headphones to tune in and turn up your energy level.

Use Scents To Liven Yourself

You might be even more surprised how scents can affect how you work. Choose scented candles (see here for some choice picks), aroma diffusers or essential oils that give off more energising or strong smells, such as lemon or peppermint, and use them for when you feel like you are feeling low in mood or energy.

Chat With Someone, Anyone
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Chat With Someone, Anyone

Talk is cheap – in fact, it’s free. And also, beneficial. It can be a family member, a bestie, your pet or even the neighbourhood coffeshop uncle you’ve bumped into when you are out taking a walk to grab your cup of teh-o; we are social animals so conversing is part of how we keep connected and also, happy. It doesn’t matter what the subject’s about: inane gossip with your bud can help cheer you up; opinions about local and global issues-of-the-day with the Dad can stimulate the mind; and even work-related matters with a fellow colleague on a break (on the phone, Zoom or even chat apps) can help you vent, relieve stress or even solve problems on your mind. So yes, chatter away when you can to keep awake.

Engage In Some Light Exercise

Being stationary and sedentary all day can make Jack a dulled boy and Jill a sleepy beauty. The solution’s to just get your body, not just your hand-eye movements, active. If you can’t make it out the door for a trip to the minimart to grab a snack, try some light exercise at home. You can do some stretches (try the ones suggested here), attempt a short jog on the spot, or any other simple physical workout activities as long as you are kept moving. It should help get you going again and clear the mind for you to return to the work task at hand.

Play Games
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Play Games

When we say play games, we mean game apps on your phone. They are normally shorter in duration (so you won’t get carried away) and easier to play within a short period. Entertaining yourself this way helps you get your mind off work briefly, can help bring on some adrenaline, as well as sharpen your attention, mind and senses. But, if you are the “must break high score” kind who can easily get distracted and addicted, don’t launch your gaming apps asap. Save it for the end of your workday to destress instead. (Psst… if you need some recommendations for the most fun gaming apps, see here!)

Just Take Breaks

Even if you do not attempt any of the aforementioned, just remember to do this: Take frequent brief breathers from your work. It can be as simple as taking deep breathes and closing your eyes, pottering around the home to water the plants or completing a simple house chore, or if you must stick to office work, switch to simpler, less “brainy” easy-to-do tasks. The aim is to take a break from complex work tasks that require prolonged periods of sustained concentration, shift your focus, and counter the boredom or tiredness you might experience while working from home that can make you feel drowsy.

Featured image: Shutterstock



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