Three Surprising Habits That Drain Energy

Your Messy Closet

A study from researchers at Princeton University found that a less-than-organized closet or a cubicle piled with paper can sap your energy. “When we’re overwhelmed by visual clutter, the brain’s reaction time can slow, leading to the feeling that you need to rest,” says Sabine Kastner, MD, PhD, one of the study coauthors and a professor of neuroscience and psychology. In fact, 77 percent of office workers say that clutter has a negative impact on their productivity.

Power Up: You’re going to like Dr. Kastner’s Rx for clutter-induced fatigue: Work out. “Exercise supplies more blood to the brain, which helps it work more efficiently,” she says. But keeping disorder to a minimum is also important. “It takes less energy to put things away if you don’t have to think about what goes where,” says Mary Dykstra Novess, the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based president of the National Association of Professional Organizers. So make it easy on yourself: Label storage areas (dedicated baskets for cleaning supplies, wrapping paper, and so on), set up a mail-sorting spot with shred and recycle bins, and keep a donation box for cast-off clothing in your closet. No time to put things away as you go? Just a few minutes at the end of each day is enough to help you restore order, Novess says.

Your Job

“Sorry, Boss, I can’t finish the project because my cubicle is putting me to sleep.” That excuse might not fly, but there’s some truth to it. Excessively cold temperatures (hello, office air-conditioning) can trigger a drop in body temperature, sending you into hibernation mode. Then there’s what happens in your chair: Slouching decreases lung capacity and contributes to a feeling of fatigue.

Power Up: Dress in layers and take a quick spin around the office every 30 minutes. Ward off a literal case of the slumps with a posture-friendly desk setup, Jacobs says. Your monitor should be an arm’s length (with a closed fist) away — 18 to 24 inches. “Sit back in your chair with your elbows close to your body and your feet flat on the floor or a footrest,” she says. Write PSST (“Practice sitting straight and tall”) on a Post-it note and stick it on your monitor.

Those Darn Allergies

They’re not just a springtime problem. More than 80 million Americans are allergic to ragweed, which peaks from August to October, and experts estimate that up to 80 percent of people with nasal allergy symptoms actually have perennial, or year-round, allergies. In addition to making you miserable with a runny nose and itchy eyes during the day, allergies can wreak havoc on your zzz’s. Nasal congestion causes “microarousals” — mini wake-ups during the night that you might not even be aware of — that lead to groggy mornings-after. “You can’t fully relax when you’re struggling to breathe through your nose,” says Andy Nish, MD, the medical director for Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Allergy and Asthma, who estimates that more than 25 percent of his patients experience fatigue.

Power Up: “In the short term, you can use over-the-counter nasal sprays for up to three days to help relieve congestion and allow you to rest better,” Dr. Nish says. “Nasal saline, Breathe Right strips, and a bedroom humidifier at night may also help.” Still exhausted? See an allergist: A nasal steroid or immunotherapy, which involves regular low-level exposure to allergens to reduce your sensitivity to them, might provide long-term relief.


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