Caffeine-Free Afternoon Perk Ups

Kim Monaghan

Caffeine-Free Afternoon Perk Ups

I will admit I like caffeine. I have a cup (or two) of coffee in the morning and sometimes green tea in the afternoon. I try to do half-caff or just stick to green tea, but I know the power of this afternoon boost when I start feeling sluggish. I also know the damage it can cause if I let the addiction control me.

We all know the story—busy days, long hours, high stress, short deadlines and way too much on our plates to keep the pace going. We need our afternoon perk up, whether it’s a latte from Starbucks or a coffee from the break room. Every busy career professional has cultivated this habit since cramming for exams.

According to, consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, or about the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, is not harmful. However, consuming more, even 500 to 600 mg of caffeine per day—and mixing it with certain drugs or even herbs like Echinacea—can cause unpleasant side effects. Rapid heartbeat, insomnia, muscle tremors, irritability, nervousness or an upset stomach are just a few of the possible symptoms from caffeine over-stimulation.

The good news?

I’m happy to report that there are plenty of caffeine-free alternatives that can serve as an afternoon perk up for the busy career professional.

Brush Your Teeth: A recent study shows doing this in the middle of the day can boost your energy by about 30%. What? The answer is brushing your teeth. I have personally experienced this. I know it sounds weird, but maybe there is some psychology behind the feeling of freshness tied to this typical experience in the morning when you’re at your peak, or maybe there’s a more scientific reason behind this interesting afternoon energy boost. Still, give it a try. It works.

Get Some Sleep: “Trying better sleep hygiene is a helpful tip for getting a better night’s rest,” says Joy Gianakuru, Ed.D. Spin Instructor, educator and fitness enthusiast.  She recommends finding ways to unwind and stay away from screen time right before bed which can be too stimulating. “Part of your night time routine that will also help with stress the next day could include meditation, inspirational readings or taking time to be thankful for what you have and to seek clarity for the next day.” Joy also recommends trying magnesium***. “Be sure to check with your doctor before doing so, but magnesium has many health benefits in addition to promoting sleep, including reducing inflammation, easing migraines and building bone strength and nerve functioning.”

Hydrate With Water: “We don’t think about it as much in the winter, but it’s critical to keep our bodies hydrated,” reminds Amy Garbacz, Healthy Lifestyle Advocate and Business Coach for Wellness Professionals. She suggests carrying a water bottle and ensuring that you regularly fill up and hydrate throughout the day. You can also add fruits like lemon or berries for flavor that can stimulate the taste buds without turning to the less healthier and non-hydrating options like sodas.

Listen To Music: “Just as calming music will lull you to sleep, there is music that increases your energy,” says Amy. “Listening to up tempo music can boost your body’s energy levels.”

Take Scheduled Breaks:“An easy way to avoid an afternoon slump is to set timers and divide up your time,” recommends Kate Egan, Dietician and Health Coach. Take a break every 45 minutes to stretch, walk to the water cooler to top off your water or just take your eyes off the computer screen for a few minutes. Switching up your position from sitting can help you to re-energize and stay focused.” Joy agrees that breaks do wonders for our disposition and energy levels. “Sometimes a quick walk around the building is a good way to gain some energy and to do some MBWA—management by walking around.”

Try Essential Oils: “Stimulating the senses can often help create more positive emotions,” says Amy Jarchow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist. She recommends diffusing some essential oils and sensory experiences may help relieve a bit of stress. Amy Garbacz concurs. “Lemon and peppermint essential oils are great options. Simply drop a few of either in the palm of your hands, rub them together, then take a nice deep breath. If you have a diffuser handy, a few drops will perk you up.”

***Before experimenting with any exercises and nutrition tips posted on A Healthy Career, always consult with your physician, wellness or health practitioner.

Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele. 

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*Always consult with your physician prior to experimenting with any exercises, recipes, health advice and nutrition initiatives shared in this blog.