(MoneyWatch) Between office and personal parties and getting ahead before vacation, December can be a rough month for employees. If you already feel exhausted and ready to hibernate through February, here are four ways to stay energized and efficient. You just might make it through the end of the year and start the new one feeling healthy and primed to do your best work.
Eat energizing foods
Step away from the endless supply of sugar cookies on the snack table. Instead, fill up on complex carbs, lean proteins and heart healthy fats. And remember to eat, even if you're busy. "Stay structured and avoid skipping meals, which can cause your blood sugar to crash," says registered dietician Lisa T. Kimmel of Yale University. It might seem like skipping a meal after overindulging can keep the weight off, but a small, balanced meal will help you get back on track without leaving you exhausted and likely to grab unhealthy snacks to stay awake. On the other hand, avoid super-sizing your lunch order. "Large meals, especially those that are heavy on carbs and low in protein will likely send you to the couch for a nap," says Kimmel.
Use caffeine early and with exercise
If you're not a regular coffee drinker, picking up the habit temporarily could help you, says W. Christopher Winter, M.D., medical director of the sleep medicine center at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. "To make the coffee work best, drink it fairly soon after awakening, and pair with bright light and some exercise. For example, go to Starbucks, grab your joe, then take your dog on a brisk walk around the neighborhood as you sip your java," says Winter.
Chew gum between meals
Not only does chewing sugar-less gum keep you from mindlessly snacking, it could keep you more alert. "The activity of chewing, such as with gum, can provide a small short-term counter to fatigue. Peppermint has been found to have some alerting qualities, so a seasonal peppermint mint or candy could also be a good mid-afternoon option when you're feeling tired," says Kevin Gregory, vice president of Alertness Solutions, a scientific research firm.
Clearly, hangovers don't help you feel your best, but alcohol can also disrupt your sleep quality and quantity, says Gregory. "In addition, when you're already short of sleep, alcohol will unmask your fatigue more quickly. Keep that in mind -- especially when driving home after a party," says Gregory.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Aek1982