Action Item – Gimme A Break!

Products and tips to recharge your energy levels.

It’s mid-afternoon. Is your mind turning to mush? Researchers call the period around 3 p.m. “the breaking point” – the time when natural levels of energy and alertness take a nosedive. The most effective antidote, advises Peter McLaughlin, author of CatchFire, is to take a break.


McLaughlin points to research showing that you suffer a loss of stamina after 90 to 120 minutes of focused activity. At that point, he writes, “you’re much better off heeding the call for a break.”

So what’s your next step? CatchFire spotlights quick, one-stop remedies for that midday malaise: deep breathing, walking, smart snacking. But the chief directive is entirely doable: Do nothing! “Cease intensive action,” McLaughlin advises. “Left to its own devices, the body will induce the biological changes that restore energy and strength.”

Coordinates: $24.95. CatchFire: A Seven-Step Program to Ignite Energy, Defuse Stress, and Power Boost Your Career, Fawcett Columbine, 800-733-3000,

The Power of Positive Thinking

A salesman has just spent three hours making cold calls. Every pitch ended in rejection. His frustration mounts. Panic sets in.

Oh my God, he thinks to himself, I’ve made 40 calls, and I haven’t gotten a single appointment. I don’t have what it takes to sell this product. Maybe I don’t even have what it takes to sell, period. What if I lose my job? How would I pay the bills?

This, says Dean Becker, president and CEO of Basis Learning, is a classic example of “nonresilient thinking.” And it’s a major energy drain: Letting a problem like a customer’s rejection spiral out of control leaves you frustrated, overwhelmed, and depressed.


Basis Learning trains people to snap back from adversity. Drawing on the research of Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the best-selling Learned Optimism, Becker teaches habitual pessimists to think through problems – – and then take action. Thus, the salesman’s inner dialogue might continue as follows: I’m letting this thing get out of control. Cold calling is a numbers game. Last night, I was 4 for 30. My pitch could probably use some tightening up. I’ll work on that for the rest of the night, and tomorrow I’ll be ready to rock.

How do Basis Learning’s workshops differ from motivational seminars? “They aren’t about motivation – – they’re about cognition,” says Becker. “Pump-up seminars teach you what to say. We teach you what to think.”

Coordinates: $14. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Pocket Books, 800-223-2336,; Basis Learning, 215-283-1919

Energize with Exercise

The idea seems wrongheaded: Energize by working out? but consider this: Exercise, says Harvey Newton, executive director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), revs up circulation, raises blood-sugar levels, and sparks the production of endorphins, those mood-elevating brain chemicals. So even if you’re chained to your computer, you can reboot by doing some push-ups and lunges.

Push-ups: Lie face down on the floor. Get up on your toes, keep your body plank-straight, and your hands shoulder-width apart. Push up slowly until your arms lock, and then slowly lower your body until it barely touches the floor. Do two sets of 10 to 30 reps.

Lunges: Stand upright, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your head up and your back straight, take a long step forward with either foot. Drop your hips until your lead thigh is parallel to the floor. Then push backward and upward until you are standing again. Repeat with the opposite leg. That’s one rep. Do two sets of 10 to 12 reps.


Coordinates: NSCA, 719-632-6722,