Sometimes, it's the little things that help the most.

If you're anything like me, weekday mornings can be a rough slog. You lean on coffee for an artificial boost and you plow headlong into work emails and meetings still half awake. Sometimes, it's because you didn't get much sleep. Other times, it's the classic story of overwork.

I added exercise to my daily routine a while back, and that helped, but I don't usually get to it until later in the day. Until that point, I was slowly building my mental acuity and energy.

Then, a shift. A few months ago, I stumbled across something that did wonders -- and, after researching it, realized why.

As soon as I climb out of bed (I mean, the very first thing I do), I complete a 30-second stretch. Here are the basic steps:

  • Reach down and touch your toes. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Slowly slide back up and rotate at the hips, left and right, for 10 seconds.
  • Finally, lift your hands over your head, reaching for the ceiling for a couple of seconds, then lean right with your arms still stretched out, and then left. Do this for about 10 seconds.

Here's what I noticed after a few days of this: My muscles are more limber during the day, which reduces strain on my back during work. My posture is improved. And I actually feel more awake and energized -- even before my coffee. In fact, I've skipped coffee several times and don't actually miss it.

That all may sound too good to be true, but it makes medical sense. Stretching gets the blood flowing and joints working, helps with muscle flexibility, and -- if you hold your stretches for five to 10 seconds each as I do and use consistent, steady breathing during the hold -- you activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This calms your body and helps remove stress, making focus work easier.

Are there other things that can give you a morning boost? Yes. But if you're like me, you have plenty on your plate and need something simple to kick-start your system before the a.m. rush. Nothing has been simpler -- or more effective -- than my 30-second stretch. And if you make it routine, you'll find your body naturally charges your system with energy at the same time in the mornings.

If you need a simple morning pick-me-up, give my stretch a try tomorrow. You might be surprised at how much it does for you.