It’s 2 pm, and you’re at your desk. You’re supposed to be composing an email, but your brain feels foggy. Sound familiar? It’s the dreaded afternoon slump. And it’s way more common than you think.
This daily dip in energy levels can be really annoying and can really hurt your productivity. But did you know that it’s natural, and plenty of other people experience it, too? That’s because what we dub the afternoon slump is actually just part of our natural circadian rhythm. This internal clock dictates our energy levels throughout the day, and it makes energy dip for most adults around 1-3 pm.
In other words, you can’t really get rid of it – but you can help get past it. Are you ready to take back your afternoon, and ditch the foggy brain? Here are some tips on how to get over that pesky afternoon slump!
Don’t Skip Breakfast
Breakfast really is an important part of your day. It may seem harmless to skip breakfast when you’re rushing out the door in the morning, but it could be impacting you much more than you realize. By the time you get around to lunch, you end up much more likely to eat a larger meal to compensate. And then, that big, heavy lunch makes your eyelids heavy, too.
Reaching for sugary treats like donuts is almost as bad as not eating breakfast at all, so skip the sweets. They will just make you crash. Start the day off right with a nutritious breakfast. Making sure it’s something that includes whole grains and some lean protein is the best way to get going. It will help keep you full and alert for much longer than those donuts.
Read More: Realistic Ways To Cut Back on Processed Food
Hydrate! And Hydrate Some More!
Put down the extra cup of coffee and skip the Red Bull. I know you don’t want to hear it, but maybe you should drink more water. Staying hydrated is extremely important to maintain effective bodily functioning. Plus, did you know that your afternoon fatigue could be a sign that you’re dehydrated?
It’s true. When we are dehydrated, we start to feel less energetic. It can make it difficult to focus, too. That’s because, without water, your body can’t carry out its normal functions! Dehydration affects your blood pressure, and decreased blood flow to the brain makes you extra tired.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the old saying about drinking 8 glasses of water per day, but that’s not necessarily right for everyone. The general recommendation from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is actually 11.5 cups a day for women and 15.5 cups a day for men. Of course, this varies based on where you live, your regular diet, how active you are, and other factors.
Just drink that extra water! If you start to get bored with plain water, add fresh fruit or herbs for flavor. Or, reach for unsweetened sparkling water for some bubbly fun. And if you prefer something hot, unsweetened herbal tea is also a great option.
Turn Up the Music
Music can do wonders! Sure, it can make us feel good, but it can also help us get in the zone. If you’re hoping to focus and stay productive, not all music is right for the job – and not all music affects everyone the same way. However, there are some good general guidelines when putting on a playlist to slay the slump and get stuff done.
If you’re doing something that requires a lot of brain power – say, you’re trying to learn, you’re using your creative juices, or you’re doing something that requires a lot of focus – instrumentals are the best choice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be classical (although I personally think that’s an excellent choice), but songs with words can be distracting when you’re trying to think.
However, if you’re doing something simple, repetitive, or boring, it’s time to jam out to your favorite tunes. Create a playlist of all the music you know and love. This will help you keep going through the mundane stuff, making you happier and more efficient.
Take a Walk Around the Block
The easiest way to break through a slump is to get up and moving. I know it sounds counterproductive, using more energy when you feel like you don’t have any. Just trust me on this one, because a little exercise will pull you straight out of that afternoon slump. It’s kind of like making money with money… or something.
Going outside is the best way to do it. Not only does it give you a little bit of exercise, but it’s the perfect way to give your brain a break if you have been cooped up inside all day. On top of that, going outside exposes you to sunlight. Getting sunlight is a real, physiological human need, and the sun has a huge effect on the circadian clock. The extra sun can help tell your internal clock that it’s still time to be alert.
If you can’t get outside, it’s okay. Just getting in a little movement in your office is still a great way to get over that slump. Hey, exercise isn’t just for the gym. There are plenty of easy, low-impact ways to get in a little exercise without even leaving the office.
Grab a Nutritious Snack
When reaching for an afternoon snack, it’s so easy to grab salty or sugary prepackaged snacks. It’s even easier if you’ve got a vending machine in your office! Nothing says afternoon slump like a bag of potato chips. However, these won’t give you the lasting boost of energy that you need to break through the slump and finish out the day.
Prepackaged junk will give you an initial boost, but then it will just lead to a quick crash that leaves you even more tired than before. Instead, you need to reach for a healthy snack. Look for minimally processed ingredients, healthy fats, and proteins. These will help pull you out of the slump without weighing you down. It doesn’t get any more simple than a hardboiled egg, or peanut butter on a banana.
From trendy foods like avocado toast to old standbys like trail mix, we have plenty of nutritious and delicious snack ideas for you to check out.
Take a Nap
I know it sounds silly, but if nothing mentioned so far works, maybe you just need a quick nap. I know that not everyone has the ability to take a midday nap or anything. Some people don’t have the time, while others find that naps make them feel groggy. And if you can’t take a quick nap without sleeping for a couple of hours, this definitely isn’t the move for you.
However, a short nap is a great way to reset and refill your energy, if it’s a possibility for you. Sometimes it’s the only way I can get past the slump.
Change Your Routine to Work With Your Natural Rhythms
Like I mentioned before, our energy levels throughout the day are dictated by our circadian rhythm. The modern workday was not planned around this at all. The standard 9-to-5 workday just doesn’t work with our bodies’ natural clock.
The slump is unfortunately just a part of life. But hey, at least you can take comfort in knowing you’re experiencing it with literally everyone else, right?
To make the most of your day and tap into your productivity, it’s time to make a change in the way you work. You need to schedule your work around your energy, rather than trying to change your energy levels to fit your work. Anticipate that afternoon slump.
I do my best cognitively challenging work in the morning. This is when I schedule the really important stuff that requires focus and brainpower. Tasks that require less brainpower are saved for the afternoon.
For others, it may be the opposite – easy tasks in the morning, and high-energy work in the afternoon. You just have to pay attention to your natural energy levels throughout the day, and then plan accordingly. It may not be practical for everyone, but it’s definitely the best solution if possible.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
I know you’re not getting enough sleep. Just admit it, and start working on it. Not getting enough sleep at night means running out of energy much quicker during the day.
If you’re staying up late playing video games or binge-watching shows, you’re potentially hurting your productivity the next day. And while you may wake up feeling ready to go, that energy runs out pretty quick, intensifying that afternoon slump.
Excessive caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon, can make it harder to get to sleep at night. So can a lack of exercise, not enough time in the sun, and staring at screens too much. Check out these tips for how to get a better night’s sleep, so you can get more done the next day.