How to Defeat the Afternoon Slump

Six Tips for Staying Energized Throughout Your Workday

You powered through your morning tasks, took a break for lunch, and are ready to get back to it when you realize you’re having trouble staying focused and even feeling a little sluggish. You find yourself thinking more and more about napping and less about working. Does this sound familiar? If so, you’ve experienced the afternoon slump.

It’s very common to hit a point around 2 p.m., where you start to feel sleepy and less attentive. Our body’s natural rhythm makes us desire sleep the strongest between 2 to 4 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.! So what can you do about it? If you can’t step away for an afternoon power nap, try these six tips to overcome the afternoon slump.

1. Eat the Right Lunch

What you eat for lunch plays a tremendous role in how you feel in the afternoon. Both portion size and meal composition are vital factors for determining your mood and energy levels. We’ve all experienced that feeling after a heavy meal where all we want to do is curl up on our couch for the rest of the day. Avoid that heavy feeling during your workday by choosing a lunch that is high in protein but low in fat and sugar. Fat sits in your stomach and takes longer to digest, making you feel even sleepier.

Great lunch options include eggs, beans, tofu, or turkey breast, depending on your diet. You can easily add any of these ingredients to a salad or wrap, creating a delicious meal that is light but satisfying. Add in vegetables for an additional boost.

2. Get Moving

Your body’s natural rhythm may be pushing you to sleep in the afternoon, but you have the power to do the opposite: get active. If you can, take a brief walk outside; the natural light will stop the production of sleep hormones like melatonin, keeping you from getting sleepier and making you more alert. If you don’t have a lot of time, studies have shown that even five minutes of outside time can boost your work productivity for the rest of the day.

If an outdoor walk isn’t an option, stand up from your desk and stretch. Full-body stretches are an excellent option, as these send a strong surge of blood and nutrients throughout your body. You may also want to explore “deskercises” or exercises that you can accomplish from your desk. Any movement level will get more oxygen pumping into your blood, which will improve your energy level and remove any built-up tension.

3. Refuel

Check-in with yourself if you feel the afternoon slump coming on: do you need a snack to re-energize? Or another glass of water? A snack could be the small boost you need to keep working productively. For example, try having a handful of nuts, a Greek yogurt parfait, or carrot sticks and hummus. Stick to snacks that are high in protein but low in sugar.

Hydration is also key to energy maintenance. Being dehydrated can make you feel sleepy and “brain-fogged” (and many other undesirable side effects), so refuel throughout your workday with plenty of plain water. It’s helpful to remember that you’re already dehydrated if you’re feeling thirsty, so drink up!

4. Avoid Caffeine

For many of us, our first thought when we’re tired is that we need more coffee. But consuming caffeine is all about timing, and for that reason, it’s not recommended to help you out of an afternoon slump. Why? Drinking coffee after 1 or 2 p.m. can negatively impact sleep, making it both more difficult to fall asleep and more challenging to achieve deep sleep. While coffee may help you through the afternoon on day one, on day two, you’ll feel even more tired from lack of quality sleep. Then you’ll drink more coffee, creating a vicious cycle.

5. Redesign Your Day

If you have the flexibility to design your work schedule, there’s no need to experience the afternoon slump. Instead, make your plan work for you. Spend a week documenting the times of day when you’re most productive. Use that data to create a work schedule where you’re accomplishing complex tasks during your most productive hours and tasks that require less mental energy during periods of lower productivity.

Build breaks into your day during those low-productivity periods, and use them wisely. For example, if you work from home, you may choose to incorporate an exercise session during your afternoons. Or, you could take a 20-minute break to work on a fun, engaging hobby that will spark your energy.

6. Play Pump-up Music

Music has long been proven to be able to impact our moods. Uplifting music, for instance, can help us feel more alert and creative. Take advantage of the power of music: play your favorite songs in the background as you work on more mundane, repetitive tasks. You’ll feel happier, leading to greater efficiency and focus on your work. If your favorite songs are too distracting or don’t fit your work mood, try light, instrumental music instead.

If you can’t concentrate with any music playing while you work, take a break when you start losing focus and blast your favorite tunes for a few minutes (headphones are preferred if you’re around other people!). You’d be surprised at how much a high-energy song can boost your mood.

While it’s common to experience an afternoon slump, overcome that 2 p.m. tiredness by following these tips. Simple changes in your habits can make a big difference in your energy, productivity, and happiness at work. Plus, by keeping your dedicated work hours productive, you can avoid the stress of feeling behind or working longer than anticipated.

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