How to Beat the Afternoon Slump

It’s 2:15 in the afternoon. You check an email, but you feel like you need to read it three or four times to understand.

A long, lion-like yawn takes you by surprise. You’ve still got half the day to go!

You count down the minutes until it’s appropriate to grab another coffee, and then you think to yourself:

How am I already up to four cups? I swear I only used to have two per day…

We’ve all been there. That weird drop in energy that somehow always happens at the same time in the middle of each day.

European countries, like Spain and Italy, at least allow their workers an afternoon siesta nap. For us Australians, we’re often left to our own devices.

Luckily, there are a few ways we can beat the dreaded afternoon slump.

Let’s take a look at the facts:

It’s science.

First of all, know that you’re not alone. Researchers have shown that it’s completely natural for human beings to experience a small dip in energy at least twice during the day.

One of those times, understandably, is in the evening before we settle down for the night. But for many of us, the other time is somewhere in between 1 and 3pm.

Studies have shown that the stress of the early morning rush many of us experience can often lead to sharp falls in body cortisol and temperature levels in the afternoon. These are both factors that impact alertness.

The solution:

Begin to manage your stress levels from the beginning of the day.

An easy way to do this is to establish a feel-good morning routine, whether that’s an invigorating yoga class or a blissfully long breakfast hour. Other options include journaling, having a mid-morning cuppa with a happy-go-lucky mate or getting up early for an indulgent swim.

Whatever you choose, make sure your morning’s not a rush n’ go nightmare and you’ll set your day up for success.

One thing we can all do is make sure we’re at least getting 7 to 8 hours of much-needed shut-eye the night before. Scientists agree that lack of sleep aggravates stress, and will cause us to feel exhausted once our morning espresso wears off.

Food is energy.

While home-cooked lasagne might make for a tempting lunch option, anything heavy in carbs is bound to cause afternoon sleepiness.

This is because food high in refined carbs typically will cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels…and then an almighty drop.

That drop is what many of us are feeling during the post-lunch afternoon slump.

However, some of us simply don’t eat enough. This can also be the culprit.

After all, food is our prime source of energy. It’s so important that we eat enough of it, and the right kind, to sustain ourselves properly throughout the day.  

The solution:

No matter how full your to-do list is looking, don’t skip breakfast and certainly don’t skip lunch. Eat when you’re hungry. Your body’s telling you it needs to.

Choose lunches that are higher in protein and omega-3s, for optimal energy levels and better brain performance. Great options include an oily tuna salad or a chicken and avocado wholegrain wrap. Abundant in healthy fats and proteins, these meals will leave you feeling higher in energy than the high-carb focaccias at your local café.

It’s also worth having some snacks at hand for an extra boost when you need it. Be smart about the snacks you choose. Nuts are a fantastic source of omega-3s while dark chocolate gives us magnesium (to combat stress) and a touch of caffeine (to increase energy levels.)

Movement matters.

When the body’s feeling sluggish, the mind can quickly follow suit. Many of us in office jobs spend most of our day sitting, which is enough to make anyone go a little loopy by the time afternoon hits.

Counter that with the stagnant air indoors and a mountain of things to do, and you’re gearing towards a slump.

The solution:

Take some time in your day to take a brisk walk. It may seem contradictory, but expending a little energy can help refresh the mind. Studies have shown that the brain is stimulated from light exercise.

Even better if you can get some sunlight. The vitamin D from the sun’s rays regulates your natural circadian rhythm – which reminds you that during the day, you should be feeling wide awake!  

Bonus points if you can get out and move in nature. Essential oil vapours from plants and flowers carried by the air will revitalise your spirits and make you feel more in touch with yourself.

The little things count, too.

A solid routine can be too much of a good thing. Same breakfast, same colleagues, same workload…it can all leave us a bit like we’re stuck in groundhog day.

It’s easy to forget the little things we can do to spice up our day, particularly when we’re working on a big project and have our eye on the prize, or have a ton of errands to run before the end of the week.

The solution:

Introducing a bit of variety into your day can be the difference between a seemingly endless slog and an enjoyably productive day. One of the keys to feeling energised is to fill pockets of your day with happy experiences that give you pleasure.

Making a call to a loved one. Doing a ten-minute meditation in the park. Trying out a new kind of exotic tea. Doing something differently than you normally would.

Ultimately, the key to beating the afternoon slump is to balance your desire to achieve with an ability to relax and enjoy yourself.

Start your day in a positive state of mind, and make time to simply be in the moment.

Some would say that’s what life’s about!

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