You’ve been sitting at your desk for 6 hours, wondering when it’s time to go home, and have a nap… That sounds like you’re in that mid-afternoon lull–the 3pm feeling of lethargy. When this happens, it may feel like nap time or time for a pick-me-up such as sugar or coffee.
For those with the luxury of being able to take a nap in the afternoon and not risk losing a job or compromising nightly sleep, then you enjoy that snooze.
If you’re not so lucky, then this article is for you.
When the afternoon doldrums set in, avoid the vending machine or donuts in the break room. Going on a sugar binge at this time may alleviate your slump, but only very temporarily. Eventually your blood sugar will crash again making you want yet more sugar to rebound energy and it’ll cause increased cravings for sweet things. Plus, as excess carbohydrates can’t be used, they are converted to fat and stored on the belly.
If coffee is your booster of choice, and even if you’re not getting a 500-calorie sugar bomb from Starbucks, coffee still has its own consequences. The high levels of caffeine in coffee can affect your ability to sleep 7 or 8 hours later, thus perpetuating the daily low-energy cycle. Too much caffeine when your body is already depleted further stresses the adrenal glands, making them work harder to support your energy levels.
With energy drinks like Redbull and Monster, you get the problems of both too much sugar and too much caffeine, so be even more cautious when using these as an energy crutch.
There are healthier alternatives to these stimulants. But, first keep in mind that (unless you’re truly sleep-deprived) your afternoon lull probably only lasts 20-40 minutes and might occur once or twice a day. When it does, be smart about your health and your waistline.
The following can help restore your energy, focus, and increase productivity for a more fruitful afternoon.
Go for a walk outside. By moving around, you increase blood flow to all areas of your body. Outside air is less stagnant than indoor air, which can help revitalize you. If it’s sunny, a bit of sun exposure will remind your brain and body that it’s still day, which equals activity time.
Up your water intake. Water is fundamental for the brain and body; it is the conductor for nerve firing and cell processes. Therefore adequate water intake ensures nerve connections are firing quickly and efficiently, thus helping to maintain focus.
Find an energetic friend or coworker to chat with. Their liveliness and enthusiasm can restore your energy and motivation and perhaps get you excited about finishing that project.
Drink a cup of tea. Although tea contains caffeine, it is much less than a coffee. Tea also helps support concentration with the amino acid, L-Theanine, said to be the source of meditative prowess in monks.
Stand up or lean back and take a few deep breaths. Sitting hunched over at a desk collapses the lung capacity, which causes the body to resort to shallow breaths and limits the amount of oxygen. Deep breaths help to oxygenate the blood and brain for a more clear-headed feel.
As you embrace a healthy, productive lifestyle, don’t let the mid-afternoon time become your Achilles heel, and coffee or sugar become your crutch.
Use the above tips to restore your energy naturally. Try them out to see which works best for you. Eventually you’ll find your afternoon is more productive, your waistline slimmer, and your outlook a little brighter. Small changes can make a big difference.
For more on this topic, check out my book: Your Mid-Afternoon Energy Crash and What You Can Do About It