How to Beat the Afternoon Slump

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How to beat the afternoon slump and avoid afternoon sleep.

It happens every day around the same time in the afternoon–what was a productive, effective morning slides into the afternoon doldrums. You go from completing item after item on your checklist, to barely having enough motivation for a nap.

Thankfully, it’s not always that polarized, but it’s still annoying to fall into a slump. You can lose hours if you’re not careful, and even if you manage to avoid that, it’s still difficult to continue on when you’re growing less and less motivated.

The afternoon doldrums will always be there, threatening to break your stride, but you can still push on. Knowing how to prevent a slump, and even how to stop it as is happens, can help you stay productive.

What are the afternoon doldrums?

The afternoon doldrums is the name for that sluggish feeling you get in the middle of the day (usually around or after lunch). The afternoon slump, as it’s also called, usually manifests as a desire for sleep, but there are a few other symptoms as well. You can become more irritable and negative despite feeling fine earlier. Something that was easy to read or complete earlier may become more of challenge as your brain struggles to catch up. All are signs that you’ve entered your afternoon slump.

What causes the afternoon doldrums? 

There is evidence to suggest that an afternoon slump is something that happens naturally, but there are a few things that you might be doing to make matters worse. If you take too much caffeine in the morning, it’s natural that you’ll begin to crash in the afternoon. The same is true if you each a carbohydrate heavy breakfast or snacks. Too much stress, and too little sleep are also obvious culprits.

You many not be able to pin point the exact cause on a given day–there may be multiple things that contribute–but you can be sure that even when things are going well, an afternoon slump might sneak up on you.

How to Prevent the Slump

If you’re the proactive sort, there are a few things you can do in the morning to help avoid a slump. A simple one actually starts the night before: get a good nights rest. When you’re well rested, you may experience less of a slump, or prevent one altogether.

Another way is a little more difficult: slow down on the caffeine. When you’re tired, particularly in the morning, slamming back a few cups of coffee seems like your best bet, but you’ll pay for it later. Pace yourself, or better yet, cut back altogether. You can also switch to something lighter like tea.

Switching up your other breakfast items may help as well. A breakfast with lean protein, less carbohydrates, and sugar can help prevent you from getting tired later in the day. Focus on eating things like eggs, yogurt, fruit, and vegetables.

Regardless of how you modify your routine, I want to stress that you will encounter an afternoon slump at some point, regardless of careful planning and countermeasures. But don’t lose hope! There are still things you can do.

How to Beat the Slump

Luckily, you don’t have to surrender to your fate and sneak out to your car for a quick nap. If you’ve done your best, but the doldrums still have you down, here are 5 simple things you can do to beat your afternoon slump.

  1. Light Exercise: Do some light stretches, take a short, brisk walk, or take the stairs up an extra flight. Getting up and moving around can give you a little boost of energy enough to get you over your slump.
  2. Tea: Rather than throwing back another coffee, try some tea. There’s less caffeine in tea, and it gets absorbed slower, so you’ll get a little more energy without crashing later.
  3. Water: It’s easy to forget how much water our bodies actually need. Drinking even one glass of water can help you feel better, especially if you’ve been neglecting to drink any throughout the day.  The good news is, the effect is usually pretty instant too.
  4. Meditation: If you really just want to take a nap, compromise with yourself and settle for some meditation instead. (You should probably do this while sitting, so that you don’t inadvertently fall asleep.) While you meditate, pick something positive or enjoyable to think about. Avoid the temptation to think about work or anything that has you stressed out–the point is to clear your thoughts and let yourself have a moment of peace. Even just five or ten minutes should leave you feeling refreshed.
  5. Read a Book: Instead of being on your phone, reading the news, checking your emails, or doing any work through lunch, take a second to enjoy yourself. I recommend reading a book that you enjoy, because reading can help you refocus. It gets the brain working again so you’ll feel less sluggish.
  6. Grab a Snack: Regardless of whether or not you’ve already eaten lunch, a snack can help give you some much needed energy. Try not to jump on the first piece of candy you see, though. While tasty and good for a sugar rush, these will cost you energy later. Try nuts or fruit for a good bit of healthy energy.
  7. Avoid the Internet: The worst thing you can do in your slump, is get sucked into an internet rabbit hole. You’ll start with one, harmless YouTube video, and next thing you know, you’ve lost an hour and you feel even worse than before. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of relaxing by surfing the internet. Choose a more effective way to unwind for a moment–one that won’t leave you just as tired as when you started.

You don’t have to let an afternoon slump get the best of you. Your best work may be behind you, but you can still finish your day strong. The point is to be smart about how you choose to take your break, and what you choose to eat and drink. With a few thoughtful choices, you can keep yourself productive at any hour of the day and avoid sleeping in the afternoon.



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