For many of us, mornings are our most productive time. You organize and plan your day, joyfully check off completed tasks and before you know it, a co-worker is asking you to break for lunch. Mornings always seem to go by quicker than anticipated; but the afternoons prove different. After your big sandwich has digested and the clock strikes two, you find yourself losing focus. You’re bored, tired and hungry again, and suddenly you find your face in your hands and your shoulders collapsed over the keyboard. It’s the much-dreaded afternoon slump. The culprit to this sleepy sensation might be the result of circadian rhythms, which signal our body into the desire to either fall into bed or spring out of it. The former one peaks both at night as well just around 2pm. But there’s other factors involved, too. Our food intake, hydration and activities all have an affect on the urge to catch a cat nap. Here are some tips and tricks for beating the afternoon slump and getting on with a productive day.
Taking care of your wellbeing around the clock has a big impact on energy levels, so consider these three things:
- Make sure to get enough sleep.
It makes sense that if you don’t clock enough shut-eye the night before, you’re going to be running on empty the next day. Research has even found that people who sleep fewer than six hours each night have a greater difficulty concentrating, among other psychological concerns.
- Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated is pertinent to avoid feeling tired. Make sure not to wait until you’re thirsty, however, as this is a sign that you’re already dehydrated. Throughout the day, aim to drink 2 liters.
- Stay away from sugar.
Added sugars hide in a lot of foods, and there has been plenty of research to back up the negative effects they have on your wellbeing. While consuming a food high in sugar may provide you with an immediate jolt of energy, soon after you’ll experience an inevitable sugar crash, which will cause you to feel even more tired than before.
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One of the biggest mistakes you can make when the afternoon slump hits is to snack on junk food. It makes sense that your mind might go there, as we often mistake other factors for hunger. From the moment you wake up to the moment the afternoon slump hits, what and how you eat decides how your body will react.
- Don’t skip breakfast.
They don’t call it the most important meal of the day for nothing. Breakfast is said to be so critical because it provides you with the energy and nutrients required to have optimum concentration throughout the day. Not eating breakfast makes way for unhealthy food choices and overeating later on, which can result in weight gain. A meal high in protein and complex carbs will give you the energy you need throughout the morning without feeling drained and be more likely to prevent overeating at lunch. Oatmeal with chia seeds, fruit and almond milk, breakfast quinoa with berries are all great options.
- Limit your portion size at lunchtime.
Overdoing it at lunch is easy when you skip breakfast, but sometimes you do it out of pure excitement for tastiness and nourishment. The downside of eating too big a meal is drowsiness, since too much energy was used to digest the amount of food consumed. Choose smaller yet filling options complete with an energizing combination of a fruit or veggie, a whole grain, lean protein, a plant-based fat and an herb or spice.
- Eat a snack.
If you’re finding it hard to concentrate because your tummy’s rumbling but it’s not mealtime yet, then opt for a healthy snack that will boost your energy. High-protein snacks like a handful of nuts are a great option, since they are a slow-burning food that sustains energy.
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The more sedentary you are, and the more hours go by without taking a computer screen and task break, the more your body’s energy source is depleted. Try these three tips out for nipping your sleepy feelings in the bud.
If you have the freedom to step outside for a run, hit up a lunchtime yoga class or squeeze in some gym time, by all means do it! Exercise has been shown to keep fatigue at bay while also providing a boost of productivity. “We are made to move, not sit at a desk 12 hours a day,” notes Joan Price, who is the author of The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book. “As ergonomic as your desk or chair may be, sitting produces back pains, headaches, and listlessness. You become less productive.” Even if you can’t leave the office, there are plenty of at-your-desk exercises you can do to get your heart pumping.
Along with exercise, stretching is a great way to boost your energy levels since it increases blood and nutrient flow throughout the body. To keep your muscles loose, you can stretch right at your desk (it also helps relieve aches and pains!).
- Take a break and move around.
Sometimes your lack of energy is simply a result of an overworked brain. Peel your eyes off your screen to give your eyes a break, get up and move around to a new area for a change of scenery, and step outside for a breath of fresh air and some light for five minutes. You’ll return to your desk feeling energized and much more alert.