How to Avoid the Afternoon Slump (15 Simple Tips)
Energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day. At times, you may feel energized and excited for the next project, only to hit the wall of an afternoon slump, leaving you wishing you were back in kindergarten with time for a snack followed by a nap.
Why do so many of us suffer from an afternoon slump, and more importantly, can we avoid or overcome it when it hits?
Why You Hit an Afternoon Slump
There are several reasons energy levels can drop during the day, with some being more obvious than others.
For example, if you haven’t gotten enough sleep, you may find yourself dragging through the day, hitting a wall by afternoon.
A carb-laden lunch may also leave you feeling stripped of energy in the afternoon. This is because the spike in blood sugar is followed by a spike in insulin, forcing blood sugar levels to drop. In turn, you’re left feeling not only tired but hungry.
High stress levels can also lead to exhaustion in the middle of the day. The depletion caused by chronic stress can also increase risks for illness, injury, and burnout.
Perhaps a less-obvious reason energy levels are crashing in the afternoon is simply because you’ve been sitting too long. Lack of activity and exercise can lead to decreased levels of blood flow and important hormones like serotonin. Plus, exercise helps stabilize those blood sugar levels, helping you avoid energy spikes and crashes after eating.
Energy levels also naturally go up and down throughout the day due to hormone levels and circadian rhythms. For most people, the body naturally signals it’s time for a rest shortly after lunch, typically sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. Those who work various shifts, get up early for work or children, or otherwise have their usual sleep times disrupted, can have an even more difficult time regulating energy levels throughout the day.
Of course, hydration levels, hours of staring at a computer screen, doing tedious or repetitive work, and boredom can also drain energy levels.
Finally, specific medical issues can also lead to lasting fatigue. For example, if you find that you are feeling tired every afternoon even after sleeping well the night before, it’s worth checking with your doctor to rule out untreated health issues, including autoimmune diseases, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, iron deficiency, and others.
15 Ways to Avoid the Afternoon Slump
While the afternoon slump may seem inevitable (at least at times), there are steps you can take to avoid or perhaps overcome it. Here are 14 simple steps you can take if you’ve had enough of dragging through the afternoon.
1. Get Enough Sleep
In today’s society, we tend to burn the candle at both ends. Yet practicing good sleep hygiene may not only help you avoid the afternoon slump; it may also help the body fight oxidative stress and regenerate cells to ultimately extend healthspan. 1
2. Stay Hydrated
If you want to enjoy greater energy levels and mood, then staying hydrated is a must. 2 Shoot for about 9 cups per day for women and 13 per day for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. 3 Keep it simple by keeping a water bottle with you to sip on throughout the day.
3. Eat Balanced Meals
If you’re in a hurry, high-carb foods can be most convenient. Unfortunately, while you may initially enjoy an energy boost, it’s not a lasting one.
Instead, eat whole-food meals that combine quality proteins with healthy fats and slow-burning carbohydrates for long-lasting energy that fuels the mind and body.
That includes breakfast. While there are benefits to Intermittent Fasting, if you find that you are dragging through the day, starting with an energy-boosting breakfast that provides protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs may help. 4
Consider enjoying smaller portions or lighter healthy meals for lunch that won’t leave you feeling weighed down. 5
4. Snack Mindfully
If you keep candies, crackers, or other high-carb snacks at your desk, again, you may enjoy an energy boost, but it won’t last long. If you’re feeling hungry in the afternoon, a snack can definitely provide an energizing lift. Just stick with a higher protein option to keep your energy levels going. A protein-rich smoothie, a slice of cheese, a small handful of nuts with some fresh fruit, or perhaps a high-protein brownie are all good options. 6
5. Manage Stress Levels
Take time during the day to breathe and be mindful to release stress that accumulates. There are numerous ways to manage stress from mediating to deep breathing exercises, grounding and forest bathing to exercising, and more. 7
6. Exercise Regularly
Among its numerous benefits, exercise can be one of the most useful ways to release stress. It can also help you avoid the afternoon slump. If you do find you don’t have energy in the afternoon, counterintuitively, one of the best ways to overcome it is to exercise. Take a 10-minute walk, hit the gym, try some deskercises, or enjoy a short yoga session. Even taking a few minutes to stand up and stretch can do wonders! Whatever movement you choose will likely reward you with greater energy. 8, 9
That midday workout could not only help you wake up, it could lead to increased productivity, according to research. 10 Indeed, one study found people who exercised were able to accomplish more, even when working less to fit in a workout. They were also less likely to miss work due to illness.
7. Go Toward the Light
Changing your environment can do wonders for your mood and energy levels, especially if you’re able to increase the amount of light around you. If you tend to work in a dim, cave-like environment, finding some sunlight, sitting by a window, or just working under some bright, blue lights that mimic natural sunshine for a bit can help your brain wake up and recharge. 11, 12
What’s more, spending just a few minutes in nature can help you feel more vital and energized.13 It can also be a great way to recover from work stress.14 Bright light exposure has even been shown to boost cognitive performance! 15
Don’t think you have time? See if you can incorporate walking meetings (in person or by phone) into your day. Or read that latest report while sitting in the sun.
8. Use the 20/20/20 Rule
It goes without saying that staring at a screen for hours on end can lead to exhaustion. To avoid eyestrain, make sure you have your screens set up about an arm’s length away. And then follow the 20/20/20 rule from the American Optometric Association. In short, that just means every 20 minutes, give your eyes a 20-second break by shifting your focus to something at least 20 feet away. 16
9. Enjoy a Nap
Still can’t shake off that exhaustion? Go with your body’s natural energy pattern and indulge in a short 5- to 10-minute power nap. 17 You may even consider a coffee nap to wake up feeling ready to charge through the afternoon. 18
10. Trade Coffee for Tea (in the afternoon)
If you love a good cup of coffee in the morning, go for it. But once afternoon hits (say, after 3 p.m.), put away the coffee and sip on some tea instead. The phytochemicals specifically found in a cup of green tea can provide energy without keeping you up once it’s bedtime.
11. Chill Out, Literally
Getting too warm can also decrease energy levels. If you’re feeling the heat, take a few minutes to cool down by splashing some cold water on your face, standing in front of the AC or fan, or having a nice long drink of something icy cold.
12. Switch Gears
Especially when it comes to deadlines, you may find yourself absorbed into the same project for hours on end. To help restimulate your mind, take a quick break or simply work on another task to refresh your mind and body. Then you can come back to your main task feeling ready to refocus. 19
Don’t, however, think you can do it all at the same time. Multitasking decreases productivity by up to 40% and can even reduce brain functioning to lower IQ. Stick with one thing at a time to stay engaged, focused, less stressed, and smarter. 20
13. Find Your Jam
Another simple but effective way to help increase energy levels is to turn on some tunes. Find something upbeat and uplifting (with or without lyrics, depending on how much you need to focus) to increase attention, alertness, and even memory. 21 – 24
14. Energize Your Senses
Peppermint or spearmint oil and other essential oils may help energize and uplift you. Try using a diffuser, having a cotton ball with some oil nearby to inhale throughout the day, or mix with a carrier oil and rub into your hands. Other scents that may increase energy and focus include lemon, sweet orange, grapefruit, lime, basil, pine, eucalyptus, and rosemary. 25
Chewing a mint-flavored sugar-free gum may also help fight feelings of fatigue to overcome an afternoon slump. 26 Additionally, you can choose to chew on a clove or crush some fresh rosemary or mint near you to stimulate your senses. 27
You could even try brushing your teeth to help wake up your senses (and help you feel refreshed).
15. Be Social
Humans are social animals, and too much alone time can be draining for many. So, if you’re feeling a drop in energy and concentration, visit with a co-worker or pick up the phone to chat with a friend or spouse for a few minutes.
Avoid the Afternoon Slump: A Recap
It’s completely normal for energy levels to ebb and flow throughout the day. As you become more aware of your own rhythms, you can better adjust your days. You may, for example, choose to do your focused or creative work in the morning. And in the afternoon, you may want to schedule your walking meetings or a workout. Everyone, however, is different. So, what works best for you may not be the same for your co-workers, friends, or partner.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to avoid or overcome an afternoon slump, which can not only help you become more productive but can also lift mood and help you enjoy your day that much more.