Is this a familiar scene? It’s after lunch, you still have a few hours left in the workday, but you’re blankly staring at your computer screen, feeling like you need a nap.
The 3 p.m. slump is a common occurrence in every office. The feeling can be blamed on circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep patterns. Our bodies’ sleep signals peak during the afternoon, making us crave a nap. What we eat and how much we drink during the day also impact our energy levels around this time of day. While you may be tempted to grab a soda, coffee, candy bar, or another pick-me-up to push through the day, these quick fixes can leave you feeling even more tired. Try these 3 p.m. slump ideas instead:
Although it may be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling sluggish, moving is the best way to give your brain and mood a boost. Take a quick walk or go up a few flights of stairs to get your blood pumping. Don’t worry, you don’t need to break into a sweat to get the benefits of increasing your blood flow. “Brief bouts of outdoor exercise have been found to improve our moods and reduce stress,” says Danna Korn, CEO of Sonic Boom Wellness. A quick walk around the block can help you return to your desk more energized and focused.
Save the easiest tasks on your to-do list for your toughest hour. “If you’re feeling sluggish, you won’t be able to do your best work,” says psychologist Dr. Ethan Gregory. Getting the simple stuff done at a time when you’re not at your best performance level ensures you still remain productive throughout the day and don’t lose an hour of the workday fighting off fatigue while trying to accomplish something challenging.
Music has been shown to contain a host of mental health benefits and can help you focus. Music boosts levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine–that “feel-good” brain chemical that puts us in a good mood. Dopamine also stimulates motivation and focus, helping to power you through the afternoon.
“Afternoon sluggishness and headaches and lack of concentration can often be tied to dehydration,” says Korn. “A full glass of water will fuel your afternoon better than any candy dish can.” Keep a water bottle close by to remind yourself to continually hydrate.
Digesting a massive lunch takes a lot of resources from your body and can cause you to fall into a food coma by 3 p.m. “How we feel at 3 p.m. is a direct result of how we ate at noon,” says Korn. Avoid pastas, breads, cheeses, and fatty fast-food options, and instead opt for a light sandwich or wrap, rice bowl, salad with protein, and other whole grain/protein combos. The afternoon slump is often caused by a drop in blood glucose causing you to crave a sugary treat.
If you need a snack at 3 p.m., Korn recommends some low-glycemic food such as apples. “Their significant but not excessive levels of natural sugar team up with a slew of slow-releasing vitamins to provide an alertness effect that rivals what coffee provides,” she says. Nuts, which keep your brain and belly more satisfied, or Greek yogurt, which contains more protein and less sugar than typical yogurt and will give you more sustained energy throughout the afternoon, are other great mid-afternoon snack options.
If you feel the slump coming on, try moving to a different work location such as a collaborative area in your office, or even a local coffee shop. This change in scenery gives you a different set of stimuli that can wake up your brain. A standing desk is another great option to fight off mid-afternoon fatigue, as these increase your blood flow, boosting your overall mood and helping you to focus.