You can feel it start to happen–at first slowly, then all at once. You get a little bit tired and before you know it, you’re mindlessly scrolling your Facebook feed. You’re distracted and spent–you just can’t handle another minute of real work. You’ve hit the mid-afternoon slump.
“Most of us are sitting all day, staring at a computer screen highly focused… you can’t sustain that for long,” says internist Lorraine Maita, MD, author of How To Live Younger. “At about 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., your cortisol starts to drop.”
While our automatic reaction might be to reach for a bag of Sun Chips and watch a random YouTube clip, those behaviors will only prolong the slump. You will be better off if you try to reset your body and mind to help you regain focus. Maita recommends a number of activities, including listening to upbeat music or breathing deeply for a few minutes, to re-energize the body. Below are few more examples of how to get your focus back.
Have A Drink
Go pour yourself one–but not in the Mad Men sort of way. “Most people don’t drink enough water,” explains Maita, “the first thing [to check] is hydration.” Sometimes a pick-me-up is as simple as having a glass of water.
You can also further enhance your hydration by keeping a jar of “brainfood” powders handy. Lifehouse Tonics’ blended superfood and adaptogen herb powders ($24, lifehousetonics.com) are filled with ingredients such as ginkgo and medicinal mushrooms to improve energy and cognitive abilities.
“I’m usually going full speed from sun-up to sundown,” says Jesse Merrill, CEO and cofounder of Good Culture Cottage Cheese. “So I always find some time in the middle of the day to refresh my mind and take a breather from work. If I’m short on time, I’ll find a quiet place and meditate for 15-20 minutes. Meditation clears my head and helps me focus on the rest of the day.”
Stress management techniques such as meditation help slow down the brain, serving as a much-needed reboot. Giving your mind a 5-10 minute-break will help reduce cortisol levels and give you a little mental boost. Apps like Headspace can help introduce yourself to learning mindfulness skills that can help break up your day.
Maita recommends a souped-up semi-meditation app called HeartMath from Bulletproof, which syncs up to an earlobe clip that measures your pulse and connects it with heart rhythms in order to help you synchronize your breathing.
“It balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, which has been studied for years and been used by elite athletes and CEOs,” reports Maita. “It’s been shown to enhance creativity, innovation, and performance, as well as reduces stress.”
Channel Your Inner Marie Kondo
A simple procedure you can do at your desk is simply get everything in order. As Maita explains, when your work space is a mess, “you can’t think straight.” Cleaning off your desk can give you that mindless break you so very much need. It takes the pressure off, but allows you to physically move and feel better about not only your surroundings, but your productivity.
Move Your Body
This is an easy one–just stand up, raise your arms straight up, then bend over like a rag doll. Breathe in deeply, then release with a heavy sigh. “It gets the circulation moving and releases the tension of being in the same spot all day,” says Maita.
If you’re looking for a deeper stretch, invest in the LoRox Aligned Travel Roller, a compact solution if you’ve been slumped over your keyboard all day. The roller reduces tension in the back and neck, and decompresses the upper thoracic spine. “It helps increase oxygen intake and outtake, which boosts energy,” reports LoRox creator and alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh. “It also improves posture to help you stand up taller and feel calmer.”
Here’s a quick, office-friendly roller exercise:
- Lie on your back with the roller placed under your back, leaning your mid-back over the roller. Gently interlace your fingers behind your head to support your head and neck.
- Using your feet to drive the movement, inhale as you roll up, stopping at the top of the shoulder blades.
- Exhale as you roll and massage down the shoulders and upper spine, stopping at the bottom of your rib cage. (Be careful not to roll back and forth on the lower back.)
When you’ve been stuck indoors for over half the day, sometimes the only thing you need is a physical escape. Lindsay Mannering, vice president of editorial operations at Bustle Digital Group, takes 5-10 minutes to recharge in her office’s neighborhood. “I take a walk around the block and listen to house music,” says Mannering. “Then I eat a string cheese.”
Even if it’s just for a few minutes, the impact of engaging with the outdoors–no matter the scenery–provides a natural high. It’s also a pleasant separation from our tech-addled life. As Maita recommends, “Get outside, get in the air, and see some green. It’s so much more healing than having more gadgets around you.”
Schedule Tea Time
“Coffee and sugar might pick you up temporarily, but (they are) going to make you crash later,” advises Maita, who also warns that they might interfere with sleep later on in the evening. Maita instead recommends green tea, which is full of antioxidants and a small dose of caffeine. Jeff Weinstein, cofounder and CEO of The Counter & BUILT Custom Burgers, takes the ritual as an opportunity to refuel on several accounts: “I drink a hot green tea, eat a couple handfuls of almonds, and call my kids to hear about their day at school,” says Weinstein, “so all that is a pick-me-up.”
Serve Your Senses
Sometimes you just need a whiff of something other than freshly-printed copy paper. Smelling a beloved or uplifting aroma can easily transport you to another realm–one without Slack pings.
“There are studies on how aromatherapy, something like a peppermint oil, is very energizing,” says Maita. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils are also especially helpful if you suffer from headaches or migraines. Invest in a high quality oil, which you can dab on your wrists and temples, or pour onto on a cotton ball, then inhale. You can also buy an easy-to-care-for rosemary plant, which has been shown to enhance brain activity and cognitive function. For a pick-me-up, just rip off a leaf and rub into your skin.
There are also plenty of refreshing aromatic sprays, like
that has extracts of grape, rosemary, orange blossom, rose, myrrh and mint.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth
Your sugar level dropping is no excuse to go to town on that bucket of Red Vines. Having a wee bit of dark chocolate–just a small piece with not too much sugar in it–is a tasty, caffeine-enhanced way to rebalance your system . “Dark chocolate has flavonoids that are very helpful to the brain,” says Maita. “And who doesn’t love chocolate?”