We’ve all been there—we start our day, head into work, tackle our to-do lists, grab some lunch, then settle back in to continue plugging away—when we suddenly feel a crash. Our eyes won’t stay open and we feel a strong urge to settle into our office chair and take a deep, long nap.
Fatigue is something that plagues all of us at one point or another, and the afternoon slump is one of the most common offenders. Between the hours of 2-3 p.m., many of us are tempted to run to the vending machine for a candy bar or crack open an energy drink to stave off sleepy feelings and finish our workday strong. But, while these items may be useful for a quick jolt of energy, they usually come with an even bigger crash soon after and are bad for our bodies in general.
Afternoon slumps are pretty natural, often caused by the circadian rhythms in our bodies which lower the body temperature and release melatonin, which makes us sleepy. To fight off these natural feelings or lethargy, we should employ healthy and natural solutions. Try out these five natural ways to give yourself an energy boost in the afternoon:
1. Start the day off right
Your body needs proper fuel to get you through the day, so eating a poor breakfast or skipping the meal entirely is a sure-fire way to end up feeling sluggish later. You can’t rely on quick doses of sugar and caffeine to keep you awake all day. Fuel your body the right way by eating a balanced breakfast filled with complex carbohydrates and protein.
Food items like fresh fruit, toast with peanut butter and eggs can give you the right kind and amount of energy you’ll need to make it to lunch. Then, it’s equally important to fuel up again with more protein and healthy foods. Your brain and body will thank you.
2. Take snack breaks
Your breakfast and lunch don’t have to carry all the weight. Grabbing a quick snack when you feel your energy dip in the afternoon can help perk you up and remain alert. Once again, look for that healthy combo of protein and complex carbs instead of running to the vending machine for a soda or chocolate bar.
It’s a good idea to prep your snacks in the morning so you have them ready at your desk when you need them—to resist the urge to grab something less healthy. When the afternoon lethargy starts kicking in, grab a handful of nuts, fresh fruit, hydrating veggies or whole wheat crackers.
It seems simple enough, but many people forget to drink enough water while plugging away at their to-do lists each day. One of the major causes of fatigue is dehydration, so if you start to feel sleepy, grab a tall glass of water and drink it before jumping back into work.
Try sipping on water throughout the course of your day for the best results. For an added boost, you can add some fruit like lemons or limes or a natural supplement.
4. Get your blood pumping
When you’re feeling tired, the last thing you might want to do is exercise but getting up and moving can really help give you the boost of energy you need to finish off the day. Even doing as little as taking a short walk around the office floor can get your blood circulating. Try to take short walks after every hour or two of work.
If you have some extra time, consider climbing a few flights of stairs or even doing some light stretching or yoga poses in your cubicle or office. These small exercises help jolt your body while giving your eyes and brain a break, letting you refocus when you return to work.
5. Find some light
People who work in a cubicle or office without windows know how hard it is to stay focused under dim or harsh fake light. If you start to feel tired in the afternoon, take a short walk outside to soak up some natural rays, which helps your body stop the production of melatonin. If you can, eat your lunch outside to prevent it early-on.
If the weather is poor, consider getting a light therapy box or sun lamp (often used to treat seasonal affective disorder). These lights can help boost your alertness and stimulate the brain, while also fighting off the effects of bad weather and depression. Vitamin D is also a great supplement to add to your afternoon routine and can give you a boost when there’s no sunlight to be had.
It’s normal to feel lethargic towards the middle of a workday, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Implementing even one or two of these tips can help you stay productive and alert all day long and will help you feel better outside of work, too!