Confession: I’m in Tuscany right now. Writing about the post-lunch energy slump from a country which shuts down from 1pm for most of the afternoon, and is beaten only by Spain for its commitment to the afternoon siesta, is a bit rich, I know. But having spent the better part of the last ten years working in corporate environments, the mid-afternoon fade-out is seared into my memory.
Tired in the afternoon, everyday?
It didn’t seem to matter whether I’d had enough sleep (rarely), exercised in the morning or the afternoon (or both); whether it was an early start in the office or whether I knew I would be working through the night: at 3pm, the urge to crawl under the desk with a block of Lindt Caramel with Sea Salt was often the most easily predictable part of my day. As much as I would love to say overcoming the brain fade was as easy as having a cup of green tea, for me that just didn’t work.
The first thing to do when you’re thinking about combatting afternoon fatigue is give yourself a break. We put enough pressure on ourselves as it is in basically every other area of life. The whole eight-hour-a-night sleep rule is, as it turns out, rather arbitrary and it is actually human nature to get the urge to have a post-lunch snooze. But the reality for most of us is that we’ll be at the grindstone in the afternoon.
So while we wait for the working world to catch up with self-proclaimed sleep evangelist Arianna Huffington’s advice to put nap rooms in offices, stop the slump from becoming a slide into the end of the day by experimenting with some of the following strategies:
Actually eat your lunch
Eat lunch. Seems basic, but can be quite a challenge. Become a food-prep pro by cooking these meals in bulk on Sundays and keep dishes high-protein and moderate carb to avoid a pasta-induced post-meal fade-out.
Eat away from your desk
Try to eat away from your desk if possible – find an empty meeting room with a great view and take it all in while enjoying your quinoa salad. Having a meal away from your desk will make you more productive and it creates a better, healthier work environment for everyone.
Exercise: getting your sweat on will reduce fatigue
Working out at the gym during your lunch break, even for 20-minutes “may not only boost productivity; it could ward off sleepiness, too. Stick to some light aerobic exercise before getting back to the office.” Greatist
Do these stretches at your desk for an energy boost
Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try a few stretches at your desk. Yoga poses (especially those that involve backbending), a quick set of push-ups or star jumps or a walk around the block to get out of a climate controlled environment: anything to get you out of your chair and get the blood flowing. I’m sure I’m not the first and I doubt I’ll be the last to smash out a set of squats in the emergency stairwell.
Walk and talk
Schedule a call or a meeting at 2.30 or 3pm. If it’s a call go one step further and walk it out around the office or surrounds if you can.
Step away from the cookie jar
Stop for a second before you reach for the top drawer of your desk where the emergency sweets stash lives: is it really a sugar craving, or are you just bored, or procrastinating? It wasn’t until I tried a three-day juice cleanse that I realised food was just something I turned to when I was trying to run away from my to-do list. Want to give up sugar? Check this out.
Your favourite playlist
Create or follow a playlist that you know will get you cranking, and at 2.30pm put your headphones in and turn it up. ‘All Out 90s’ is a good one to start with.
Coffee: the star energy booster
Have a coffee. Nope, you don’t need to give it up. We explain why here, but suffice it to say that a number of studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a lowered risk of dying from diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers, and that coffee drinkers tend to live longer than those who go without. Allegedly, coffee also helps you age well: some of the chemicals in coffee have neuroprotective properties that can help reduce the inflammation seen to play a role in Alzheimers and Dementia.
Chocolate: a natural energy booster
For the days that chocolate really is the only thing that will do the trick (apart from a glass of good tempranillo), turn to brands like Pana which are basically health foods (ok perhaps that is a long bow to draw: however they are completely free of nasties and are raw, organic, vegan and gluten free).
Healthy mid afternoon snacks to beat the afternoon slump
Create accountability with your best mate in the office and take it in turns to bring in or make healthy 3pm snacks. The simpler the better: think cut up fruit, plain yoghurt, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, or if you’re feeling fancy, whip up some bliss balls (these contain four ingredients only and won’t require a trip to anything except the supermarket for ingredients).
Move to Europe
And if all else fails you can try my strategy of moving to Europe where you can both nap, and eat chocolate guilt-free at 3pm.
Let me know how you’ve conquered the afternoon slump by heading over to The Squad to trade tips with other like-minded ladies.
Conquer the afternoon slump at the office