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It’s been a glorious morning. You plowed through your work with the enthusiasm of a new intern and the finesse of a seasoned professional. But after a quick lunch your momentum collapsed with an almost audible thud.
Your energy is sapped, your focus is lost, and your mind wanders. What gives? How did you turn from superhuman to office wimp when the clock struck two? Is it just you or does everyone go through this cycle of boom and bust in a single day?
The Biological Imperative
It might reassure you to know that this isn’t your fault. Biology is at work, not psychology. It’s all because of hormone imbalances, which is a tough fight to win. Almost everyone feels sleepy around two. A few who look unstoppable usually experience a metabolic lapse an hour later.
According to Lona Sandon, RD, MEd, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “There seems to be something natural about this lull. Some cultures have the siesta, and people find that they’re more productive and better able to concentrate if they take time off after lunch and come back later.”
Outwitting the Afternoon Slump
If you could crawl onto a mattress, throw the covers over you and take a nap, all would be well. You could then reset your biological clock and regain your coveted momentum. While you may not be able to achieve the same knot speed in the afternoon, there’s still hope.
Here are 8 things you can do to remain productive for the rest of the workday:
1. Keep the motor running.
If you feel sleepy before you can go on your lunch break, then you should consider coasting. Find a low priority task like sorting through your email. Now is the time to organize things that you were too busy to attend to when you were on a roll. Think of staying organized as just another way of making some serious headway in your career.
2. Get some sun.
Ten minutes in the sun will bring down the sleep hormone melatonin. This will reduce the impact of the circadian slump. You might be able to eat your lunch outside or go for a short walk during a break.
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3. Choose protein over carbohydrates during lunch.
A salad with meat, tofu, eggs, or cheese will make you feel less sleepy than a sandwich or a bowl of pasta.
4. Call someone for a brief chat.
Making a small, low-pressure phone call will perk you up. It could be to family or friends. If you feel guilty, call a client. You could wish them well on a special occasion, thank them for something, or offer a project update. Five to ten minutes should do the trick.
5. Drink tea during your mid-afternoon break.
Tea has just enough caffeine to perk you up, and there are more than enough exotic flavors to give you a sensory delight. Tea will soothe you while making you more alert.
Not a big tea fan? Try AXIO – a supplement that contains green tea extract along with other phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. This product contains a blend of ingredients that give you long-lasting power, heightened concentration and sharper focus without the stressful jitters often experienced with energy supplements.
6. Exercise in your chair.
If it’s possible, do five to ten minutes of exercise during your mid-afternoon break. Two options work well in an office setting–stretching and isometrics. You can choose between the two or do both. One simple stretching exercise you can do in your chair is to ease the tension in your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forward while inhaling, then push them back while exhaling. Do this a few times. Isometric exercise can be even less noticeable. Work on each major muscle group in turn –chest and abdomen, back and buttocks, arms and legs. Squeeze the muscle, hold it for a count of seven seconds, and then release. It may sound small, but exercise like this improves blood and lymph circulation.
7. Chew gum.
This is not an excuse for self-indulgence. For chewing gum, get the special sugar-free kind that is good for dental health and has a strong flavor. Chewing gum will stimulate your brain and help clear out some of the bacteria responsible for cavities.
8. Meet with others in the afternoon.
Since we are social animals, talking and listening to other people can be stimulating. Arrange your work schedule to do your paperwork in the morning. Then meet with colleagues, partners, or clients in the afternoons to discuss projects.
Don’t Blame Yourself
If you’re an A-type person keen to maximize each day, you may blame yourself for the afternoon slump. But, Michael J. Breus, PhD, who authored Beauty Sleep, explains the afternoon slump in this way: “It has to do with a dip in your core body temperature. Right before you go to sleep at night, your core temperature begins to drop, which is a signal to the brain to release melatonin. The exact same thing happens on a smaller scale between two and four in the afternoon. It’s a mini-signal to your brain to get sleepy.”