Nothing can quite ruin your work flow like the dreaded afternoon slump. You know, that time of day when your lunch has settled, the sun starts to dip (and so does your energy), and the idea of home seems so close yet so far away. It can turn those last few hours at the office into a total unproductive slog; you may feel fatigued, irritable, and unfocused, and this can be a detriment to your work, your relationships with your coworkers, and your overall health and happiness.
The way you eat, drink, talk, walk, think, play, and sleep can all come bearing down on you come 2 to 4 p.m. Below, we offer a few ways to avoid this disruptive drop, a few simple shifts in your routine that can be done throughout the day or just as you start to feel that mood-and-energy dip ominously looming.
01. Eat your proteins and fats
What you choose to put in your mouth will often dictate how your day will go. While carbohydrates (of the fresh, whole-food variety — think fruits, vegetables, whole grains) are just as essential to a balanced diet, it's high-quality proteins and fats that will actually sustain your energy by keeping you satiated longer and stabilizing your blood sugar.
Also, don't skip breakfast. This sets you up for a long "hangry" day that may end in a self-loathing binge.
02. Schedule an afternoon walk-and-talk meeting
Whether over the phone or in person, a quick walk-and-talk can help refresh the body and the brain by getting that blood circulating. It can also give your eyes a much-needed break if you've been starting at a screen all day.
03. Get outside
If you can take that meeting outside, better yet. A nice dose of Vitamin D and fresh air can truly reawaken your senses. It's recommended to get at least 20 to 25 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to boost your Vitamin D levels, so soak it in (even on a cloudy day).
04. Avoid sugars, sweeteners, and big bursts of caffeine
Yep, pass on those sugar bombs (often disguised as bagels, donuts, cereal, etc.), because you'll regret the indulgence far more than you may enjoy it in the moment. Sugar may be the biggest culprit (along with lack of sleep) when it comes to afternoon slumps.
Caffeine can be just as stressful to your body. Instead of another cup of coffee or can of soda, opt for a lesser-caffeinated green tea or an herbal tea, like moringa, a natural energy booster loaded with B vitamins. If you're craving something sweet, go for a square of quality dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher). Share with a co-worker too because who doesn't like someone who offers them chocolate?
05. Set up the office with a playroom
There's a reason we had recess back in grade school, right? Why did it have to stop? Taking the mind completely off work, for even just 10 to 20 minutes, can be a literal game changer.
Stock up a small room or nook with board games, brain-teasers, or even something like a foosball table. (Imagine an office foosball tournament. It's a blast. Trust us.) Games can encourage stress relief as well as team building and even a little healthy competition. Try to avoid video games, though; let's keep this screenless and old school.
06. Set an alarm for breaks
Physically moving is of course absolutely essential to keeping our bodies and minds flexed. Studies have found that our performance and job satisfaction can be greatly impaired when we skip workday breaks.
You can set up hourly alarms to remind you to get up and move around (even if that just means a brisk walk to the bathroom). Coordinate breaks with your coworkers as well. If you want to be even more high-tech, fitness trackers, like Jawbone and Fitbit, can be set up to give you a buzz if you haven't moved in a specified amount of time.
07. Stay hydrated
Sometimes all we need is that simple life source, water. It's what makes up over half the human body, after all. Keep a water bottle always within arm's reach, and if it's a helpful distraction, keep track of the amount you drink throughout the day (eight eight-ounce glasses is a good rule of thumb). Even a small water bottle will do — it means you'll have to get up more often to refill it.
A sparkling beverage maker can also add some much-needed effervescent to your water routine — add a touch of citrus for even more of a kick. Another thing to remember: we can often confuse thirst for hunger, so always try a few gulps of water before reaching for a snack.
08. Start a workout challenge with your coworkers
This could be as intense as going to the gym together or as simple as agreeing to do a certain exercise at 2 p.m. every day. Try increasing your output every week. Start with 10 push-ups on the first week, then do 12 the next week, 14 the next, etc. Add a new exercise each month. It's always best to have a workout buddy, so you can hold each other accountable or to just hold each other's feet during crunches. You can even do exercises at your desk if you're stressed for time and space.
09. Stretch or do yoga
There's a growing amount of evidence showing yoga's incredible power as a stress reliever, and by mid-afternoon, that may just be exactly what you need. There are numerous resources online that offer quick yoga sequences perfect for the office. Remember to focus on the breath — even a few minutes of controlled breathing can help quiet the mind so that you can easily reignite it again.
10. Take a nap
You did it as a child, why should it feel so strange as an adult? Suggest a quiet area in the office that can be used as a napping nook. A 20-minute power nap can increase alertness, while a 30- to 60-minute nap can actually boost memory and enhance creativity. If you're feeling unproductive and unfocused, a quick shuteye could really do the trick.
As you can see, getting back to our more natural self, even our inner child, can be just the boost we need come mid-afternoon. Best of all, this increase in mood, energy, and productivity can be absolutely infectious, creating an overall happy, healthy, and fun work space for everyone.