With many of us still in various levels of lockdown and perhaps not feeling our best, motivation is at an all-time low. And with afternoons already a struggle for a lot of population even without the added stress of a pandemic, sluggishness is a given.
A drop in energy and productivity in the afternoon is completely normal, with your natural circadian rhythms partially to blame. Our strongest urge to sleep occurs at two times of day. The first is in the middle of the night, between 2am-4am. The second is in the afternoon between 1pm-3pm.
These circadian dips are made worse by staring at the computer screen, dehydration, stress, and other exacerbating factors throughout the day, so we’ve assembled five tips on ways to turn your afternoon slump into an afternoon delight.
Step away from the sugar
Did you knock back a sugary coffee with an even more sugar-heavy pastry this morning? Yep, that will wake you up… Temporarily. Too much sugar in the mornings plays a big role in the afternoon slump. Sugary drinks or snacks will give you a short-term high, but a few hours later you’ll crash and feel even worse than before.
Opt for black coffee or herbal tea instead, and avoid reaching for sugary treats around morning tea time. Easier said than done if you or your housemates are in a lockdown baking frenzy, we know! If you find yourself tempted often, keep a stash of slow-burning, healthy snacks on hand like nuts, seeds, oatmeal and dark chocolate to stave off the cravings.
Eat in modest portions
Maybe you’ve worked hard all morning to meet a deadline, so it’s natural that you may feel ravenous when lunchtime arrives. Well if you’re planning on shovelling in a big plate of pasta or pizza, you’re almost guaranteed to suffer an afternoon crash. Over-eating at lunch is one of the biggest culprits of the afternoon slump.
When you consume a heavier meal than your body needs – especially one packed with carbohydrates – your body spends the afternoon trying to digest it. This diverts blood away from your brain and drains your energy – the state many of us refer to as a ‘food coma’. If you’re really hungry, opt for a large salad or a protein-based, low-carb meal.
Take care of your eyes
At a time when we’re all putting in considerable hours looking at screens, we need to take extra care of our eyes. This is especially important in the afternoon when you’ve already done maybe 4-5 hours at your laptop, be that filing a report or re-watching ‘White Lotus’.
Experts recommend following the 20-20-20 rule if you work at a computer. For every 20 minutes of work, look away from your screen at an object about 20 feet away, and hold this gaze for 20 seconds. This lets your eye muscles relax, and helps to prevent eye strain and mental fatigue.
Get up and move
Specialists have dubbed sitting “the new smoking”, with good reason. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, and even heart disease, and when we feel like we’re trapped at home, sitting sometimes feels like all there is to do. Movement tells your brain you’re awake, helps digest lunch and gets your blood flowing. Break up your afternoon with a walk in the fresh air, or even a few quick bursts of exercise. And if you find it hard to remember to move, set an alarm!
Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of fatigue, so make a mental note to drink water regularly throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water not only fights off the afternoon slump, but also aids digestion, improves skin health, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Placing a large water bottle by your laptop is a great place to start, and throw in some mint leaves or lemon for a little extra flavour!