Avoiding the great afternoon downslide
Whether you’re in school, running a business, working for someone else, or freelancing, one thing that people who keep a fairly “normal” 8 to 5 work schedule have in common is the afternoon slump.
My afternoon slump generally comes on between 2:00 and 3:00, though, curiously, it doesn’t come every day. In an effort to keep myself functioning on all cylinders as much as possible, I devised an experiment to determine what causes the afternoon slump and figure out the best methods for battling it when it does occur. Many of these slump causes have a correlating solution, so take the time to find out what works best for you on a daily basis to keep yourself from literally taking an afternoon slump over your desk.
Why we endure the slump
Researchers have found that human productivity generally decreases after eight hours. So, if we are up functioning at 7 a.m. getting ready for work, battling traffic perhaps, then actually beginning work, by 2 p.m. we’ve hit our productivity peak. Yet most of us still have to function at work for another two to four hours, drive home, and then function there for another few hours, making dinner, possibly all of the chores involved with raising kids, and of course, cleaning up and prepping for yet another day.
This is especially true for women who work the second shift of caring for their families. This can lead to an exhaustive cycle for women who always feel two steps behind and perpetually tired from the nonstop cycle of it all. It can be doubly so for anyone trying to build up or run a business in the fringes of their life.
Isolating the reasons for and busting the cycle of tiredness is of utmost importance.
Specific afternoon slump causes
I noticed a few things that cause me to feel the slump more than others, and isolating these causes can keep me from experiencing less of them. Some of the reasons are obvious, and some are intriguing observations about myself as a human machine. You may find that some of my triggers wouldn’t faze you, or that you may have some I did not delve into. Just tuning into your body’s needs and rhythms can put you on track to finding out what has your head drooping ever so slowly deskward.
First of all, know this. I am not a carbohydrate counter or carb avoider. I love a good carb more than anything. But when I have leftover spaghetti with marinara sauce for lunch, it’s a guarantee that I’ll be struggling come 2 p.m. Carbs make you sleepy by causing a blood sugar spike as they get digested. That spike can then cause your blood sugar to zoom back down, resulting in that immediate desire to catch some zzzs.
These days, I relegate my carb intake to dinner and the weekends as much as possible and eat vegetable-forward, protein-filledlunches that won’t send my blood sugar crashing and my eyelids drooping. It seems to be working, but some days the siren song of a comforting bowl of pasta or pizza with coworkers lures me in.
On the days that I stay glued to my desk, whether it’s out of busyness or sheer laziness, I feel it especially
badly in the afternoons. What I’ve found works for me is a 10 a.m. walk of a half mile to a mile (it should take about 15 minutes if you’re in reasonable shape), a short jaunt at lunchtime walking through stores or running errands, and an afternoon walk. Even if I have to drag myself I get up and go for any distance to get my blood flowing. My tiredness may not totally evaporate, but it’s alleviated a little at the very least.
If you’ve run out of things to do or just plain hate the tasks that you’ve got to do, you’re going to feel your brain wander. Maybe you’ll close your eyes for a second because that computer screen sure is bright … and, just like that, you’re in the slump with nowhere to go but down. If you find your brain screaming for stimulation, find feasible ways to interest yourself, like working on a side hustle, using an app to learn a new language, or asking for more interesting tasks if possible.
How to beat the afternoon slump
Slump happens, and sometimes there’s no advance planning that can make you not have to deal with it.
Taking a brief 15-minute nap can do wonders for resetting your body’s energy levels. Close your office door, find a locking conference room, or even catch a few minutes in the comfort of your car, but find somewhere to sleep it off. Combine this technique with drinking caffeine first and you’ll generally rise up extra perked up. But taking the time to just not think, look at anything, or to lean back and chill will go a long way to busting the slump.
Yes, our goddess caffeine is a quick fix for sleepiness. My current office has a coffee shop in it, but I’ve kept a coffee pot at my desk before at previous jobs so that a fix of go-go juice was never too hard to obtain. Even chocolate-covered espresso beans are a desk-friendly option for getting a little coffee power without having to drink it. If coffee isn’t your deal, find what works for you as long as it isn’t one of those high-octane energy drinks that gets you jittery. Experiment with caffeine and its wondrous effects safely.
Remember, getting up and moving helps prevent the slump. But if you find yourself in one, get up! Even if you start out slowly, making the effort to move at all can at least keep any worse sleepiness at bay. Set reminders on your phone or calendar if you need to make sure you’re getting up regularly. Many fitness trackers now have an option to remind you to move every hour, so make use of that function if you have one.
Let your work pump you up
Staying interested and engaged in something, anything, is a big key to keeping the sleepies at bay. This isn’t always possible because work is, well, work. And our assigned tasks aren’t always exciting brain teasers or sociable time. That being said, if you know a particular task on your list is interesting to you, try and save it for the afternoon so you can stay focused on it that way. This is one of those things that won’t always work, but it can help if your tiredness is on the mild side. Time passes more quickly when busy and focused on a task , and that always helps in the homestretch.
It can be hard to change habits when it comes to work, but being captive to your biological rhythms and not making them work in the environment you have won’t help you get ahead. If you’re side hustling like me, you need your energy levels to be up and humming to get your hustle done. And if you’re working for yourself or freelancing, you may need to adjust your business cycles to better benefit your body’s cycles. After all, one of the joys of self-employment and entrepreneurship is getting to determine your own course!