Like many folks, I experience an afternoon slump around two or three o’clock. Now what exactly do I mean by slump? I define my afternoon slump as a feeling of lethargy and mild sleepiness. It’s usually preceded by lunch two hours prior and especially occurs when I sit too long one in place.
Here are five ways I have successfully counteracted my afternoon slump. Hopefully, you can take away something to help curb your slump.
SLUMP FIGHTER #1. What I’ve learned over the years is that a lunch composed of vegetables, gluten-free, protein rich, and low fat foods minimizes the slump from ever happening. Foods rich in carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fats ALWAYS make me feel heavy, lethargic, and lazy afterwards. For example, refined grains, potatoes, any type of fast food, dessert items, and rice usually knock me out. These types of foods tend to spike my glycemic index and my body shortly crashes afterwards. A recent study showed that “higher fat consumption was associated with increased objective daytime sleepiness, while higher carbohydrate intake was associated with increased alertness.”
SLUMP FIGHTER #2. Anytime I incorporate frequent (every 15-30 minutes) and active breaks (e.g., walking, calf raises, squats, jumping jacks), I counteract the slump from fully setting into my system. This gets blood flowing to all parts of my body. A 2012 study conducted on obese participants found “the benefit of frequent breaks of activity comes about because when we sit, our muscles are essentially asleep…But when we are up and moving, they wake up: we contract our muscles, and this is what helps to regulate the body’s metabolic system.” The findings were also applicable to non-obese individuals.
SLUMP FIGHTER #3. A few minutes of some good ol’ fashioned sunlight (a.k.a., vitamin D) and deep breathing does the trick! Please note to take precautions to protect your skin (e.g., sunblock). A few studies have linked low levels of vitamin D to decreased cognitive brain function. So, in theory, adequate vitamin D yields better cognitive function. And if you ask any yoga instructor or meditation master, the benefits of deep breathing are endless. For example, deep breathing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress levels, helps clear the mind, slows us down in the midst of a busy day, grounds and centers us on the present moment, and yes, also helps our energy levels increase.
SLUMP FIGHTER #4. Unfortunately, I am frequently dehydrated–not from not regularly drinking water, but from simply not drinking enough to stay properly hydrated. Drinking ice cold water reinvigorates, cleanses, and nourishes the body. There has been a lot of debate about whether drinking ice cold water or room temperature is better for you. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter. Just drink it! Studies have proven that your body uses energy (i.e. burns calories) to heat ice cold water after it is consumed. A 2006 study published in “The Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism” estimates that we burn approximately 17 calories heating 16 oz. of cold water. Technically, if you want to burn just a few more calories throughout the day, drink ice cold water.
SLUMP FIGHTER #5. Admittedly, sometimes I just haven’t properly rested my body and the afternoon slump is its way of telling me to get more rest. Taking a short 30 minute afternoon siesta (i.e., nap) also helps me prepare for a productive afternoon. It’s important to note, a lack of sleep also negatively disrupts digestive system processes and our energy levels.
Additional habits to stay away from…
- Waiting too long to eat or not eating at all usually causes my blood sugar levels to be very low prior to eating, significantly elevate while I’m eating, and plateau and tremendously plummet afterwards.
- Overindulgence usually makes me feel the slump. Minimization of lunch time portion sizes tremendously helps combat any feelings of sleepiness. The more we eat, the more our body needs to digest. And when our body needs to digest a lot of food at one time, our blood sugar and energy levels become more dedicated to digestion and not mental alertness and productivity.