In American workplace culture, we’re expected to be ‘on’ all day, 9 to 5. But here’s some bad news. Our bodies simply aren’t designed for that type of prolonged mental load. Study after study has confirmed that humans naturally experience a dip in energy between the hours of 2 and 4 in the afternoon.
Since most people are at work around that time, most of us turn towards that magical productivity elixir—caffeine—to cure our afternoon fatigue. But you don’t have to.
You can stave off afternoon fatigue without stimulating your system—and ruining your night of sleep—with caffeine. While circadian rhythms dictate that energy levels we will naturally hit their lowest in the mid afternoon, you don’t have to completely hit a wall.
FIGHTING AFTERNOON FATIGUE WITHOUT COFFEE
Here are easy tips to keep you alert, creative, and productive through afternoon nap time and beyond!
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Thirst has a pretty strong impact on brain power. According to a recent meta-analysis, even a minor dip in hydration can result in reduced cognitive function, brain fog, and lack of productivity.
If your energy is starting to fade, drink a very big glass of room temperature lemon water. The influx of vitamin C will feel refreshing and energizing, while the water will hopefully restore you to peak brain function.
2. Ditch the lunchtime sweets and caffeine.
Avoid cakes, doughnuts, and white refined carbs at lunchtime. A big insulin spike like that at noon can result in a major sugar crash around 2 or 3 PM. Instead, enjoy a light lunch rich in fresh greens, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
And forget about an afternoon coffee. Sure, it will make you feel hyper-productive for a short time, but you’ll pay dearly for it by the time mid afternoon rolls around, when your energy levels plummet. If you’re looking for stable energy throughout the entire day, caffeine’s not your gal.
3. Make sure you’re moving.
Stretch those limbs! Not only will it get your blood flowing again, but it will lube up your mental gears, too.
Being sedentary all day can make afternoon fatigue significantly more pronounced. Get up and do some stretches regularly for a quick energy boost, or take a walk outside in the afternoon to enjoy a little natural light and fresh air while you get that heart pumping again. You’ll come back feeling like a clean slate.
4. Have a healthy snack.
Sometimes, low blood sugar can result in sleepiness. If you think that’s the case, enjoy a smoothie, some nuts and fruit, or some carrot sticks and guacamole dip when you’re feeling low around 3 PM.
Your brain is the most energy-intensive organ in your body. Feed it the fuel it needs to keep performing—even when you’re only hours away from quitting time.
5. Work towards a prize.
A long day of slogging away at your desk can exhaust anybody by the early afternoon. So, schedule yourself a fun break during the time when you usually lose steam.
If you can make it work, go take a fun fitness class, read a guilty pleasure book for 30 minutes or take your dog and yourself for a rejuvenating walk. Find something that makes you happy, and do your best to schedule it into your day.
Even if all you can spare is just a creative doodle break or a five minute brainstorm on your dream side-hustle, indulge yourself. Even a little bit of reprieve and shift in perspective can feel majorly invigorating.
And whatever you do, do not schedule your most important, focused tasks for the afternoon. Schedule wisely.
6. When all else fails, TAKE A NAP!
Sometimes, you just have to listen to your body. It is completely natural for the body to desire a nap in the early afternoon. If you are in a position where you can take a 3 o’clock nap, by all means take advantage!
Brains get hot and tired. Give them a little reset, and you’ll be astounded by how much more productive you are afterwards.
Sure, your energy levels are going to dip in the afternoon, but they don’t have to plummet. Keeping yourself healthy and balanced throughout the day can ensure that your afternoons aren’t always a slog.