Mid-day slumps can hit seemingly out of nowhere. They rob workers of energy, focus and productivity. For some, they become frustratingly regular occurrences. Sugary snacks and caffeine may mitigate the effects in the moment, but often make situations worse long-term.
Preventing and reversing mid-afternoon crashes is surprisingly easy, however, once those affected understand their causes. Leading causes of early afternoon slumps include lack of sleep, poor diet, insufficient exercise or moment, prolonged intense concentration and environmental energy drains.
Even workers’ whose environments and schedules make these causes are regular part of their lives have the power to reduce or eliminate mid-day slumps. Some of the causes can be proactively avoided or corrected, while others can be treated or fixed with a little bit of a thought and effort. Mastering the habits, tips and tricks that keep mid-day crashes at bay can give workers an advantage of their peers and help stay healthy, competitive and successful.
Get Enough Sleep
In today’s busy world it is all too common for people to feel as if they are burning the candle on both ends. Workers routinely sacrifice sleep as they strive to meet project deadlines and still keep up with the demands of home and family. Skimming an hour or two off of one’s sleep schedule can feel minor in the moment. Over time, however, it leads to huge deficits. Those deficits, in turn, reduce alertness and productivity. They can directly contribute to mid-afternoon crashes that derail schedules and leave workers feeling exhausted and even depressed.
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Committing to getting enough sleep each night is a key step in fighting mid-day slumps. Adopting positive nighttime habits, such as going to bed at a consistent time and turning off devices and screens an hour before bed, can help.
“Power napping,” or short, strategic naps throughout the day have also been proven to help people refresh and renew their focus and energy. Experts recommend napping for no more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time in a quiet place to maximize the positive effects of a mid-day rest.
Eat Wisely and Stay Hydrated
Modern workplaces are rife with temptations and habits that promote unhealthy and unconstructive eating patterns. From cocktails at business lunches to vending machines full of sugary snacks and endless pots of coffee in breakrooms, workers face a constant barrage of food choices that only serve to spike their blood sugar and then leave them running on empty when the temporary high passes.
Fortunately, productivity and nutrition experts have a wealth of easy suggestions that can help workers steer clear of food-based crashes.
- Eat breakfast. Starting the day with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast sets workers’ bodies up for success.
- Make lunch small, with plenty of good fats and proteins. Eating large or carb-heavy meals can leave workers feeling sluggish as their bodies struggle to process what they’ve consumed. Taking in too much sugar at lunch can send people plummeting straight into mid-day crash when the sugar wears off. Small, balanced lunches help workers stay energized and focused through the afternoon.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Nut, fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods can refuel and recharge workers who need a post-lunch pick-me-up without the side effects of their sugar-laden counterparts.
- Use caffeine sparingly. Too much caffeine, whether from soda, coffee or any other source can actually reduce workers’ energy, clarity and critical thinking skills. Reaching for plain water instead can help people stay hydrated and combat mid-afternoon brain fog.
Physical activity offers a host of benefits that can help workers reclaim their focus and energy in the face of a mid-day crash. Even mild exercise gets blood moving, boosts oxygen flow to the brain and can produce endorphins that improve mood and concentration.
The type and duration of movement workers select is not necessarily important. Some people will find tremendous value in scheduling their workouts or gym time for the middle of the day. Others might feel refreshed from a quick walk around the block or over to the next office to speak to a colleague.
Combining physical movement with sunshine, positive companionship or both can be doubly powerful. Workers who do not have the opportunity to leave their workplace while on shift can still take advantage of physical activity during their workdays by:
- Implementing “walking meetings” when discussing projects with coworkers.
- Scheduling errands for the portions of their day when they most need to be up and around.
- Physically walking across and office or down a hall to speak to a colleague instead of calling.
- Taking a walk with a friend during lunch or break time.
In some work environments, employees may be allowed to use standing desks, treadmill desks and other higher-end tools to help them integrate regular motion into their workdays.
Adjust Your Workload
One often overlooked cause of mid-day slumps is a change in workload or work pacing. Researchers have found that workers with too little work to do become bored, which can lead to feelings of fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Workers with too much to do become overwhelmed and negative, which can prompt feelings of depression, restlessness and lack of focus.
Workers whose days follow predictable patterns may find that they are tackling projects in the afternoon which require more time or energy than they have available to devote to them at that point in the day. Alternatively, they may discover that natural lulls in the pacing of their work fall mid-afternoon, leaving them bored after a high-tempo morning.
Not all workers have the ability to adjust their workflows, but those who do can noticeably reduce their instances of mid-day crash by changing when they work on various projects. Avoiding post-lunch lulls or influxes of work can even out the demands on people’s energy and attention, reducing both boredom and overwhelm.
Workers who cannot change their workflow can use alternative methods to change their reactions to those workflows. Simple habits like writing down five things they are grateful for when they begin to be overwhelmed have been proven to improve mood and positivity and can help avoid crashes. Deciding to cross-train or taking on an additional project or responsibility can alleviate boredom.