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5 Ways to beat the afternoon slump

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by Startacus Admin

5 Ways to beat the afternoon slump - You all know what we are talking about! Beating the afternoon slump

Rather aptly, as I begin to write this piece, the time is approaching 2:30pm and right on queue, I am beginning to droop over my desk like a doomed snowman during a thaw.

But unlike the snowman I am not surprised by this sudden and seemingly disastrous turn of events; this has become so routine, that I barely even register it any more.

- You all know what I am talking about.  

That inexorable wooze that drifts over your in the early afternoon; eyelids begin to sag, your train of thought is derailed, and you spend what little energy you can muster imploring yourself “wake up wake up WAKE UP!”.  This mental torture can go on for quite some time before the cursed drowse departs as inconspicuously as it came.

Beating the afternoon slumpWhat causes this terrible affliction?

I have often remarked to myself that the daily droop (also delightfully known as Afternoon Apathy Syndrome) seems to occur during the post lunch period; ergo I have always assumed that it must be something to do with the food that I was eating, and it turns out I was right; well partly at least.

Lots of things contribute to the afternoon slump; sleep deprivation, stagnant office air etc. But most of the blame lies squarely at the door of your lunch. In really unscientific terms, the food you eat at lunch sends your blood glucose levels through the roof, which in turn causes your body to dump insulin into the bloodstream, which overshoots in cleaning it up, leaving your blood pitifully low in sugar and barely sufficient to support the weight of your head.

How can we defeat it?

In Spain they do the unthinkable; they actually listen to what their body is telling them and act on it appropriately by having a siesta. Of course such rational thinking would cause outrage here in the UK, so in lieu of the ability to take a short rest in the afternoon, what can you do to help beat the afternoon slump?

Do some exerciseBeating the afternoon slump

Okay, so if you dont have time for a siesta, I’m guessing that you don’t have time to go to the gym either.  But that doesn't mean you need to spend your lunch time slumped potato-like in front of your desk.  Going for a quick walk could make all the difference to your after lunch energy levels; not only will the fresh air help to maximize oxygen saturation in your blood, but getting up and moving will help kickstart your cells that have become lazy after a morning of being immobile.  There's a more scientific explanation of all of this, but mid-afternoon slump is no time for that!

If you are really strapped for time you could even try a ‘walking meeting’- sure you’ll look utterly bizarre as you stroll down the highstreet balancing a whiteboard on your wrist, but at least you will be alert.

Or if your dignity isn't important to you, there is always ‘Prancercise’-  You’ll definitely be awake after ten minutes of this!

Stick your tunes onBeating the afternoon slump

Boss permitting, at the first sign of an afternoon droop it's time to whip on the earbuds and get your groove on with some high tempo, toe tappin tunes that will have you bouncing in your swivel chair in no time.  

Last week we suggested this as one of our top ways to wake up in the morning without coffee (yes it’s that good) and it is definitely one of our favourite ways to save ourselves from the jaws of afternoon apathy.

If you need some inspiration for your afternoon energy booster playlist, take a look at our soundtrack to your startup journey.

Eat a power snack

Sometimes when we begin to feel like we are low on energy, it is simply because we are low on energy, and a well placed power snack can help give the boost you need.  But its important to be careful of what you choose for this little pick me up, because the wrong type of food could send you spiraling into a pit of afternoon apathy.   

Whilst we are not dieticians, we do find this sort of thing rather interesting , and have learned through our enquiries, that food scientist type people recommend a snack that is high in protein, but also has some fibre, carbohydrate and a small amount of fat.  As we discussed last week, this is effective because glucose from your lunch  blocks the production of orexin, which keeps the brain alert, and as a result you begin to drift away.  Protein stops glucose from acting in this way and the carbohydrates help provide a fast action energy boost and as a result you should start to feel more alert.

Beating the afternoon slumpOpen Your Chest

Not literally of course (you might get blood on the carpet) but giving your chest a good stretch is a great carpet sparing way to get an instant boost of afternoon energy.   

What we are talking about here is essentially 'desk yoga' because the act of stretching out your chest is pivotal to so many yoga poses as it helps to stimulate the nervous system, open up your lungs and give you an instant energy lift that can be crucial in getting over the worst of your afternoon apathy.  What's more, in stimulating your nervous system, stretching out your chest actually helps to make you more mentally alert, giving you the shake you need to get on with your day.

There is a downside of course, in that you might get some funny looks from your co workers if you spontaneously adopt a 'downward facing dolphin' pose in the middle of the office, but luckily there are less gossip inducing ways that can be performed from the comfort of your desk.  The good folks at the Mayo Clinic have some rather good tips here.

Eat a single piece of very dark chocolate

We've saved the simplest and least strenuous remedy for last. In the modern workplace, sometimes there just isn't any time for trendy desk yoga or mini discos; you need a lift, and you need it now!  In these instances the smallest amount of very dark chocolate can really save the day.  

Notice, how we have now twice stipulated that the chocolate must be 'very dark', milk chocolate simply won't do in this situation, in fact it will probably have the opposite effect to what you want.  Sure, the immediate spike in blood sugar levels will have you wizzing through your work, but after a few minutes, when your insulin catches up, you'll be lucky if your not prostrate on your keyboard desperately reaching for an energy drink.   

Dark chocolate is the miracle worker of the confectionery world.  Besides being packed with antioxidants and healthy fats, it also has lots of fibre and high levels of magnesium.  

Most importantly though, it contains a little bit of caffeine, not enough to have some of the side effects of coffee, but just enough help deliver you to the other side of the afternoon slump in one piece.


So there you have it - feel free to comment below if you have any other top tips to beat the afternoon slump and why not also read our previous post on getting into your morning groove, without the use of coffee!


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Published on: 6th February 2015

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