It’s 2 p.m. and you’re chugging away at your to-do list, when suddenly, you feel an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. You have to read the same sentence a few times over to comprehend its meaning, and time seems to slow down. Sound familiar?
This kind of afternoon fatigue and brain fog is extremely common and can really put a damper on an otherwise productive and positive day. But it doesn’t have to be this way! If you feel an afternoon slump coming on, there are ways to power through it by giving your brain a much-needed boost.
What’s causing your afternoon slump?
There are a number of potential causes for your daily afternoon lethargy: a caffeine crash from your morning coffee, a sugar crash from a carb-filled lunch, the effects of a poor night’s sleep and many more. However, for most people, a dip in energy and concentration is perfectly normal.
Your body’s circadian rhythm—the 24-hour clock that regulates things like metabolism and sleep—is likely to blame. Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., your circadian rhythm starts bodily processes that can make you feel sleepy. Your body temperature takes a slight dip, and melatonin is released, signaling to your body that it’s time for sleep!
Easy remedies to power through the afternoon
To fight off the sleepy feeling—and the lack of brain power that comes with it—you’ll want to take immediate action and give your brain a quick boost. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to help you wake up, feel more focused and get ready to finish your workday strong.
- Eat a nutritious snack: Another potential cause of brain fog is a nutritional deficiency, where your brain lacks the nutrients it needs to function optimally. No matter if your afternoon slump is caused by your body’s natural processes or a lack of nutrients, though, eating a healthy snack a few hours after lunch can provide a little pick-me-up. Skip the candy bar and reach for a snack that has complex carbs or protein, like nuts or whole wheat crackers.
- Take a short walk: You probably know that you should be standing up and walking a little bit every hour for the benefit of your health, but these little bouts of movement can actually help improve your concentration, too. Aerobic activity stimulates blood flow to the brain, delivering oxygen and nutrients, and it raises your body temperature, helping to fight off that sleepy feeling. Research shows that just 10 minutes of aerobic activity can provide an immediate boost in mental performance, so go take a brisk walk, then get back to it!
- Add adaptogens: Adaptogens—powerful herbs that help balance your body’s hormone production, can be a useful addition to your daily breakfast smoothie or coffee. Certain adaptogens like Asian ginseng and rhodiola are beneficial for regulating energy levels and improving concentration. Adding a daily adaptogen may make a difference in your afternoon slumps.
- Take a power nap: This tip might not be possible for everyone, but if you work from home or have a flexible schedule, it can make a huge difference in your daily focus abilities. Listening to your body when you start to feel sleepy and taking a 20-minute power nap can boost alertness and help you feel re-energized for the rest of the afternoon. Just don’t oversleep, or you might feel even worse!
- Have a mini-meditation session: Meditation is useful for calming the mind and refocusing. Over time, it can actually train your brain, resulting in better memory and concentration power. Taking just a few minutes to meditate and center your thoughts can provide you with a renewed sense of focus and help you dive back into your to-do list.
- Apply essential oils: Many people harness the powers of aromatherapy for relaxation and sleep, but some scents are actually useful in waking you up and helping you feel more alert. Peppermint essential oil is known for helping fight fatigue and alleviate brain fog, rosemary may be beneficial for concentration, and ginger can help stimulate blood flow for better brain function. Consider applying diluted essential oils via a roll-on applicator or diffusing them.
- Engage your brain in a new way: If you’ve been focusing on one particular task for a while, your brain might hit a wall. When this happens, take a few minutes to shake things up! Employ your creative side by jamming out to some music and coloring or conquer a mental challenge by completing a Sudoku or crossword puzzle. Do something enjoyable that stimulates a different part of your brain, then return to your original task feeling renewed.
Your brain is like a muscle, and you need to pay attention to how you stimulate it and help it recover when it’s feeling fatigued. By fueling it properly, listening to its cues and giving it a break, you can bolster your brain power to push through your afternoon slump!