Stave off the afternoon blahs
March 7, 2008 2:06 PM   Subscribe

Are there strategies for changing my daily clock to stave off the afternoon blahs?

I work the usual 9-5 job, but I find that by 1pm, I'm absolutely exhausted! I'm not very productive, and usually end up fiddling around for an hour or two (and sometimes 3), when I pick up in productivity again, only to find myself full of energy and hurrying to get everything done before 5 pm. What can I do to stave off the afternoon blahs? If you also experience this, what has worked for you? I've tried to keep to a low-sugar, high-protein lunch, and while that helps a little, I'm still at a pretty low ebb in the afternoon. It's feeling tired physically, but also mentally tired, so that I have trouble concentrating on what I'm doing. I'm thinking that it's more of a circadian rhythm, rather than diet, but I welcome all suggestions you might have that worked for you.
posted by peachy to Work & Money (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Oktober at 2:08 PM on March 7, 2008

Try severly limiting carbs at lunch, eating more protein instead. Works for me. Also, a 20-minute power nap with Pzizz can be absolutely miraculous.
posted by jbickers at 2:13 PM on March 7, 2008

I actually find that (for the afternoon low) water works better than coffee. Going for a brisk walk at lunchtime can also help.
posted by winston at 2:20 PM on March 7, 2008

I staved the afternoon blahs off with lots of water, low-sugar snacks, maybe a quick breath of fresh air-I always felt wonderful after a walk around the block at the end of my lunch break when I did 9-5 days.
posted by BridgetR at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2008

I call it the post-lunch malaise.

1. Go for a walk outside (if thats possible) for 10 minutes or so. Fresh air and a bit of exercise always helps. Or at least get away from your desk/computer and change your scenery.

2. Munch on something. Unless you are totally exhausted, you wont be sleepy while eating - natural physical response to keep you from choking I guess. I like WASA crackers because they're basically.. nothing. No calories to speak of, no fat, no nutrition, some fiber. Or sunflower seeds.

3. Read and post on Ask MeFi.. oh wait never mind that.

4. Caffeine.

5. Power nap if you can.
posted by elendil71 at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2008

Or listen to winston.
posted by BridgetR at 2:22 PM on March 7, 2008

I am exactly the same way. I find that on days when I get a chance to take a walk outdoors, I feel much more alert. Around that time of day when I start to feel sluggish, I go outside for about 10-15 minutes. That small amount of movement and fresh air helps carry me through those couple of hours when I feel like my head's going to plop onto my desk.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2008

It seems counterintuitive, but exercising in the morning helps me. That and eating a lot of raw leafy greens for lunch. I notice a huge difference between the days I sleep in and have fries for lunch and the days I exercise and eat a smart salad for lunch.
posted by spec80 at 2:37 PM on March 7, 2008

I agree with the water and the power nap.

As far as napping at lunch goes - you can't let it be too long otherwise you will enter deeper levels of the sleep cycle and only make matters worse. 20 - 30 minutes is usually the limit, though if you get into the habit you will probably find exactly how longs works best for you.

This is something that I have fought with my whole life. When I get sleepy I get HELLA SLEEPY. And productivity is damn near zero.

Drinking something refreshing and very cold usually help me perk up. Ice Water, Lemonade and Iced Tea come to mind as drinks that help me make it through a sluggish slump.
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 2:40 PM on March 7, 2008

I totally agree about the carbs. The days I have a carb-heavy lunch I'm nodding off within an hour. Eat cereal for breakfast, fruit mid-morning, protein and veggies (salad, soup) for lunch and try to get some fresh air at lunchtime.
posted by essexjan at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2008

I switched my workouts to mornings and definitely lay off carbs at lunch. Worked like a charm for me.
posted by sanka at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2008

Nthing water. And this means WATER. Not soda. Oftentimes when you think you are tired as in "sleepy," you are really just dehydrated.

Also nthing taking a brisk walk around the block. Human bodies are not designed to sit in chairs for hours on end. Movement is healthy, and it revs up your circulation and energy.

A low-fat, high-protein snack can help. Low-fat string cheese, a handful of almonds (which have the "good" kind of fat in them), a slice of lean chicken or turkey breast.

Nap if you must, but no more than half an hour tops.

Finally, if you are still sleepy after trying all suggestions, you might want to get checked for a sleep disorder. Are you overweight or a snorer? Do you wake up choking and gasping for air, or with a really dry mouth? IANAD, of course, but any of these can indicate sleep apnea, which leads to sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:40 PM on March 7, 2008

It's normal for the circadian rhythm to have a dip in the afternoon (around 6 hours after you wake up). To a certain extent you may just have to accept this and plan around it. Making sure you get enough sleep all around should make it less problematic.
posted by dixie flatline at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2008

I've found either a 10 minute walk or a 10 minute nap will do the trick. It's amazing how refreshed you can get just from relaxing quietly for 10 minutes - no need to even fall asleep. I've also found the the less coffee I drink in the morning the less I need it in the afternoon. Try having a piece of fruit - it perks up your tastebuds as well as your brain.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:24 PM on March 7, 2008

Try severly limiting carbs at lunch, eating more protein instead.

Don't have a big lunch, you'll be ravenous by three, but grab a piece of fruit then. Drink plenty of water. I've taken to drinking copious quantities of green tea. After the third cup I achieve a nice caffeine buzz.

I used to have a big lunch and would be the walking dead at two.

Coffee in the afternoon is a killer for me, makes me feel bloated and lethargic.

We have a new baby in the house, and this is seriously affecting my day, do I tend to sneak off and have a nap for 15/20 minutes.

Failing that, meth
posted by mattoxic at 5:02 PM on March 7, 2008

9 to 5 is a completely artificial construct, for the reasons you state. Is your employer receptive to siesta? In other words, break for two hours at lunch, extend day to 6 p.m. Or start earlier, 2-hour lunch (so you can get in the nap and still leave at 5). Like I said, this requires a flexible and creative boss.

Otherwise, what works for me is morning workout on a very very light or no breakfast, heavy breakfast (I'm partial to a big bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit cooked into it), light lunch around 1 or 2 (yogurt and fruit) and a sugary snack late in the afternoon (this can be an evil snack like a candy bar or chips, or a more politically correct energy bar or piece of fruit. But sugar is key for me at any rate). yes on lots f water, no on caffeine. Caffeine will buzz you but not give you actual long-term energy.

of course, I work from my house, so I get to follow my natural rhythm, and my former cubicle job was for an extremely indulgent and flexible boss.
posted by nax at 9:46 AM on March 8, 2008

one factor not mentioned thus far, but i've found to be crucial for me--temperature in the office. if it's over 75F, i will absolutely have a crappy afternoon and be nodding off. by the time i get home i'm near collapse.

on the lucky days when the HVAC is actually working in my cube, and the temp is in the high 60F's, i'm alert all day. i mean sharp. hydration helps, caffine can be a crutch, but there is something inherently tiring about being in hotter air than your body's ideal (for me).

you might try a little desktop clock/thermometer and see if there's any correlation for you?

in the winter, the "go for a walk outside" after lunch can help along these lines as well. (not so much in the summer).
posted by garfy3 at 9:54 AM on March 8, 2008

Schedule your easiest tasks during your energy ebb: listening to a conference call, submit your expense reports, whatever. Schedule those tasks when your energy is low.

Turn up the lights in your office. Switch on an extra light or open the blinds.

Get up and walk around the office every 45 minutes. If you can't walk around at least stand up and stretch. I keep some exercise tubing and hand weights in my office. I'm not working up a sweat, but I am getting some blood pumping.

And nthing the advice to drink lots of water, skip the caffeine and avoid lunch time carb-overload.
posted by 26.2 at 8:05 AM on March 9, 2008

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