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Step by Step Guide for Beating the Midday Slump Like a Champ
It's That Time Again...
Your eyelids feel like lead, your concentration is shot and you have the patience of a two-year old..you know it must be nearing the dreaded two o'clock hour. No matter how much coffee you’ve drank, everything seems to take a nosedive in the middle of the day and crawling back into bed isn't an option. Take heart; you’re definitely not alone, nearly everyone bottoms-out between two and three in the afternoon. So, what’s really happening to you and what can you do to conquer the midday slump?
The Real Energy Thief
The biggest reason for the afternoon lag is caused by the circadian rhythm, an internal clock that regulates your sleep cycles. This natural, biological clock dips between two and four in the morning and - unfortunately - again between one and three in the afternoon. The dip alerts your body to drop your core temperature and that temperature drop signals your body to release the ‘sleepy’ hormone, melatonin. Once the melatonin is released, you’re officially 'in the slump'. For most of us, the circadian dip in the early-morning hours aren’t the problem; it’s the dip during the day that can take a toll on your concentration, mood and energy level. To make matters worse, you may be unknowingly making your daytime slump more of a battle to get through. Fortunately, there are ways to get you going again and push through the midday lag.
Step 1: Get Your Eight Hours of Sleep - Really!
The midday slump will be less severe if you’re getting a full nights sleep on a regular basis. Any less than that will leave you feeling more fatigued the next day, making the need for an afternoon siesta a bit overwhelming.
Speaking of Sleep...
Working on your cell phone, iPad or computer right before going to bed will have detrimental effects on your energy level. Screen time suppresses melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep and leaving you feeling tired and groggy well into the next day. If you must use your computer, cell phone or iPad, there are free apps, software programs and computer glasses that filter out the blue light (the goblin that keeps you awake) and stops the melatonin-robbing effect.
But If You Didn't Get Your Eight Hours in..
Put your head down for twenty minutes and take a nap. Studies show that napping for twenty minutes will improve your performance, your mood and make you feel more alert.
Step 2: Eat a Energy-Packed Breakfast
If you usually have a sugary snack and coffee in the morning, you might be asking for trouble. You’ll feel the rush from the caffeine and sugar kick right away, but then you’ll crash after the ‘high’ wears off, depleting your energy and making you hungry all over again. Grab some breakfast power-foods consisting of 300 to 400 calorie (for women) or a 400 to 500 calorie (for men) with carbohydrates and proteins that give you the power-fuel you need to keep your energy level and mood up. Prevent the glucose-caffeine-crash with some healthy, high-energy breakfasts like:
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit
- Two hard-boiled eggs
- Hard-boiled egg and whole wheat toast
- Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and banana
- Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- Multi-grain cereal with fresh fruit
- Scrambled egg with whole wheat toast
- Brown rice with honey and fruit
- Whole wheat toast with tuna and low fat mayonnaise
Alternatives to Breakfast
If you’re not a breakfast person (many people aren’t) and you don’t want to pay the price of store-bought breakfast bars, there are some healthy, homemade snacking alternatives that can be prepared ahead of time for the upcoming week. These grab n’ go protein bars are cheaper than store bought, and they don’t have the unnecessary sugars that store brands can contain. One healthy cost-effective alternative is:
High-Fiber High-Protein Breakfast Bars*
- 1 1/2 Cup quick cooking oats
- 1/4 Cup wheat germ
- 1/4 Cup ground flaxseed, (1/2 cup for gluten-free)
- 2 Tablespoons vanilla-hemp protein powder
- 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 3 Bananas
- 1/4 Cup Jiff peanut butter, (can be substituted with almond butter)
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 Cup natural peanut butter, (can be substituted with almond butter)
- cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Line an 8x8' baking dish with aluminum foil, letting the foil hang down over the sides of the pan and spray with cooking spray.
- Stir oats, wheat germ, flaxseed, protein powder, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl.
- Mash bananas in a separate large bowl and stir in 1/4 cup Jiff peanut butter, honey, and vanilla extract into bananas, mixing well.
- Stir dry ingredients into banana mixture and spread evenly into prepared baking dish.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Spread 1/4 cup natural peanut butter over top.
- Continue baking until lightly browned on the edges and set 10 more minutes.
- Let cool in pan and lift bars onto work surface using aluminum foil as handles.
- Cut into bars, wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator.
Makes 6 to 9 breakfast bars.
Step 3: Don't Forget the Water!
Dehydration can cause fatigue and headaches, even at the slightest levels. Keeping water with you to drink throughout the day can help you to stay alert and will also keep you from confusing thirst for hunger and derailing unnecessary snack intake.
Step 4: Get Your Lunchtime Energy
If you overindulge for lunch, your body will use up your precious energy to digest all that food, making you tired and sleepy all over again. Try for a lighter meal with more protein than carbohydrates to give you an extra boost of energy to get your motor running smoothly until dinner. Some examples of lighter, energy-fueled lunches are:
- Brown rice with salmon
- Vegetable omelet
- Bean burrito (without the cheese or sour cream)
- Tuna (packed in water) sandwich on whole-wheat bread
- Salad with eggs, chicken breast and low-fat dressing
- Turkey on whole-wheat with low-fat mayonnaise
Want a light, protein-packed recipe you can make ahead of time for your workday lunches? Try this yummy dish :
Honey Mustard Chicken Wrap
- 4 - 6" Whole-wheat wraps
- 1 1/2 Pounds chicken breast
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 Cup honey
- 1 Teaspoon basil
- 1 Teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 Cup mustard
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
- Rinse chicken off and put in dish
- Season with salt & pepper
- Mix lemon juice, honey, basil, mustard and paprika in a bowl and pour over chicken.
- Flip chicken over to coat both sides with honey-mustard mix
- Bake for 50 minutes
- Cut chicken into strips
- Put strips onto whole-wheat wrap
- Top with lettuce & sliced tomato
- Fold wrap
Makes 4 servings
Step 5: During Your Lunch Hour
Meditating for fifteen to twenty minutes a day increases concentration and lowers the energy-depleting stress, making the three o’clock hour more tolerable. It's also thought that meditating improves decision-making skills and helps your ability to process information; all the better for making your workday more productive, not to mention slightly more enjoyable. No need for beads, incense and chanting music though; just some quiet time, relaxation and focused thoughts will do.
Step 6: Get Away From Your Workspace
Prolonged sitting combined with monotonous work will cause boredom, which in turn will make your afternoon lag harder to tame. Oxygen levels also decrease, making you feel even more tired. Stimulate your mind and get the blood pumping by getting up every hour and taking a short walk to the bathroom, down the hall to talk to a coworker or over to the window. Even better, go for a twenty to thirty minute walk around the block or to your car. Studies show that going for that short of a walk can have the same mood-enhancing effects as taking a mild tranquilizer, which will calm your nerves and enhance your mood.
But if You Can't Leave Your Workspace..
If you can’t leave your desk, keep a lemon-scented candle nearby. Studies show that sniffing lemon has a positive effect on mental stimulation and mood. Keeping a lemon-scented candle nearby (even if it’s not lit) will improve your focus and mood during the afternoon lull, making it easier to deal with.
Step 7: Turn the Tunes On!
The way you feel about your immediate environment changes depending on the type of music that you're listening to. Motivational music (whatever type of music that is for you) reaches you at your deepest levels and enhances your mood, makes you feel energized and give you a more optimistic outlook; every reason to listen to it at work! Also, listening to music can override feelings of fatigue because your brain is concentrating more on the music than on your fatigue. To get you started, here are some songs full of encouragement that on are sure brighten your spirit and get your toe tapping right through the midday slump:
- Boston - More Than a Feeling
- Lady Gaga - Born This Way
- Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground
- U2 - Beautiful Day
- Michael Jackson - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
- Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
- Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
- The Beatles - Revolution
- Christina Aguilera - Fighter
- Kelly Clarkson - Stronger
- Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
- Irene Cara - What a Feeling
- Eminem - Lose Yourself
- Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly
- Madonna - Ray of Light
- Pink - Raise Your Glass
- Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
- Aerosmith - Back in the Saddle
- Miley Cyrus - The Climb
- Rascal Flatts - Stand
Yay! You Made It!
By five o'clock, you should be feeling like you've successfully beaten the afternoon drag. Congratulations! It's a daily battle though and you'll need to make these steps your daily routine to shoo away all the rest of the two o'clock slumps. So keep doing the very basics by eating energy foods, drinking plenty of water and getting your eight hours of sleep in; and if it's practical, get your lemon scents, music and meditation in for the very best results. Take care of yourself to beat the midday slump and your body will thank you for it.
*SavedbyGrace at Allrecipes