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5 effective tips to overcome the after-lunch slump

The coma after lunch, in the early afternoon: We’ve all been there. And believe it or not, there’s actually some science behind it all. Your energy and focus levels naturally drop around 2 or 3 p.m. because your body’s core temperature drops around that time. It’s a regular part of your circadian rhythm, or natural cycle of sleep and wakefulness.

You may also feel sluggish in the afternoon because you ate a lunch full of carbohydrates, are dehydrated, or have been sitting at work or school all day. Common misconception: if you drink your third cup of coffee after lunch, it won’t help you get back on track. In fact, sometimes all it takes is having a snack or watching something funny to recover from a slump.

Here are some quick and easy ways to get rid of that lethargy.

Breathe in a citrus scent

While some scents, including lavender, can help you fall asleep, other scents can actually help you wake up. A mix of anecdotal, traditional use, and research evidence suggests that citrus aromas, such as those in lemons, tangerines, and grapefruits, can help lift your mood and make you more alert. Try to keep candles, soaps and essential oils of these scents handy. And when you’re feeling sluggish, eating a citrus fruit can also help you rejuvenate.

What to eat to revive the afternoon

It’s no secret that a healthy diet can increase your liveliness. If you’re feeling tired, a well-balanced snack will help you rejuvenate. When choosing a snack, be sure to include a mix of protein and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy.

Here are some simple options to give you a boost:

  • A handful of nuts
  • Carrots
  • Greek yogurt and fresh berries
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It’s also best to avoid drinks that will drain your energy or cause a sugar rush later on. Sodas, sugary coffee and energy drinks are all culprits. So opt for water, nut milks or unsweetened teas. If you’re dehydrated, which is easier than you think, you might also feel tired, so be sure to refuel with these drinks throughout the day.

Chew mint gum (sugar free)

Although the studies are small, there is some evidence that chewing gum can help you rejuvenate. A 2012 study from Coventry University in the UK found that participants were significantly less sleepy and more awake after chewing mint gum. It is possible that the flavor of mint makes your nose feel cool and tingly. Which can help you breathe better. It can make you feel more alert. Although researchers still don’t know exactly why chewing gum affects some people in this way, keeping a packet in your office can’t hurt.

Watch cat videos

You read that right: fire up the internet, put on your headphones, and take a break for a few minutes from this crazy thing called: life. Animal videos, especially cat videos, are just what you need for a midday boost. A 2015 Indiana University researcher surveyed nearly 7,000 people and found that participants were more positive and energetic after watching cat videos online. Many of them watched the videos at work or during their studies. After watching cat-related clips, subjects also had fewer feelings of negativity, anxiety, embarrassment, and sadness. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Take a few deep breaths

If you’re tired and having trouble concentrating, taking deep breaths can reduce your stress levels and help you wake up. For most people, exhaustion, both mental and physical, is closely related to stress. If you’re really exhausted, you might find it hard to concentrate and you might feel tired. Taking a few minutes to breathe is one way to combat that drowsiness.

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Here’s how:

Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
Take a normal breath.
Then, deeply and slowly, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

As you fill your lungs, your stomach and chest should rise and your abdomen should expand. Continue to breathe deeply for two minutes, and longer if time permits.

Pro Tip: Once you master deep breathing, you can start focusing on a relaxing image for you. Like waves crashing on the sand at the beach. You can also think of words like: love, peace, strength or balance that will help you stay calm and regain your energy.

Sources

  • National Sleep Foundation. “Four Reasons You Get Tired at 2pm.” 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020.
  • National Sleep Foundation. “Scents to Help You Wake Up and Feel Energized.” 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020.
  • NS Dosoky & WN Setzer. “Biological Activities and Safety of Citrus spp. Essential Oils.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences. July 2018. 19(7), 1966.
  • Tara Gidus, MS, RDN, LDN, CSSD. “Eating to Boost Energy.” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Reviewed June 2019.
  • Harvard Health Publishing. “Eating to boost energy.” 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020.
  • N Travica, K Ried, et al. “Vitamin C Status and Cognitive Function: A Systematic Review.” Nutrients. 2017, 9, 960.
  • Todd McLeish. “URI nutritionist finds chewing gum can reduce calorie intake, increase energy expenditure.” University of Rhode Island. October 27, 2009.
  • S Miquel, MB Haddou, JEL Day. “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of mastication on sustained attention in healthy adults.” Physiology & Behavior. Volume 202, 1 April 2019, Pages 101-11.
  • AJ Johnson, C Miles, et al. “The effect of chewing gum on physiological and self-rated measures of alertness and daytime sleepiness.” Physiology & Behavior. 2012;105(3):815-820.
  • Indiana University. “Not-so-guilty pleasure: Viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions, IU study finds.” June 16, 2015.
  • Harvard Health Publishing. “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell wandering stress response.” Updated July 6, 2020. Accessed September 17, 2020.
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