It’s 3 PM. You need something to drag you out of the “afternoon black hole” of being tired and losing motivation. Coffee is sooooo tempting. And the candy bar in the vending machine is calling your name. And there are still a few donuts left in the break room… However, you know from experience that sugar and/or caffeine won’t really fix the slump. It will just delay it for about another 20 minutes. So let’s take a look at a few healthy ideas to take the afternoon energy up a notch.
I wouldn’t be honest with you if I denied my tendency to succumb to the siren call of caffeine and candy bars. Somehow my brain still believes the lie that sugar will wake me up. Just a few days ago even, as I was walking home from work and reviewing my day, I realized that I had easily eaten TEN pieces of Whitman’s chocolates throughout the day. The crazy thing is that I wasn’t aware of what I had put in my mouth until the end of day. Sugar is tricky like that.
I didn’t have a full idea of how junk food was making me feel until I did an elimination diet and cut out all types of sugar and cut waaaay back on caffeine. Guess what? No afternoon slump.
Taking care of yourself during the work day takes intention. You really need to step back and choose to put good things into your body. Because, just like those chocolates I mindlessly consumed the other day, the unhealthy options are everywhere.
We have an opportunity to positively impact our health AND those entrusted to our care during the day such as our patients, our children, or our students. This can happen when we initiate a proactive plan to combat afternoon fatigue. Think about it, we have the potential to RECLAIM a part of our day.
In my own work experience as a nurse, afternoons during day shift at a hospital can be mentally and physically challenging in themselves. It is often during the afternoon hours when you get most of your new patient admissions, get reassigned patient loads based on staffing AND when your patients with dementia start to get extra confused and agitated. Anyone heard of sundowning? Not being on your game can really make this time even harder.
You may still be tempted by the donuts in the break room and cheesy mac & cheese in the cafeteria. Nobody’s perfect, and donuts are good. But if you intentionally make better choices for yourself in the afternoon, you will see your energy and focus level improve. Remember, you deserve to feel better more than those donuts deserve to be eaten.
Plan and pack good snacks for the afternoon. By having a few on hand, you will no longer be held hostage by the whims of the cafeteria or the break room. When packing snacks, look to provide a balance of nutrients from a few different food groups. And stay away from simple sugars that are found in chips, crackers or cookies. Making sure you have a good source of protein will help as well. Here are some great ideas
I have found that good nutrition helps in the afternoon, but I’m most awake when I pair it with a little walk or some outside time. Sunlight helps to remind our bodies that it is still day and helps put the breaks on melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us fall asleep.
If you can’t get outside, a walk around the halls or even some quick air-squats in the break room will help get the blood moving. I remember in college, I used to do handstands in a corner of the school library when I needed a quick wake up. It worked, even if my classmates thought I was a bit odd…
Water is a building block of our body and our brain. Bring a water bottle with you to work and make a goal of how many you want to drink during the day. If I want coffee, sometimes I tell myself I have to drink at least 12 ounces of water first. Usually after that, I feel better and the desire for caffeine is a lot less.
The afternoons do not have to be lost to the drudgery of exhaustion and dreariness. Caffeine and candy bars do not have to be our saviors. There are things that we can do to reclaim a part of our day that many of us have given up on enjoying. We can plan ahead by packing smart snacks, getting some exercise, breathing fresh air and staying hydrated to make positive changes in our health and energy levels.
Let’s reclaim our afternoons together. If you promise to save me from the donuts in the break room, I’ll refill your water bottle with the filtered water and best crushed ice. Deal?