Do you often lose concentration and find yourself devoid of energy in the afternoon? If so, you’re not alone – but there are ways to boost both your vitality, and your productivity…
Come 3pm, and most of us are seriously flagging. Our energy levels are low, our brains are foggy, and yet there are still a good couple of hours before we can think about stopping for the day. And to make matters worse, our new working habits can often compound this issue. With many of us squeezed in small spaces at home, and dealing with a never-ending schedule of Zoom meetings and emails, it’s little wonder we can sometimes feel sapped of motivation.
According to experts, there are lots of reasons why we experience a 3pm slump – including the way we treat our body through the day. “If you regularly hit an energy wall in the afternoon when you can’t think straight, or get irritated with colleagues or family members, then you are probably stuck on a blood sugar rollercoaster,” explains certified health coach Suzy Glaskie, who adds that our sedentary lifestyles have a part to play, too.
But, as she says, with a few simple tweaks, you can see your energy levels soar. Try the following advice and reap the rewards…
Start the day right
The way you begin your morning can have a big impact on how you feel throughout the day, and making time for a healthy breakfast can help keep your blood sugar levels – and your energy – stable. “Ditch breakfast cereals and all the other processed junk that’s pitched as a ‘healthy start to the day’,” advises Suzy. “Instead, choose to eat some high-quality protein and good fats; these will keep you feeling full and your blood sugar stable.” Avocado on whole-grain toast with eggs is an ideal option.
Have a glass of water
Go on, admit it – how much water do you regularly drink in a day? For the vast majority of us, it’s not nearly enough to keep our body functioning at its best. “Even the mildest dehydration of only 1–2% can damage your ability to concentrate, your level of alertness, and your short-term memory function,” Suzy warns. Not a fan of plain H2O? Add slices of cucumber, lemon or orange to your glass, infuse your liquid with fresh berries, or enhance the taste with herbs such as basil or mint.
Take your lunch break
Yes, we know it can be tempting to power on through your lunch break, but this isn’t necessarily good for your afternoon concentration levels. Research has found that workers feel refreshed and recharged after a break from work, and other studies have revealed how getting outside in nature, doing exercise, or enjoying a meditation session, can boost our motivation – all of which can be perfect lunchtime pursuits.
Include protein in your lunch
Making sure you’re eating enough good quality protein throughout the day can keep you feeling buoyant, and ready to focus. Swap your usual packet of crisps for some nuts, and reduce sugary, processed snacks such as biscuits as much as possible. Also think carefully about your lunchtime food choices. “If you’re having a salad for lunch, make sure it includes protein – top it with last night’s chicken or salmon, and throw in some pumpkin or sunflower seeds for extra healthy fats,” recommends Suzy.
Studies have revealed how getting outside in nature, doing exercise, or enjoying a meditation session, can boost our motivation
Take a deep breath
A lack of oxygen can severely impact our ability to focus on a task, and many of us are guilty of breathing in a shallow way that doesn’t make the most of our lung capacity – especially if we’re feeling stressed at work. “The 7/11 breathing practice can help you feel more grounded, alert, and clear-headed,” Suzy says. “This involves breathing in to the count of seven, and then out to the count of 11, slowly and deeply through your nose. If you can, place one hand on your stomach – you should feel it rising and falling with each breath. Keep going for a couple of minutes, and see how much better you feel.”
Sitting down all day isn’t good for our physical or mental health, as Suzy explains. “Being stuck in a seated position can lead to ‘stuck’ thinking, blunt our creativity, and leave us feeling lethargic,” she says. “In this way, just the mere act of standing up can shift our thinking – so get up from your desk and stretch every half hour or so.” If you’re working from home, consider investing in a standing desk, or making all your phone calls standing up. If you’re back in the office, try to set aside time to stand up and move – you could even download an app to your phone to remind you to do this.
Turn on your headphones
Research has shown that listening to music can help your concentration levels, and Suzy agrees. “Listening to music is one of the most enjoyable ways to shift our energy and emotional state,” she says. “Whether you’re into Beyoncé or Beethoven, put some music on that you love, and let it wash over you.”
Suzy Glaskie is a functional medicine certified health coach, founder of Peppermint Wellness, and host of the Wellness Unwrapped podcast. Find out more at peppermintwellness.co.uk