You probably know the feeling. It’s after lunch and the day seems to drag on and on. Your energy level is low, and you can’t concentrate on your work. You aren’t getting anything done, and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it. You feel like taking a nap, but of course that’s not possible at the office. The afternoon doldrums are a well-known challenge to the work day, with some 28% of employees reporting falling asleep or getting very sleepy at work, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But there are ways of working with this listlessness. Here are five ways to manage your energy during the afternoon:
1. Have a lite lunch.
If we have a heavy lunch, we’ll be in danger of our energy flagging during the afternoon. This is especially true if you go out for lunch. Many restaurants offer fare with lots of starch and fat, and portion sizes can be really large. If you do eat out, it’s a good idea to get something lighter and fresher – think salad or whole grains instead of that pork burrito, giant sandwich, or heavy rice and meat dish. Even better is bringing something home that you’ve made yourself. This way you can control both the quality and quantity of what you’re eating. The payoff of a lighter, fresher lunch will be a steadier level of energy in the afternoon.
2. Go for a walk outside.
Walking is great exercise, and it’s also a way of unlocking energy that can freeze in your body when you are stationery in an office for long periods of time. Getting out of your office and strolling outside also helps you let go of whatever issue you left on your desk. A walk can change your perspective and give the brain a much-needed break from problem-solving. When the brain gets this type of break, both the mind and body feel more refreshed.
3. Do a few minutes of mindfulness of breathing.
Focusing on your breathing is a mindfulness practice of being aware of the breath and simply bringing your attention back to the breath whenever the mind wanders. By bringing the mind back to the breath again and again, the mind tends to become more unified, clear, and collected. When the mind is more unified, it also has more energy, and that will be felt in the body as well. Also, when we practice mindfulness of breathing, we are letting go of the problem-solving doing mode of the mind and dwelling in its being mode. Spending regular time in the being mode refreshes the brain, decreases energy-sapping stress and energizes our attention.
4. Do some mindful stretching like yoga or qi gong.
Doing mindful movement like yoga or qi gong can help release energy in the body, enhance circulation, and increase mental alertness. And like walking and mindfulness of breathing, movement practice is a great way of letting go of the cares of the doing mode and reconnecting to the being mode. As a result, the body and the brain are refreshed. Even a few simple movements that can easily be done at your desk can recharge your batteries.
5. Take that nap – if you can.
Shutting your eyes and lying down for even 10 or 15 minutes can have a powerfully restorative effect on energy levels. This is easier said than done, though, as a nap requires a quiet room, and most employers don’t provide one. This may be changing, though, as more and more companies provide nap rooms specifically for this purpose. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 34% of employees reported that their employers allow them to nap at work. Companies such as Google, Nike, and Ben and Jerrys have discovered that when employees can nap at work productivity goes up, thus helping the bottom line.