5 Ways To Power Through The PM Slump

We all know that 3 p.m.-on-a-workday feeling: your eyelids start drooping, your computer screen gets blurry, and the floor beneath your desk looks like the perfect place to curl up for a nap. As it turns out, there’s a scientific reason for your slumping shoulders: “Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., a drop in body temperature naturally occurs in most people, which releases melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy,” says Dr. Michael Breus, sleep expert and author of The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan

Of course, having a regular sleep schedule is key to feeling more alert all day, but if you’re dragging after watching one too many Homeland episodes last night, here are five research-backed methods to overcome a midafternoon crash — even if there’s not a Starbucks in sight.


When your inbox is overflowing but your motivation is next to none, one of the best things you can do is simply give yourself a break. Recent studies show that the human body operates on cycles, so after about an hour of intense focus, our brains are crying out for a 10- or 15-minute break, says Dr. James A. Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. Try walking across the office to chat with a co-worker or simply close your eyes and take deep breaths. Dr. Levine says his research found that employees returned to their desks after such breaks feeling more energetic, relaxed, and even happier.


Stave off sleepiness by escaping from your office for a 15-minute walk around the block. “Sunlight stops the production of melatonin,” says Dr. Breus, “so brief exposure to bright light prevents you from feeling tired.” If it’s not possible for you to go outdoors, stand close to a window and bask in the sun’s rays for a few minutes, he suggests.


Crossing items off your to-do list can be a source of energy, says David Allen, productivity expert and author of Getting Things Done. “Think about how great you feel when you complete a big project or finish that monster report,” says Allen. “This sense of accomplishment is a strong motivating factor that can help you push through afternoon sluggishness.” When you start to feel drowsy, try to check off the next actionable item on your list — you’re likely to feel more motivated to keep working.


Just pressing play is a proven way to help you feel more alert and energized. “Music has the potential to drive our thoughts, feelings and even actions,” says Don DuRousseau, co-author ofYour Playlist Can Change Your Life. His research has found that a musical beat turns on crucial alertness networks in your brain, leading to heightened motivation and even happiness. Choose up-tempo tracks that are 150 BPM or higher (go to Song BPM to check the BPM of your favorite tunes). DuRousseau’s picks for a midday pick-me-up include Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” or Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”


Research shows that adding protein to carbs boosts concentration levels, so you feel better, mentally and physically, when you’ve had a meal that combines these nutrients. “Also, be sure to eat fiber — found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes — to keep your blood sugar stable and your energy up,” says Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and Konsyl spokeswoman. Try these lunch ideas from Glassman, both of which will keep you satiated and energized through the afternoon. 

Spinach salad: Toss spinach with red onion, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic, then top with ½ cup lentils and 3 oz. grilled salmon. 

Open-faced turkey sandwich: Spread a thin layer of guacamole on one piece of sprouted grain bread, then top with romaine lettuce, freshly sliced turkey, sprouts, and mustard vinaigrette. Have a cup of raspberries on the side for added fiber!

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