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How to fight that post-lunch slump
It is mid-afternoon and you feel drained. You can't focus on work, find it hard to concentrate and your productivity has dropped. Sounds familiar? It's that all too familiar afternoon slump!
Also called the post-lunch slump or afternoon apathy syndrome, it is at its peak from around 3 pm to 5 pm. And this is not just in your head. There are physiological changes at work here, and they affect a great many working professionals. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce the slump's frequency and duration.
"In a typical post lunch slump (that lasts around 90 minutes), you find it difficult to concentrate, your attention drifts, you feel less alert and energetic and more apt to make mistakes," says practicing homeopath and counsellor Dr Reena Dhaware, who regularly organises sessions for working executives.
The afternoon syndrome usually hits after lunch, as the body's resources are suddenly diverted into digesting a meal. The body is also slipping into a cycle of boredom: the morning spurt of enthusiasm and excitement is reducing as the work becomes monotonous. Other common culprits are stress and a stuffy, uncomfortable environment. Experts believe you may also feel tried if you have a low metabolism from lack of exercise.
As the syndrome strikes mostly after lunch hour, you must choose your meal carefully. Lunch containing protein and dietary fibre will satisfy hunger longer. Add lean meat, poultry, tuna or other seafood, nuts or beans to a salad. Whole grains -- they are more nutrient-dense and provide more dietary fibre than refined grains -- will keep you satisfied for longer. Prepare your sandwich using 100 per cent whole grain bread, or roll up your wrap in a whole-wheat tortilla.
"Start your day with a heavy breakfast, and split your lunch into two light meals," adds Pune-based nutrition expert Priti Apte, who also acts as a consultant for health clubs. "Have one roti in one sitting and another after a break, instead of finishing them in one go," she explains. "Also, it may be surprising, but another cup of coffee or tea is not an answer. Liquids like coffee or cola dehydrate you and make the slump worse. Drink a glass of cool water instead."
In fact, experts say a minimum of eight glasses of water will solve a lot of your problems. Keep a water bottle handy all day, and don't wait until you feel thirsty to take a sip.
As far as possible, plan your activities so you are not doing anything too strenuous around this time. Do your toughest tasks in the morning, when you come back to work. Schedule important meetings, presentations or other sessions at this hour, as most people are at peak alertness then.
Afternoons can be a good time to catch up on tasks that require less mental concentration, such as returning phone calls, sending email, reading, or sorting out papers. You can also have informal discussions during a small walk or stroll, instead of the boardroom. You could also start something fresh and interesting after lunch so you're not bored by mid-afternoon.
Nap is the pause that refreshes. Naps should be had at mid-day -- about eight hours after we wake up -- so as to not disturb the natural biorhythm of our sleep-wake cycles. They also should be short; definitely no longer than 30 minutes.
The little cubicles where one works in isolation add to the droopiness. A cooped up atmosphere is the ideal circumstance to encourage afternoon syndrome. Brighten up your space with fresh flowers, some family pictures or anything that provides visual relief. Maintaining a comfortable work environment can reduce body ache, tension and drowsiness. Adjust your chair so you can sit comfortably. Be sure your wrists and hands are well supported if you use a computer keyboard. Most offices are lit with cool white fluorescent tubes that have a negative effect on how people feel and function. A better option is full spectrum fluorescent tubes, as these simulate the wavelength of sunlight.
If you are fit overall, you are less likely to feel the slump. The best way to stay active, of course, is to have enough oxygen pumping through your system. This will ward off any drowsiness through the day. Begin the day on an active note, with some cardio exercises. Get out of your seat occasionally and move your limbs.
Don't cut down on your sleep to complete your task because, in the long run, it will affect your work. Getting less sleep than your body needs can leave you feeling drowsy, irritable, forgetful and more likely to make mistakes. To assure you get a good night's sleep, develop a regular sleep routine. Try to go to bed around the same time each night.
If you are truly hungry, have a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, some salad, a handful of nuts, sprouts, a small container of yoghurt, or some celery and carrot sticks.
Psychologists believe that meditation is great for rejuvenating your body. If you do run into the afternoon slump, meditating for a quick five minutes can re-energize you immediately. It also has a cooling effect on your emotions. Choose music carefully to boost you. If you are listening to music with lyrics, make sure they are positive and motivating. Take time to breathe and stretch. It is a great way to give yourself an energy boost. Doing some breathing exercises during the day will also get a lot more fresh air into your system.
Take a break and just walk around the office, if you cannot step out. Apart from a change in scenery, walking boosts blood circulation and helps you breathe better. Walking outside will give you the extra benefit of fresh air, but walking around the office is okay too. If you don't have time to take a walk, run up and down the stairs for two minutes. This will give you the same benefits in half the time.
When you start reading the same paragraph for the tenth time or stare blankly at the screen for more than two minutes, yawn or just don't feel like working, get up from your seat. Go the rest room, brush your hair, splash cold water on your face and reapply make-up if you want. Grab a quick dose of fresh air by walking or simply standing in front of the balcony or window. Eat a fruit, especially a citrus fruit or some cinnamon gum or strong peppermint. Do some deep breathing, then get back of work. Do not make it a routine activity. Try changing some things everyday.
Take a humour break -- Tell a joke or share a cartoon. Laugh out loudly. Rest your eyes. Do desk stretches. Stretch your legs under the table or stretch up your hands while sitting on your chair.
Do you feel tardy post lunch? Share your tips and experiences
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