Eight Ways to Beat the Afternoon Slump

We’ve all experienced it – 2 p.m. rolls around and you can’t find the motivation to continue working. You can feel yourself falling into the same trance one experiences on a long road trip fueled by Red Bull and caffeine patches, and you’re seriously considering how much trouble you’d get in if you used that spare office for a quick nap.

But why? You get eight hours of sleep every night and you try to stay alert in meetings even when Jerry gets off track talking about his newborn.

Don’t worry, it’s completely normal. On average, your body tends to get tired around seven hours after you initially wake up. For office workers who wake up between 5 to 7 a.m. that slump will be hitting around 1 to 2 p.m. Thus creating the infamous “afternoon slump.”

Here are eight ways to juice up your day and stay as productive as possible.

1. Stay away from the bread

This sounds both ridiculous and impossible, but having a carb filled lunch will aid in your gradual decline into the slump.

An amino acid called “tryptophan,” which causes drowsiness, is made more available to the brain after consuming carbohydrates which is why you feel so tired after big, carb-y meals. Tryptophan is also commonly found in turkey, which is why you feel so tired after Thanksgiving dinner – that, or it’s because you woke up at 5 a.m. to your mom burning her pie.

Instead of having yet another bread bowl from Panera, consider something with protein. Remember “ants on a log”? That snack your mom made for you as a kid in the summer? Try that! You may look like a third grader when you pull them out of your lunch box, but the peanut butter and celery will keep you going until quitting time.

2. Get hydrated

If you feel yourself nodding off in the middle of the day, skip the half-caf, soy, chai tea iced latte and get a glass of cold water. The water will refresh and re-energize you just enough to power through the day until you can crash on your couch at home.

Adding lemon to your water will not only have you feeling a little healthier than usual (“Yes, I am on a detox, thank you for noticing, Deb.”) it will help boost your energy. Replace your old, stained coffee mug that’s been on your desk since before the Christmas party and get a reusable water bottle, buy some lemons, and get to work.

3. Go outside and soak in the fresh air

Sitting in a dimly lit office, listening to the droning hum of the luminescent lights, and your coworker who won’t stop typing like the world is going to end before they finish their email (Thanks, Buzzfeed and Google, for popularizing the “open office” plan) can really drain your productivity.

Change up your usual schedule by going for a brisk walk outside and reconnect with nature. At Flying Cork, for example, we are located right next to an urban park that our employees walk through on their lunch breaks.

Walking around will give your body the much-needed zap of energy.

4. Take a whiff of some peppermint

Aromatherapy is no joke – putting a drop of peppermint oil on your hands can have a refreshing and energizing effect.

Don’t like the smell of peppermint? No worries, lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus smells can boost your body’s production of serotonin, a hormone that produces happy feelings and reduces stress levels. Unlike the smell of your coworker’s homemade onion and garlic hummus, which only adds to your stress levels. 

Rosemary and eucalyptus can also provide a healthier cognitive flow, so get to sniffing.

5. Organize your desk

Look at your desk, you have candy wrappers from Halloween that have been flattened under a pile of paperwork you were supposed to turn in last month, you have crumbs from lunch in your keyboard, and you can’t remember the last time you found something in under three minutes.

Organizing your belongings and making sure everything is in its place can increase your productivity and reduce stress. Once you’re done Marie Kondo-ing your workspace, you’ll feel more encouraged to get projects done.

6. Get up and dance

Ok, so you don’t necessarily have to have an impromptu dance party at your desk, because who wants Mark from HR to see you pulling out your eighth grade dance moves, BUT you should for sure stretch. Or dance. We aren’t your boss, do whatever you want.

Stretching (or dancing) can help blood flow and while you may not be able to do a full-blown “downward facing dog” position, adjusting your posture and flexing your arm and leg muscles definitely aid in waking you up.

7. Chew some gum

Like the aromatherapy and a lemon slice in your water combined, chewing “spicy” (cinnamon or peppermint) gum will keep your brain from getting too lethargic. It will pull you out of the beast that is boredom’s den and bring you back to life.

Plus, it’s good for your teeth and overall dental hygiene and coffee breath. We’re not saying you have coffee breath, we’re just saying… it’s good for getting rid of that.

8. Battle out your stress

What’s a safe (and basically harmless) way to get out all of the frustration of a long workday? Nerf guns.

At least, that’s what we do in our offices. Not every day, but some days, when it feels like we’re crawling through a tub of marshmallow, you can be sure to hear the sound of styrofoam darts whizzing past your head as some of our employees reenact Modern Warfare.

Karen from accounting may not approve, but it certainly works for us.


Now, if you find that you’re really falling asleep, try these more intense tricks: pinch your cheeks to stimulate blood flow, or bite into a ghost pepper, or dunk your head into an ice-cold bath. Where are you going to get an ice cold bath? No idea, we’re just here to give you suggestions.

With these tips and tricks, you can hopefully avoid feeling like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day just repeating the same day over and over and over and over again, and get more work out of your eight hours.