We all know the usual ways to beat the afternoon slump. Coffee is the classic choice, while reams of scientific studies demonstrate the benefits of a quick nap. (Or you could combine the two for a "nappuccino.") Studies show that exercise is just as helpful.
But as obvious as these solutions sound, anyone who has miserably dragged themself through the post-lunch slump can tell you that they often fail office workers. Sure, caffeine peps you up at 3 p.m., but it can also keep you awake at bedtime. Not every work situation is nap friendly, and while a stroll around the local park sounds energizing in theory, sometimes in practice it's just broiling or freezing.
Clearly, we need some additional options for those days when the old standbys just aren't doing the trick. Helpfully, science can provide.
1. Read fiction.
Madison D., 29, spends about 15 minutes during her lunch break reading a fiction book and finds that it usually helps her reset and clear her mind for the rest of the day," reports Self in a recent roundup of productivity improving port-lunch habits. A psychiatrist confirms Madison has science on her side. "Disconnecting, focusing on something else, and then re-engaging can pry you out of that state of being stuck or demoralized in dealing with what you're dealing with," he tells the magazine.
A fresh perspective of the day isn't the only benefit of reading fiction, according to science. Any sort of deep, immersive reading will strengthen your brain's ability to focus, while reading fiction specifically can boost your empathy and EQ.
2. Savor an elaborate snack.
Here's one more weird but effective suggestion from Self: "When Kelly O., 31, starts to hit the afternoon slump around 2 or 3 p.m., she whips up a charcuterie board." Making a pretty selection of cheese, meat, bread, fruit, or whatever other healthy foods you fancy, is certainly a better route to lasting energy than a candy bar that will soon cause your blood sugar to crash. But there's another reason this unusual trick might help you reset and refocus after lunch.
Both meditation teachers and psychologists suggest that pausing to really savor whatever you're eating or drinking is a simple way to slip some mindfulness into your day. And calming your mind and nerves in this way can help you tackle the afternoon hours with more motivation.
3. Throw yourself an afternoon dance party.
One recent study showed 10 minutes of basically any kind of exercise beats a cup of coffee for afternoon energy. Given that truth, why not get your heart rate up in a way that's totally joyful? Besides being fun, studies also shows dancing helps keep your brain young. I just can't guarantee your co-workers won't look at you like you're crazy (or join in).
4. Express gratitude.
A mountain of research shows that gratitude will make you happier, calmer, and more optimistic. But one method of expressing gratitude beats all others in a scientific head-to-head match up -- expressing gratitude to others will make you even happier than counting your own blessings.
So send off a quick text thanking a teammate for their great work or call that friend and let her know you appreciate her when you feel your energy flagging. That small kindness will likely leave you happier, more motivated, and more prepared to tackle the rest of your day.
5. Name your emotions.
Sometimes you're exhausted at work because the baby (or the neighbors, or that big project) kept you up to all hours the night before. But sometimes what leaves you exhausted by midday is more emotional than physical. If you suspect you're dragging because of stress, tension, conflict, or fear, the best intervention may not be a Starbucks run, but a little linguistic reflection.
As Wharton professor Adam Grant recently pointed out, naming your emotions accurately is actually the essential first step to coping with them. And the more precise you can be, the better. That's why taking a few minutes to ponder just the right label for your state of mind (or even to write about it) is likely to help you make it to the end of the workday with more energy and a clearer mind.