Have you searched for what to do when stuck in an afternoon slump?
Did you notice too?
Every time I search how to beat the afternoon slump the top finds focus on some giant life altering habits or snacks. Reality check, in the couple of hours after lunch who’s hungry? Seriously, we all ate lunch and if you are anything like me then you ate a little more than you really needed to, and are not hungry again until dinner time.
Second reality check, in an afternoon slump when you are desperately searching for the motivation to not lay down for a quick nap in front of all of your coworkers who is ready to commit to some huge life altering change. Seriously, no one has the intention to commit to more work while in an afternoon slump.
Yet, these are the solutions we have to work with. I’m just saying, I think we can do better, let’s not settle here.
So, if you’re like me and looking for how to get out of your afternoon slump without eating or changing your everyday habits you have come to the right place. First let’s address the most common fix, a drink. When we are feeling tired or bored at work a cold cup of water, or a flavored tea, or hot cup of coffee usually pulls us out of it.
However, I imagine that if you are searching how to get out of an afternoon slump you have already tried the go to drink fix. So let’s get a little more technical.
Why Am I In An Afternoon Slump?
As a neuroscientist I like to apply my knowledge of our brain to most challenges. The afternoon slump is a great opportunity to ask, what does my brain need to not feel bored or tired, as most feel in an afternoon slump. Before we jump into solutions let’s talk about being bored or tired and how that translates in our brains.
In our brain there are chemicals called neurotransmitters that can be released by cells and bind to cells to create a chain reaction in the cell it is bound to. One neurotransmitter in our brain is called dopamine. Higher concentrations of dopamine is connected with feeling good, happy, excited, stimulated all those feelings we want when we are in an afternoon slump. This also means that when you are bored or tired your brain has lower concentrations of dopamine to stimulate cells.
Our goal to recover from an afternoon slump is to increase the dopamine concentrations in our brain. So, how do we increase dopamine concentrations?
There are many options, obviously if you have something that you know makes you smile or laugh then it’s a good sign whatever that may be will help.
We do need to keep in mind that everyone is unique and what works for one person may not work for someone else. We should also keep in mind that individual differences can also translate into different people needing different durations of stimulating activity to increase their dopamine concentrations. So while one person may only need 5 minutes to recover from an afternoon slump, another might need 20 minutes of stimulating activity to recover from an afternoon slump.
The duration we need to increase dopamine can also vary within one individual depending on the day and the slump. Obviously the worse the slump the more time your body might need to increase your dopamine to a concentration that will correlate to you feeling engaged with life again.
With the knowledge that we are trying to increase our dopamine concentration and that everyone is different let’s explore our non food and non huge life changing options to recover from an afternoon slump. Below you will find several examples of what you can do to increase your brain’s concentration of dopamine.
Laughing activates the reward center of our brains, stimulating release of dopamine. That’s right, taking a laugh break can help energize us to refocus on our afternoon tasks with a positive outlook, all due to an increase in dopamine as a result of laughing.
We have several options here; chatting with someone who always makes you laugh or pulling up a short video of your favorite comedian or one of those hilarious animal videos.
So, if you know someone you can talk to that always has a good joke or that you can share a good joke with now is the time to take a short break to go joke around for a bit. The other option is to watch a funny video taking the time to laugh out loud when feeling the urge. After a few good laughs you can return to your work with an uplifted and energized spirit.
That’s right, music also elevates the concentration of dopamine in our brains. Before turning on your favorite genre, we should think a little about the music we choose during an afternoon slump. Obviously we all have our preferred genres, but as you think about your experiences listening to music, focus on the emotion you had while listening to different genres. If you know one genre is correlated with feelings of frustration and anger maybe don’t choose that genre to get yourself out of an afternoon slump.
If you are not sure what to listen to I recommend checking out the pandora channels listed on SkinnyMs’s post of the “Top 15 Pandora Stations to Energize Your Next Workout”. I know you might be thinking, I’m not working out right now, I just need a quick fix. Real quick though, think about it, the music that energizes your body to move for a workout is also a great option to energize your body to re-awaken your brain and get you out of an afternoon slump.
So, turn on some of your favorite tunes, and let the positive energy roll on out.
Yup, moving your body can increase dopamine. The increase of dopamine in our brain as a result of movement is highly variable from person to person, dependent on many factors like genetics, metabolism, workout habits, and diet to name a few. You get the point though, for this activity you will need to know yourself best. You might need a brisk 5 minute power walk or you might need a 20 minute session of Just Dance.
A good way to maximize the dopamine release as a result of moving your body is to include a co-variable known to increase dopamine concentrations in your brain. One option is to grab an available person that you feel good when you talk to, have them with you as you move your body and chat with them to maximize your dopamine output. Or you can turn on some tunes while you move your body to have music and body movement working together to increase your brain’s dopamine concentrations.
I hope one of these options or combined options help you get out of your afternoon slump.
If you have a go to trick that pulls you out of your afternoon slump please share in the comments below.
Also, if you are interested in more information on dopamine and our brains please check out the related references below.