5 Tips for Managing Your Afternoon Slump (Without Candy or Coffee)

Do you struggle with afternoon sugar cravings?

Many of my clients do.

Around 2:00-3:00 p.m., their eyelids grow heavy, their concentration nosedives, and cookies start calling to them.

Sugar is often their instant solution for boosting their energy. Yet, as most of us have discovered, this short-term fix quickly causes us to crash and crave more sugar.

Caving into your 3:00 p.m. cravings has nothing to do with a lack of willpower.

It’s completely natural to feel sleepy in the afternoon. And it’s completely understandable to seek a quick pick-me-up in the form of sugar—or caffeine, or both.

Programmed for Sleepiness
Your internal body clock produces circadian rhythms, including your sleep/wake cycle. This cycle rises and dips over a 24-hour period, with the strongest sleep drives occurring between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and 1:00-3:00 p.m.*

While there are many reasons why you might crave sugar in the afternoon (e.g., boredom, salt intake), this natural energy dip is certainly one of them.

How to Manage Your Slump
Here are five ways to manage your low energy and recharge without reaching for the candy bowl, cookie jar, cola can or coffee machine.

  1. Get enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you will experience bigger swings of sleepiness and wakefulness—and bigger sugar and carb cravings.
     
  2. Take a catnap. A siesta is the best way to honor your body’s natural rhythm, so take a 15- to 20-minute nap if possible. Research shows that doing so can reduce stress, improve alertness and productivity, decrease blood pressure, and more.
     
  3. Eat a protein-rich lunch. If I eat a carb-heavy lunch (e.g., bread, pasta), I might as well take a sleeping pill.

    I perform best when my midday meal is composed of lean protein, healthy fats and unrefined fiber (e.g., wild salmon with avocado and veggies).

    Like me, you may find this combo gives you steady blood sugar levels, sharper mental focus, a stable mood and longer lasting energy. Experiment to discover what ratio works best for you.
     
  4. Get off your rump. Sitting and staring at a screen for hours on end is a surefire way to exacerbate your afternoon slump.

    To perk up, head outside for a 15-minute walk. The movement, sunshine and fresh air will help restore your energy.
    If a walk outdoors isn’t feasible, cruise around your office building, stand while talking on the phone, or do some stretches, jumping jacks or push-ups.
     
  5. Drink up. Your afternoon slump will feel more intense if you’re dehydrated. Instead of turning to an energy drink, go for a rejuvenating glass of water. 

Despite all these tips, sometimes a bit of sugar or hit of caffeine will be exactly what you need.

What's most important is that you listen to and honor your body's wisdom. Ask yourself: In this moment, what does my body truly need to feel restored at the deepest level?

*Source: National Sleep Foundation

What to Eat When You're Feeling Scattered, Gloomy or Moody

My client Julie once arrived at her session feeling very unsettled and overwhelmed due to her recent apartment move. I sent her away with a seemingly unconventional prescription for sweet potatoes. She ate some that night and immediately felt more grounded.
 
More Than Fuel
Food is far more than just fuel. We tend to think of it in terms of nutrients, calories, good or bad. How often do you consider its energetic quality?
 
All food has unique energetic properties that affect your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. When, where and how it's grown, raised, produced or prepared determines its essential character and the energy it imparts.
 
By understanding food energetics, you can prepare balance-restoring meals based on the energy particular foods create in your body.
 
Let's take a look at vegetables.
 
Plant Prescriptions
The direction a vegetable grows can impart the same qualities in you when consuming it. Here are a few plant prescriptions for when you're feeling...
 
Scattered or Overstimulated
Root Vegetables: Because they grow in the ground, root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips and beets have a strong downward energy. Eating these hearty vegetables can help you feel more focused, anchored and grounded.
 
Gloomy or Tense
Dark Leafy Greens: Kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens and other dark leafy greens grow upward collecting energy from the sun. Eating these chlorophyll-rich foods infuses your blood with oxygen, ultimately boosting your mood and spirits.

Light and cleansing, they also supply your body with flexible energy and remove physical and emotional toxins literally helping you lighten up.
 
Moody or Erratic Energy
Squashes and Gourds: To maintain an even keel, eat veggies that grow at ground level like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and edible gourds. These can help steady your mood and energy level.
 
You Are What You Eat
A food's life force directly impacts your quality of life. By selecting foods based on their energetic qualities, you can better nourish not only your body but also your soul.

Three Ways I Eat Healthy on the Road

I recently spent time with my sister Kris exploring Joshua Tree National Park.

Hiking in the park’s surreal desert landscape among the twisted, spiky Joshua trees, giant granite boulders and abundant wildflowers was truly an eye-popping, soul-nourishing experience.

Wherever I travel, I always do my best to maintain many of my healthy eating practices. Doing so helps ensure I feel good physically and mentally (i.e., not tired, bloated, sluggish, irritable, distracted, etc.), so I can fully enjoy my trip.

Here are three of the ways I eat healthy on the road:

1. Buy Fresh, Local Goods
Before I travel anywhere, I always research local farmers’ markets and producers. I love to explore and experience foods unique to the region, and pick up fresh vegetables, fruits and other wholesome fare to fuel my adventures.

2. Get a Kitchen
Whenever possible, I get a place with a kitchen so I can easily store food and prep meals.

This enables me to balance simple, scratch-made meals with more indulgent fare from local eateries (like the delicious toasted coconut and dark chocolate muffins I discovered at a Joshua Tree cafe).

Before arriving at our Joshua Tree cabin, my sister and I loaded up on groceries for our meals and snacks.

We also hit the Saturday farmers’ market, where we bought bundles of spring asparagus and bunches of leafy greens, including a few varieties we had never tasted before.

We had fun cooking in our tiny kitchen and enjoying new flavors and leisurely meals together.

3. Fly with Food
Whether my flight is one hour or 20 hours, I always expect delays and always pack plenty of food so I don’t have to rely on airport or airplane fare.

A typical in-flight lunch for me is an almond-butter sandwich with a side of sautéed kale. It holds up well and keeps me full for hours.

My sister was grateful I encouraged her to pack both a lunch and dinner for her long flight home. As her first flight was delayed, she had no time between connections to grab dinner at the airport.

Thankfully, along with the nut-butter sandwich and greens she had prepared for lunch, she had also packed a hummus and veggie sandwich for dinner, plus an apple and nuts for snacks.

This prevented her blood sugar, energy and mood from nosediving. And ensured she didn't arrive home a weary, cranky traveler.