It hits most of us around 3 p.m. every day. Our eyes droop, our mind drifts and tasks that were easily doable in the morning now seem impossible. It might be tempting to reach for sugar or caffeine, but these may only increase your alertness temporarily. Looking for a better solution? Read on for practical tips to help energize your life and ditch the fatigue for good.
Shake up your day.
Take another route to work, sit in a different chair at dinner or put a new font on your computer. "When it's same-old, same-old every day, you start taking things for granted. It's called habituation," says Pierce J. Howard, Ph.D., author of "The Owner's Manual for the Brain." Change causes you to pay attention more, which can make you more alert.
Step into the light.
Get a few minutes of sun outdoors or near a window -- or invest in a full-spectrum lighting system. Research suggests that as little as 30 minutes a day of natural bright light can help you through those late-afternoon slumps.
You don't have to guzzle eight glasses of water a day, but you don't want to wait until you're parched, either. Water makes up 79% of our bodies. It takes only a 5% drop in your body's water content for your concentration to decrease and for that drowsiness to set in. Replace the lost fluid, and you're good to go.
Time your tasks.
Are you most creative in the morning? Do you bounce out of bed ready to go? Do more difficult chores then. If you squander that energy fielding emails and reading, you'll have to work twice as hard on the tougher stuff in the afternoon -- when fewer of your brain cells are firing. Be energy-efficient by matching tasks to your natural highs and lows.
Take a tech break.
Turn off your phone and step away from the computer -- just for a few minutes. Overdoing it with tech gadgets can be like bingeing on chocolate. "Too much makes you feel sluggish and scattered, and drains your energy," says Jon Gordon, author of "The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy."
Eat a light lunch.
Forget the heavy, greasy stuff and opt for veggies, complex carbs (whole grains) and low-fat proteins. According to a study reported in the British Food Journal, a big lunch (1,000 calories) just about guarantees an afternoon energy dip. This is especially true if the meal is high in simple carbohydrates and fat. When you indulge in a huge meal, says Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., author of "Fight Fatigue," your heart has to work 25% harder to fuel digestion in the stomach and intestines, depriving your brain and other organs of what they need to keep going. Do yourself a favor and fuel your body with smart portions of healthy foods. You'll feel much more high-energy afterward.
Everything you've heard about the energizing effects of exercise is true. At work, walk over to talk to a colleague instead of emailing or calling. At home, dash around the house for five minutes putting stray stuff back where it belongs. When you're feeling slow and low, make movement an absolute priority. Do it even if -- especially if -- you really don't feel like it. Your mind and body will thank you.
(Family Circle offers candid advice and fresh ideas for everything, from what to make for dinner to what keeps parents up at night. Online at www.familycircle.com.)