11 Ways to Instantly Crush the Afternoon Slump

Put down the energy drink and perk up with these natural energy-boosting tricks.

September 12, 2016
tired at work

That project has been staring back at you for an hour, the clock refuses to budge, and you're moving at the speed of frozen molasses. You've hit the midday slump.

More: 9 Foods That Fight Fatigue

Before you reach for another cup of coffee (which could ruin your sleep tonight), try one of these scientifically backed ways to reclaim your energy and finish the day with gusto.

peppermint oil
1. Sniff rosemary or peppermint

Whether you pick up a fresh sprig or enjoy a waft of pure essential oil, these fragrant plants can give your brain a wake-up call, says Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, ROHP, author of 60 Seconds to Slim and Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds. "Both rosemary and peppermint are scientifically proven to give an almost instantaneous boost of energy and mental focus," she says. "The connection to energy and mental energy is so strong that some companies even pump these natural scents through ventilation systems to perk up their employees." 

More: 21 Ways to Feed Your Brain

dark chocolate
2. Eat some chocolate

High-cacao chocolate can help sharpen your attention, according to research from Northern Arizona University, and a different study published in the journal Appetite shows that your chocolate snack could be improving your memory and general brain health. But don't pick out a bar that'll just set you up for a sugar crash. The researchers found that after eating 60 percent cacao, participants had brain scans showing they were more alert and attentive. "A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can't pay attention, so we could have a higher-cacao-content chocolate bar and it would increase attention," said Larry Stevens, PhD, researcher and professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University. 

More: 7 Real Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Be advised, though—participants also had increased blood pressure. The good news is a cup of green tea may counteract this. When the researchers added a green tea amino acid, L-theanine, to chocolate, participants still had increased focus, without the blood pressure spikes. "It's remarkable. The potential here is for a heart-healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure, and helps you pay attention," Stevens said.

(Full disclosure: The study was sponsored by Hershey.)

Just make sure you're not making one of these unfortunate chocolate mistakes that could inhibit any of the health benefits.

3. Snack on nuts

Maybe consider picking up a dark chocolate bar that contains almonds or peanuts—or even skipping the chocolate altogether and going straight for the nuts.

"Snacking on nuts (or seeds) prevents blood sugar fluctuations that would otherwise cause energy dips," says Schoffro Cook. You're not just getting a healthy dose of blood sugar–stabilizing protein, you may also get a boost from the omega-3 fats found in walnuts or pumpkin seeds. She explains that the brain is about 60 percent fat, so it needs fat to keep it strong.

More: Why Am I So Tired? How Blame Is Exhausting You

businesswoman walking
4. Go for a walk

"Not only does walking get your blood circulating throughout your body, it boosts oxygen-rich blood to your brain which gives your brain an instant boost," says Schoffro Cook. "It improves both energy and mental capacity at the same time—not to mention walking has been shown to stave off dementia, as well." 

More: 10 Tips for a Better Walking Workout

nature office
5. Look at nature for 40 seconds

No time for a full nature walk? No sweat. Sparing even 40 seconds to look at some greenery can help perk you back up, according to Australian researchers. Participants were asked to look out of one of two city windows—one overlooking a plant-covered roof and the other overlooking a concrete roof. Those who had the nature view made fewer omission errors and had more consistent responses during attention tasks than the concrete-view group. 

More: 4 Exercises for Sharpening Your Awareness of Nature

listening to music at work
6. Listen to nature

If you really can't tear yourself away from your desk, listen to a nature sound track while you work. Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that workers who listened to sounds of nature performed better and were happier with their work environment than workers who listened to white noise or general office chatter. 

More: 7 Ways to Harmonize With Nature

"Nature sounds can have a restorative effect on our cognitive abilities," said lead author Jonas Braasch, PhD, DEng, a musicologist at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, to The Huffington Post. "Participants favored the mountain stream signal 6-to-1 over the traditional white noise signal."

meditation office
7. Meditate

"Even a few minutes of meditation improves electrical activity in the brain to ensure we think clearer, have more mental energy, and have greater concentration and focus," says Schoffro Cook. "You don't need a guru or meditation coach to benefit from a few minutes or more of being still with yourself and your thoughts. Simply let any thoughts you have pass."

cooking dinner
8. Take the road less traveled

Sure, a routine helps you stay organized, but don't get stuck in a rut. "We are creatures of habit," notes Schoffro Cook. "We tend to eat the same breakfast, drink the same latte, take the same route to work, among other things. Simply doing something out of the ordinary like taking a different route home or talking with new people or making a different food for dinner causes your brain to start building new connections or strengthening existing ones, so you quickly experience a boost in concentration."

More: 11 Habits of the Happiest People

woman happy at work
9. Praise yourself

If your midday slump hits right before a big presentation, boost your performance with some self-affirmations. Listing or thinking about the things you are good at can give you a mental edge, according to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

More: The Self-Affirmation Exercises You Should Do Every Day

"Performance in these situations is closely related to how we are expected to behave," explains Sonia Kang, PhD, lead researcher and assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the University of Toronto. "Anytime you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations. Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat."

Chewing gum
10. Chew gum

Chewing gum can not only help you recover post-surgery, but it can improve intellectual tasks and increase alertness, according to research published in Nutritional Neuroscience. While it didn't impact memory recall, chewing gum led to improved intelligence test performance and about a 10 percent improvement in alertness. 

office shoes
11. Tap out a beat

Even if you're not a musical person, musical tasks can help boost your energy, according to research from Sam Houston State University. Moderately difficult musical tasks, including singing, rhythm, and keyboard playing, helped non-musicians increase their energy and decrease tiredness.

See Next