The Afternoon Slump
Make tomorrow’s to-do list today. Rumination activates some parts of the prefrontal brain regions that have been associated with depression, says Boulder, Colorado–based clinical psychologist Joan Borysenko, the author of Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive ($18, amazon.com). Fretting over what you have to do tomorrow will take the enjoyment out of your evening, so make the next day’s to-do list now. Then, when your mind drifts to what you didn’t accomplish, remind yourself that you have a game plan in place.
Have a snack. The afternoon doldrums may be why the English invented teatime, says Victor Sierpina, M.D., a professor of family and integrative medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. But pass on the scones and clotted cream. As with breakfast and lunch, something packed with protein will give you sustained energy.
A few quick ideas:
- Instant oatmeal with milk
- String cheese
- Soy chips
- Carrots or pretzels and hummus
- A container of cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit preserves
- Peanuts in the shell. (Extra nutrition points because they take longer to eat, so you probably won’t scarf down so many. Also, they lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.)
Commute with music. To help yourself switch gears, turn on upbeat tunes. Music promotes so-called respiratory entrainment—meaning we pace our breaths to the beat (and oxygenate the brain in the process).
Give them a high-octane hello. Even if you just want to crawl into a bubble bath, give an enthusiastic greeting and a big smile to your family when you reunite at the end of the day. “Acting ‘as if’ is a long-standing strategy for feeling better,” says Jeff Brown, a cognitive-behavioral psychologist at Harvard Medical School and a coauthor of The Winner’s Brain ($25, amazon.com). You’re sending uplifting cues to the reticular activating system of the brain, which can eventually help make you feel as energetic as you’re pretending to be.