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Five ways to feel more alert at work and beat the afternoon slump

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK


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We’ve all been there at some point: You’re feeling productive in the morning and getting things done, but as the afternoon rolls around, you begin to slow down. Your drive to finish work begins to dwindle, you start to yawn and your attention drifts. 

It can be hard to avoid the afternoon slump, the mid-point between lunchtime and hometime when many of us feel tired and sluggish. We tend to reach for a coffee, which can sometimes do the trick and perk us up to power through the rest of the day. 

But if you want to avoid caffeine, is there anything else you can do to wake up? 

Get fresh air and exercise 

Even if you are chained to your desk without a minute to spare, getting up and stretching is a good way to get your body moving and wake up. A short walk around the office can help too, but ideally it’s best to get fresh air to clear your head. 

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Multiple studies have shown there is a relationship between stale office air and alertness. 

According to Joseph G. Allen, assistant professor and director of the Healthy Buildings programme at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the air quality in offices also affects employee productivity. 

Without proper ventilation, an office can feel stuffy and cause fatigue, headaches and dizziness, so getting out for short walk outside can help. 

Have a healthy snack 

It’s tempting to reach for the chocolate when you hit a wall in the afternoon, but fighting the urge to fill up on cake and making healthier choices - like eating fruit - can help you avoid that lethargy.  

A well-balanced lunch will also help to keep your energy levels up until home time. Get some protein, carbohydrates and vegetables in there, but keep high-fat foods to a minimum. 

Drink water 

It may seem like a no-brainer, but staying hydrated is key to feeling alert and focused. Research by the Georgia Institute of Technology found that getting parched can fuzz attentiveness and make it harder to solve problems. 

Dehydration can easily put a dent in those and other cognitive functions, a new metadata analysis of multiple studies revealed. 

According to the NHS Eatwell Guide, we should drink 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day.  

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Try a brain teaser or talk to colleagues 

It’s not advisable to distract you co-workers if they’re trying to work, but having a quick chat with others can help take our minds off work for a few minutes and come back to it refreshed.  

If you can, take a few minutes to do a brain teaser or listen to music. Doing something different can help invigorate you if you’re struggling to focus. Sometimes, you need a change of pace - staring blankly at your screen is unlikely to inspire you to push through the rest of the day.

Workout at lunch 

Taking a proper lunch break is the best way to make sure you’re refreshed and alert in the afternoon. According to a survey of 1,000 workers by the recruiter Reed, 68% of people don’t take the full amount of time they are allocated at lunch – and two in three admitted not eating lunch at all. 

Although it might not seem appealing, hitting the gym is a great way to completely disconnect from work and get you out of the office. Research has shown that exercising on your break can improve concentration and productivity at work. The study, by Bristol University, examined the results of 200 people with desk jobs who used worksite-provided facilities, such as a gym or exercise classes. 

Even a small amount of exercise can increase your endorphins, boosting your mood and energy levels instantly.