In Stress

We’ve all experienced days that seem to drag on forever.  Whether we’re at the workplace, or working from home (listen up, stay at home parents!), there comes a point where our energy seems to just drain away.  We need a nap – just for 15 or 20 (or 180) minutes – or we want to reach for the caffeine.  This is what’s referred to in the energy drink commercials as “that 2:30 feeling”.  The point at which we hit a wall.

If this happens to you frequently, you are not alone.  The majority of my patients will tell me this is a common occurrence for them.  Most are hesitant to say anything about it – chalking it up to “getting older” or “stress” – and don’t actually say anything unless asked.

Here’s the thing.  It’s normal to feel sleepy mid-afternoon.  It occurs for several reasons.

First of all, body temperature drops slightly in the afternoon.  This is a trigger for our brains to release Melatonin.  You might recognize that as the stuff your friend is taking to help her sleep.  Melatonin is our body’s natural “sleeping pill”.  A touch of that in the afternoon, and suddenly you feel like napping.  This is the body’s natural rhythm just doing its thing.

Second, as a culture, Americans tend to eat a significant amount of carbohydrates in the morning and at lunch.  We supplement that with caffeine to keep us awake.  And if we’re dieting, we tend to eliminate the fats – even the good ones!  If your diet is primary made up of sugar (which is what carbohydrates are) and caffeine, you will crash later in the day.  It’s only a matter of time.

Third, there is a hormone called “Cortisol”, made by the adrenal glands, which is in part responsible for keeping us awake and helping us handle stressful situations.  Chronic stress (another term for “life” these days) increases the production of cortisol so we can handle things; so much so that eventually, the adrenals just stop producing as much.  Cortisol is one of the hormones which allows us to deal with stress and “keep going” thru the day.  It usually peaks in the morning and slowly declines through the day – just enough to keep us going until bedtime – with brief increases when we need to handle a particularly stressful situation.  If the body can’t produce cortisol adequately, we don’t get that normal slow decrease through the day, we are unable to respond to everyday stress appropriately, and rapidly lose our energy – often by mid-afternoon.  Hence, that 2:30 feeling.

So, what can you do?

  1. Make sure you have good quality protein at both breakfast and lunch, adding in some healthy fats like avocado or nuts, which will help keep your body and brain functioning longer than carbs.
  2. Take breaks when your body tells you to. If you find yourself staring at the computer screen reading the same words over and over again, time to get up and walk around.  A 10-15 minute break can work wonders for energy levels.
  3. Make sure your adrenal glands are functioning at their peak. Stress management and the right supplements can help.

If you find you’re losing steam by mid-afternoon more than occasionally, give us a call.  Let us help you get your adrenal glands, and your mojo, back up to speed!

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