14 Ways to Eliminate Afternoon Crashes For ADHDers

14 Ways to Eliminate ADHD Afternoon CrashesBetween 2 pm and 4 pm, Adults with ADHD often experience afternoon crashes. Everyone experience afternoon slumps to some degree; where you feel mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. However, there are factors in the ADHDers’ life; which means you don’t just experience a little slump, yours are full blown crashes.

Aside from wanting to fall asleep on the spot, they also affect your attention, focus, productivity, and your ability to stay calm and rational.

Here are 14 things you can do to minimize or eliminate your afternoon crashes. The more suggestions you implement, the more results you will see!

Mindset

1) Don’t Feel Guilty!

ADHDers feel a lot of guilt and shame for a lot of things in their life including afternoon crashes. They feel bad they can’t concentrate on the meeting or that they are falling asleep in class and blame themselves. It is not your fault! It’s the way our bodies are wired. Circadian rhythms (which control our sleep) send sleep signals at night time and in the afternoon. Instead of blaming yourself, observe what is happening in a non- judgemental way and then use the suggestions below to help.

Preventative

2) Set Yourself Up For Success

Many ADHDers don’t eat breakfast; either because they don’t feel hungry in the mornings or because they are in a rush to get out of the door. However, starting the day with an ADHD-friendly breakfast is incredibly helpful to avoid the afternoon crash.

If you aren’t hungry because you take ADHD meds, eat first then take your meds. If you just can’t face food in the morning, make a protein smoothie because it’s easier to consume than solids.

3) Have an ADHD-Friendly Lunch

Lunch is often a meal eaten on the run, or skipped when you have ADHD. Or because you missed breakfast, you are ravenous and eat a big heavy lunch. What you eat for lunch has a direct effect on your energy in the afternoon. Take time to eat a gluten-free lunch with some good-quality protein (chicken or fish) and fiber in the form of vegetables. Your afternoons will be transformed.

4) Your Zzzzzs

75% of ADHDers have problems with falling and staying asleep. If you are sleep deprived or had a night of poor sleep, then an afternoon crash is more likely to happen. However, they can still be minimized with the other suggestions on this list.

5) Be a Smart Caffeine Drinker

Caffeine isn’t bad; and if you become a smart caffeine drinker, you can still drink it and not get afternoon crashes.

Drink your first coffee of the day after you have eaten breakfast.
If drinking coffee gives you energy highs and lows, then switch to green tea.
Both of these tips will give you more sustained energy. Don’t drink caffeine after 2pm because it will infer with your sleep (which in turn affects crashes).

6) Get Moving

After you exercise, your whole body and mind is energized for 3 hours. To capitalize on this, move your workout to lunch time and see if you notice a difference in your energy level in the afternoons.

7) Drink up

Staying hydrated is by far the simplest ways to fight fatigue, yet remembering to drink water throughout the day isn’t as simple. Don’t skip this step!

8) Goodbye Stress

Stress is exhausting! If your morning is full of tension, mini crisis (forgetting things, mad dashes for deadlines), worry and anxiety, then by the afternoon, you will be emotionally exhausted and ready to crash. Combating stress is a long term project.

Stress comes from 2 sources: things you can control and things you can’t.
Focus on the life stressors that are in your control. Managing your ADHD and using strategies to reduce your worry and anxiety (which ADHDers are natural pros at) is a great place to start.

9) Stop Multi-Tasking

ADHDers love to multi-task. It feels exciting and exhilarating. However, it’s also very tiring. Every time we shift focus, we burn glucose, which is the food our neurons use. After a couple of hours of speedy shifting, we feel drained and ready for a nap. Also, our glucose store is depleted; cortisol (the stress hormone) has also been released, causing us to feel edgy and stressed.
Stop multi-tasking and start single tasking.

During a Crash

10) Have a Protein Afternoon Snack

If you notice yourself heading towards a crash, have a protein snack. Perhaps some nut butter with an apple. It is a really helpful pick-me-up. You might be craving sugar in the form of a candy bar, but that will only delay the crash. Protein will divert it.

11) Meds Crashes

Do you take ADHD meds? A powerful reason why you experience afternoon crashes is because your meds have worn off. If this is the case, here are some tips for you.

A) Drink a cup of tea (with caffeine in) its gentler than coffee and helps the severity of the crash.

B) Consider speaking to your doctor to get prescribed for another tablet to see you through to the end of the work day.

C) If you are taking your medication at the same time every day, your crashes will occur at about the same time every afternoon, which allows you to create a plan for that time. Don’t schedule meetings with other people then. Have some food at hand because you will might be starving. Be gentle with yourself. Plan to have at least 30 minutes downtime until you can start functioning at your best again. A little walk outside, or meditation is also helpful.

12) Switch Tasks

Sometimes your brain needs a break. Rather than forcing yourself to stay doing a task that is putting you to sleep, switch over to another one. Pick one that you are motivated to do, that is going to engage your brain but not overtax it. It’s best if it’s away from a screen. Bonus points if it involves physical movement.

13) Turn Up the Music

Music can energize you and revitalize you. Put some of your favourite tunes on. Be sure that the music is upbeat and happy. Sober music or one with depressing lyrics will bring you down and make you tired.

14) Go for a Walk

Going for a quick walk will shake off the tiredness. Movement increases your blood circulation, which increases blood flow to your brain. Walking in the fresh air is a bonus.

Comments

  1. Cara Craig says:

    Thank you, Jacqui! Energy management is a big deal!
    * Doing something creative helos me feel happy and energized! Even if it’s just what I wear/make up that day.
    * Connecting with a loved one helps me feel energized!
    * Praying for others energizes me, too!
    * 3k mg Garcinia cambogia, 60%HCA om label, gives me more REM sleep and I feel much, much better in general.
    * I’m drinking a lot more water lately and do feel more energized and happier.
    * I take two small Sudsfed tabs at 7 am and noon precisely to help get me through my work day.
    * I have green tea with unsweetened almond milk in the mornings, and some chai tea in the afternoons.
    * Walking helps, too!
    * And the joy of getting something done can be energizing, too.
    Thx for your great articles/advice!!
    Cara

  2. Colleen says:

    I have always experienced Afternoon Crashes! Recently I have retired and have been trying to take care of myself. I take the required Vitamins my Dr. suggests and Vit B 100 that really seem to help with Afternoon Crashes! I also started Omega caps 😊. I get in trouble with coffee and plan to change to Tea 😉

  3. Samantha says:

    Hi Jacqueline!

    Thanks so much for this article (and so many others)! Your site has become my go-to to learn new things. I was diagnosed just before my 33rd birthday. Before the diagnosis, I just thought I was the worse mom and adult ever. While I am still working on learning and changing, it helps to know I’m not alone. Thank you so much for this!

  4. I’m newly diagnosed and this article was a big aha! moment. It was nearly impossible to make it through a regular workday, especially when that 3pm crash comes into play. I’m struggling with my symptoms at night…home life is way way more stressful for me right now and I am already on long acting Ritalin plus two afternoon doses as needed. I feel like I burn through my extended release meds in 4-6 hours when they’re supposed to last 8 hours. Medication is such a double edged sword! Anyone else have a really hard time during “second shift”? Dinner, kids screaming, cleaning, everything. Ugh… I’m clearly having a bad ADHD day

    • Hi Jacqueline,
      I just want to say that this post – like so many of your other posts – has made things clearer for me, and been comforting that I’m not just quirky and bad at managing time. Your ability to break it down and zone in on the cause and effects of our ways of operating is a GIANT warm hug on a cold day! Thank you for doing this, and I hope to meet you in person sometime.

    • Samantha says:

      Lindsay, I totally get the second shift! My husband felt like it was the stimulants but I knew it was happening before. To “prove” it was just the witching hour with the kids, I didn’t take my meds for week. It happened everyday. And talking to other moms without ADHD, it is a really hard time of day for them as well.

      Now reading this from Jacqueline, it makes sense why ours seems worse. I’m a bit relieved that it isn’t just me. 🙂

  5. Sandra says:

    I have afternoon crashes, so my doctor prescribed an additional 40mg of Adderall (non XR) to help me get through afternoon.

    • Courtney says:

      Hi Sandra! I saw your comment saying your Dr. had prescribed an extra 40mg Adderall IR. I was wondering what medication/dose(s) you take prior to that (when you get up)?

  6. I work in an Operating Room and my afternoon crash is the WORST! I can’t avoid multi-tasking, and my surgeons decide if they will allow music. If I’m unlucky, they want elevator-music that makes me want to pull out my kindergarten nap-pad to lay down right then and there!

    I agree that a well-time caffeine boost is crucial, and I will also snack on some peanut butter while I have a second during a quick break. At least my job keeps me on my feet, so walking isn’t a problem!

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