Between 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!
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.
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.