You’ve been moving nonstop all morning–taking care of your patients, going to meetings, charting. You name it. And you’ve hardly had a moment to catch your breath. Suddenly, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and your energy takes a giant nosedive. Yawning, you wonder how you’ll make it through the rest of the day. Does this common, afternoon slump sound familiar? The good news is there are a few things you can do to beat afternoon fatigue and keep you on your toes for the rest of your shift.

1. Stay hydrated.

Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. The Mayo Clinic reports even mild dehydration can zap you of your energy and make you feel sluggish. With your attention on everyone else, it’s easy to overlook your needs. But how much water do you need to drink while you’re working? The Institute of Medicine suggests the adequate intake for men is approximately 13 cups of beverages per day. For women, the daily recommendation is roughly 9 cups of total beverages. So, if you’re feeling run down, try a refreshing glass of water.

2. Have a snack.

When your afternoon energy wanes, avoid grabbing chips or Cheez-Its from the vending machine and replace them with simple snacks consisting of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to refuel your body. A few, healthy alternatives include half a banana with peanut butter, trail mix with nuts, raw veggies with hummus, and a hard-boiled egg with an apple. The complex carbohydrates help sustain your energy levels, while the protein and fat control your blood sugar and keep you more awake.

3. Drink a glass of green tea.

Green tea tends to have less caffeine than a cup of coffee, and it provides you with a subtle energy boost for an afternoon pick-up. Bonus: Because green tea contains the relaxing amino acid theanine, you’re more likely to experience a calm alertness rather than feeling jittery.

4. Ditch the sugar.

Skip the sugary treats (like cookies, donuts, and candy bars) that might be lurking in the break room. Foods high in sugar will give you a short-lived spike in energy followed by a serious crash as your blood sugar levels sink. Instead, if you must satisfy your sweet tooth, reach for a piece of dark chocolate–the darker, the better. Dark chocolate stimulates the brain’s release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, so you feel happier, more focused, and avoid the workday drowsiness.

5. Stand up and stretch.

Feeling lethargic or tense? Stand up and stretch in a way that feels good to your body. Try reaching your arms up toward the ceiling, a gentle spine twist, or touching your toes. Whichever movement you choose, stretching will get your blood flowing, ease muscle tension, and increase energy. Best of all, it can be done in a minute or two when time is a precious commodity in your day.

Jennifer Lelwica Buttaccio

Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is a Chicago-based, freelance lifestyle writer, licensed occupational therapist, and certified Pilates instructor. Her expertise is in health, wellness, fitness, and chronic illness management.

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