Overcoming the Mid-Afternoon Slump

My job is exhausting, both physically and emotionally.  It requires high energy, the continuous use of my voice, and lots of movement, as do most jobs that involve working with children.  My typical day as a music therapist is long and busy without much downtime factored in, so can you blame me for being a little sleepy in the afternoons?

You can probably empathize.  And you probably know just as well as I that it only takes one yawn (usually as a result of seeing someone else do it) to set off a never-ending chain.  It happened to me just yesterday, in fact.  I was in the middle of a classroom music therapy session, and a staff member sitting right in front of me yawned.  I tried to stop myself, but the yawn came anyway…rudely interrupting the weather song I was singing.

But here’s the thing: my students don’t care that I’m tired.  They expect the same amount of energy out of me that I gave another class earlier in the day, and I don’t blame them.  So I have a few little tricks up my sleeve for beating that mid-afternoon slump we all dread so much.

  1. Eat an earlier lunch. I eat my lunch between 10:30-11 am, which not only serves as a late morning pick-me-up, but also wards off any after-lunch sleepiness I might otherwise experience later in the day.  Since my school day ends at 3 pm and my long afternoon/evening of lessons and private music therapy begins at 3:30, I just plan to have a small snack in between.
  2. Pump yourself up. Before every classroom session, I take some big, deep breaths and picture myself leading the session with tons of energy.  If I start to feel groggy during the session, I re-focus on that mental image.  It almost always helps get me back on track.
  3. Look at the students, not the staff. I love my co-workers, but many of them just aren’t good at hiding their exhaustion.  Their yawns are often what get me in trouble!  So instead, I focus all of my attention on the students (most of whom are always full of energy).
  4. Plan small rewards throughout the afternoon. Before I go off to each afternoon session, I choose one enjoyable thing I’ll do for myself afterward.  This could include listening to my favorite music, checking out Facebook and Twitter, or calling my husband.  Regardless, it’s something I can look forward to — and keeps me feeling happy and awake.
  5. Don’t try to be at 100% all the time. There is most definitely a place for more mellow, relaxing songs and activities in a music therapy session or class.  Distribute them throughout the day and reserve that extra energy for when you start running low later on.  (I’m still getting over my fear of “boring” my students, even after four years as a professional; it’s okay if you are, too.)

How do you make it through long days without setting off a yawn epidemic?  Maybe it’s an extra cup of coffee or a walk around the parking lot…whatever the case may be, I want to know!  Mostly so that I can try out your techniques for myself :)

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