Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor Dr Marina Christov on avoiding the 3pm slump

Our moods and energy levels fluctuate throughout the day, and the afternoon is often a low point for many. We asked Chinese Medicine expert Dr Marina Christov why this happens, and how to work with (instead of against) your body to alleviate that three PM dip. 

To the Traditional Chinese medicine doctor, this question relates to the body clock, or the Chinese Meridian Clock. During a 24-hour period, each meridian is more active at specific times of the day. Every two hours the Qi (or energy) is strongest within a particular organ.

This means that if you have an imbalance in a specific organ system, it is more likely to ‘show up’ or present with signs and symptoms during the hours that correlate with that meridian. For example, the time of day for the bladder/kidney system is between three and seven PM.

This corresponds to the water element according to the Chinese Five Elements theory (water, earth, fire, metal, wood). The water element influences the endocrine fluidity, adrenal system and hormones among other functions.

If we are ‘running’ on stress-fuelled hormones, we will easily deplete our vital energy reserves. As a consequence, a person with this particular imbalance in their system may find the hours between three and seven PM correspond to their lowest time of day. They might feel particularly tired, sleepy, droopy, lacking in motivation, irritable or anxious and sometimes have an urgency to urinate to ‘let go’ of the ‘waste’ of the day. This is also why we crave sugar during this time as our energetic ‘battery’ is showing as ‘low’.

Here are four healthier ways you can combat that three PM slump, without reaching for that sugary snack.

#1. Increase your fluid intake to ward off snacking

Brew a beautiful pot of (caffeine-free) herbal tea and drink three or four cups of tea, minimum. Alternatively, drink at least two to three glasses of water with lemon, or for those who need a snack during this time, salty foods are best. Try a salty nut mix, dried seaweed or Miso soup.

#2. Move your body to offset lethargy

This is also the best time to do stretches that activate the bladder/kidney meridians or schedule a 20-minute break from work to reset, meditate, breathe and recharge.

#3. Up your magnesium to combat cravings

Applying a high-quality topical magnesium spray on the acupuncture points around the ankles is a quick way to stimulate and recharge energy flow to the points of the body that need it the most.

#4. Schedule a treatment to recharge

The afternoon is also an ideal time to schedule an acupuncture treatment, as the body will ‘soak up the loving treatment’ and recharge you from adrenal fatigue more quickly! Taking a customised Chinese herbal energy tonic can also amplify the system in between treatments.