The science on recovery is simple:
Scientific research has consistently shown that we perform better at work, experience less fatigue and maintain stronger wellbeing when we balance stressful effort with active recovery (when we purposefully recharge our mental and physical batteries). Oscillating between periods of challenge and periods of recovery is ideal, with planned and regular recovery as optimal.
Somehow, putting this knowledge into action is much harder. So many people report that they struggle to take decent chunks of recovery in their day and week, and may also find it tough to take even short breaks. Why is this?
Barriers to recovery are often mental ones – the messages we give ourselves. You may find yourself thinking “I just don’t have the time”, or “No-one else is taking a break so I had better not”, or “I’ll have some recovery later/tomorrow/next week” but then later never comes….
Ironically, the less recovery we take and the more fatigued we become the more muddled our thinking becomes and we are less efficient with tasks anyway.
What are some potential solutions?
- Generate alternatives to your mental messages and practice/write them down ahead of time so you can lean on them when you need them – “If I feel like I don’t have time it’s even more important that I take some”, or “Some recovery now is better than none, I can always take more later”.
- Buddy up and ask for help – talk to colleagues, friends, family about the barriers and brainstorm solutions together. In particular problem solve howyou can action recovery more often.
- Check in with what’s most important to you. What is most precious in your life? Who are the people who are most important to you? How would taking better care of yourself and taking recovery times help you to have energy for and to enjoy these relationships more, or progress you towards achieving your most important life goals?
- Schedule breaks and recovery as non-negotiables in your calendar. Make them code red and communicate to everyone why these are important to you – “this is my weekly yoga class where I recharge my emotional batteries and reboot my thinking brain, I’ll be able to be much more helpful to you after the class”.
For some recovery ideas try these powerful wellbeing boosters:
- Sleep well – try relaxation exercises or a meditation app, herbal teas and light reading to wind down ready for a restorative sleep, and stay off technology for a couple of hours before bed.
- Eat well – choose the most nutritious foods you can and stay away from the processed, energy-sapping choices.
- Stay active and move more in your day.Plan to meet friends for a walk, swim, yoga or dance class. Ask colleagues to join you for fresh-air breaks, walking meetings or stair challenges.
- Learn new skills and take on mental challenges that extend you – both to help to grow your brain and keep it elastic as well as buffering you from stress.
- Practice mindful meditation – there’s overwhelming scientific evidence that regular practice will improve your mental clarity as well as reduce mental fatigue. If you are not sure how to start take a class or do some online research for ideas.
- Connect with people who are important to you – share experiences, talk together, offer support to others and ask for help yourself when you need it.
- Increase your experiences of positive emotion – think of (or do) something that helps you feel grateful, content, hopeful or satisfied. These experiences help to both energise and buffer us when life, work (or both) are draining.