Regular recovery is essential for being resilient

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Bouncing back from the many daily challenges we face each doesn’t just happen. Moving through change with grace is not something that lucky people are fortunate enough to experience. No, responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances is something that we have to choose.

Responding versus reacting under stressful circumstances

is something that we have to choose.

To be resilient, it’s important to incorporate habits of wellbeing into our lives. Scientific evidence continues to show how our brains have ‘neuroplasticity’ and can be shaped, for example, by learning a new skill. We can design our lives so that the intentions we set, the choices we make, and the actions we take support us in being our best with regularity.

I’ve been reading Sink, Float or Swim: Sustainable High Performance Doesn’t Happen by Chance, It Happens by Choice and learning about habits related to mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery, and the interplay among them. It’s one thing to know that a positive attitude, moving throughout the day, eating healthy foods, and sleeping ~8 hours a night, for example, are good for you, it’s another to apply that knowledge on a consistent basis.

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Moving like the energizer bunny 24/7/365 leads to burnout. At some point we become just plain exhausted.  We become physically tired, emotionally drained, and less able to cope. Our bodies were not made to sprint marathons! They were meant to expend energy and then to rest – more like a series of sprints with rest and recovery between each one. The optimal performance strategy is to vary the magnitude of our energy in cycles of peak performance followed by rest.

Consider these questions to enhance your awareness, the first step in creating personal change:

  • How do I feel throughout the day?
  • When is my energy is low? high?
  • How do I respond when I am tired? rested?
  • What can I do to improve my sleep?
  • What do I (can I) do to maintain energy and focus throughout the day?

Ever notice that you are tired, but you push on, believing that if you just do this one more thing, you’ll be in a better place? If you’re like me, that doesn’t usually work out so well and often leads to one more thing and then errors and inefficiencies.  Sometimes, of course, we are in a demanding situation that we cannot just step away from. Engaging in high performance strategies can support our moving through high pressure moments as effectively as possible.

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Try these strategies to move through high pressure moments:

  • Take a few intentional breaths – either a long inhale to energize or a long exhale to relax, to refocus.
  • Drink some water – our brains are 80% water and when they are not optimally hydrated, our cognitive function can be reduced leading to reduced cognitive function and ‘fuzzy’ thinking.
  • Eat something nutritious – a fun way is to see how many colors you can include.
  • Do a few stretches  which can enhanced your creativity and boost your energy and mood (go here for some suggestions for moves you can do at your desk).

The number #1 thing we can do to strengthen our ability to move through a challenging day is to get enough sleep, which for most people is ~7-8 hours per night. Research shows there’s a link between sleep and effective leadership, yet 4 out of 10 (43%) leaders report not getting enough sleep at least four nights a week.

Consider how much your job requires you to perform the following activities, which are especially impacted by lack of sleep.

  • Focus and avoid distractions, while, at the same time, see the big picture
  • Recognize patterns, generate creative ideas and effectively solve problems
  • See different perspectives by encoding, consolidating, and retrieving new information
  • Weigh the significance of different inputs accurately, avoid tunnel vision, and minimize cognitive bias
  • Help, understand and trust others, interpret their emotions, and stay positive while engaging with them

Didn’t get enough sleep and struggling? Consider a short power nap. A consistent recommendation is to sleep no more than 20 minutes. Just sitting at your desk and resting with your eyes closed in the dark for 5 minutes can be a pretty powerful recharge, too.

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* The photographs were taking in my backyard. The closing image was created from a photo I took at Dilek National Park in Guzelcamli, Turkey.

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6 thoughts on “Regular recovery is essential for being resilient

  1. I used to work crazy hours, sometimes all night without sleeping at all. It wasn’t healthy and disrupts sleep and eating and while you can do this for a short while it’s not sustainable. It’s also not fun at all after a certain point. It’s hard to slow down when you work so intensely, however, when I look back I see a lot of good things have happened once I set my priorities. Thanks for writing this blog, Vicki! It’s important to prioritize wellness at work and not over-do it.

    • Sunita, thanks for sharing how prioritizing your wellbeing has made difference for you. We have so many choices throughout the day to take care of our minds and bodies so we can be our best!

  2. Pingback: Traveling for Work? Here’s How to Make the Most of your Cross-Cultural Career Experiences – IBM Jobs Blog

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