What does recovery mean to you?

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I was recently listening to the Go2Thrive podcast (episode 1), and as they were talking about the work-life balance, one of the guests brought up the interesting topic of “rest and recovery”.

This sparked something in me. Having previously written that the “work-life balance” can seem pretty binary, and that balance will look different for everyone, it occurred to me that rest and recovery is quite the same.

Why do we need rest and recovery?

Simply put, it’s a very important part of our health, mental wellbeing and work-life balance. Taking the time to recharge or change scenery for a while thereby clearing our minds, is of utmost importance. Not only if you want to do your job well, but also if you want to enjoy life and feel more fulfilled.

Let’s start with sleep

I can already hear all the people saying they “don’t need to sleep”, but let me stop you right there. How many of you can sleep 6h or less and get by without a single drop of caffeine or any other form of energy booster? All whilst not feeling tired during the day? I doubt there are many…

Research has shown that the cognitive performance of people who regularly don’t get enough sleep, decreases over time. And this can happen after a few bad nights’ sleep in a row. Just imagine what it’s like when you are chronically sleep deprived! I had a colleague who was a workaholic and would regularly work until 2,3,4am… He would then come into work the next day and keep going, looking exhausted. I always wondered how much more brilliant he would be if only he took time to sleep…

If you are still dubious about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, especially when it comes to your performance at work, then I highly encourage you to listen to this Joe Rogan podcast.

The fact is, if we want to perform at the best of our abilities, succeed in our jobs and perfect our careers, we need to be well rested. Beyond being able to deliver on tasks, sleep also affects our self-confidence and our ability to deal with our emotions, both of which are equally important in the workplace.

Imagine you’re having a bad day and a lot of small things are going wrong: you will be much better equipped to deal with them if you are feeling rested, than if you’ve not slept enough and are on edge.

But it’s not just about sleep…

Rest and recovery is about taking time to recharge your batteries, and I mean mentally as well as literally. After all, a lot of the stress we encounter in the workplace affects us mentally, leaving us exhausted, overwhelmed and at worst, burnt-out. Not to mention that the mental stress affects the quality of our sleep

I remember one of my managers once telling me “if you ever need a personal day, just take it”. At the time since I was working in agency, that felt like a blessing. I never did take that day off (probably should have), but just knowing I had the permission to do so if I was really struggling, was immensely helpful.

Ultimately I feel that resting & recharging is any way you can take your focus off work and free your brain up. Give it the space to think about other things, to wander, to dream… Give it (and yourself) a break from work so you can come back with renewed energy and ideas.

Here are a few different ways you could do that:

  • Never check email after hours (evenings and weekends)
  • Go to a sports or other activity (running, painting, dancing, pottery…) for an hour or two that keeps your brain focused on something else
  • Go on holiday and don’t check your emails, Slack, LinkedIn… anything that reminds you of work
  • Spend the weekend focusing on family and friends
  • Go for a walk (short or long)
  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Cook…

It doesn’t always have to be a complicated or even a long activity. As mentioned at the start of the article this will look different for everyone. Some people may prefer to take short breaks, while others may prefer uninterrupted periods of time off to give themselves a clean break.

Similarly, you may have a higher tolerance level to seeing work related messages but then moving on to something else. This means you’d be able to read a work email in the evening but not start acting upon it immediately, whereas for others it may cause them a restless night.

The key is to know yourself and your limits well enough, to fit in the right amount of rest and recovery for you.

Taking time to recover isn’t a sign of weakness

As one of the guests mentioned on the podcast, you can’t keep going while thinking that 1 or 2 days recovery is enough. Don’t spend a week sleeping 4h a night and then 12h nights on weekends, it won’t make up for it, and I can speak from experience. I was sleep deprived for about 18 months, and no amount of sleep on weekends could make up for how I felt the rest of the time…

There is no weakness in taking time to rest. Nowadays society has us believe that busy is a badge of honour. The busier you are and the harder you work, the more impressive it is. But the truth is, that’s also how most people end up burning out, sometimes more than once. And the consequences are terrible.

Building in regular time for rest & recovery is also a way to protect yourself from burn-out in the long-term. And if you really have reached breaking point, you need to know that it’s ok for you to take a break. Now more than ever, you need one. So give yourself the space to do so.

What about you, how do you rest and recover?

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