The importance of recovery

Some time ago I wrote an article for Thrive Global about resilience as our ability to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. However, resilience also depends on our ability to thrive amidst tough challenges.

We won’t be able to build any resilience if we don’t recharge, recover, renew the energy we spend on our daily activities. Technology should make our lives easier but instead, in many cases, technology creates increased demands on us while with age, our capacity decreases.

Capacity is what we all are given; however, many of us take it for granted and typically try to increase it using more time. Harvard Business Review published an article titled ‘Manage your energy, not your time’ which clearly shows that the core problem with working longer hours is that time is a finite resource. Energy is not. Defined in physics as the capacity to work, energy comes from four main sources in human beings: the body, emotions, mind, and spirit. In each, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals or behaviours that are scheduled, practised and eventually become automatic.

If we don’t work on renewing our energy, we won’t be able to manage our lives effectively and at some point of time, the whole house of cards we have been steadily building will collapse including ourselves.

So, what kind of energy do we have to consider? First, physical energy which we need to function properly and which we get from:

Nutrition: this is nothing new, and there has been a lot written on proper nutrition and eating light and often.

Exercise: Dr James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative and inventor of the treadmill desk, has been studying the adverse effects of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles for years. He says that we all stopped smoking but now we are getting same impact as if we were still smoking just by sitting for 8-9 hours per day. According to him, ‘sitting is the new smoking’.

Sleep: it affects our physical, emotional and mental capacities and it’s been proven that lack of it has adverse impact on us.

Rest: with so many of us working long hours to keep up with a growing workload, and risking burnout, the importance of rest can be easily forgotten. Prioritising rest and vacation time is critical for doing our best at work and living a healthy life.

Inadequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, and rest diminish people’s basic energy levels, as well as their ability to manage their emotions and focus their attention. Nevertheless, many people don’t find a way to practice healthy behaviours, given all the other demands in their lives.

In addition to physical energy, there is emotional energy. Did you know that our brain is built to deal with stress that lasts about 30 seconds?

Let’s be honest now, how long does our stress last these days? Hours, days, weeks? For some, stress can last months and years, which may lead to chronic stress and that can be damaging to the body. Some individuals eat less when they’re stressed, but most increase their food intake, particularly food high in sugar and fat. Science Daily refers to a research the findings of which reveal a vicious cycle, where chronic, high-insulin levels driven by stress and a high-calorie diet led to more and more eating. This study indicates that we have to be much more conscious about what we’re eating when stressed, to avoid a faster development of obesity.

When people are able to take more control of their emotions, they can improve the quality of their energy, regardless of external pressures they’re facing. To do this, they first must become more aware of how they feel at various points during the day and of the impact these emotions have on their effectiveness. Most people tend to perform best when feeling positive energy. The lower our reserve of positive emotions, the more vulnerable we are.

What is recovery? Recovery is organising our life to ensure we perform at our highest level. That is what successful people do when they don’t do what they excel in but that is also what makes them excel in what they do.

Recovery is about focus. If we work longer and harder, it’s like cutting a tree with an axe that is getting blunt. Proper recovery sharpens it but also helps determine which trees are the right ones to chop. Intermittent breaks for renewal result in higher and more sustainable performance. The length of renewal is less important than the quality. It is possible to get a great deal of recovery in several minutes provided it involves a ritual that allows you to disengage from work.

Recovery is about being present. Most people are not present these days; they are distracted and when not working, they are checking their phones and notifications; they are everywhere else but where their body is. “Wherever you are, that’s where you should be,” wise words by Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach.

In addition, people can tap into the energy when work really matters to them. However, the high demands and fast pace of corporate life don’t leave much time to pay attention to anything else, and many people don’t even recognise the meaning and purpose of their work as potential sources of energy. Therefore, some companies started adopting new ways of working, and others even set up ‘renewal rooms’ where people can go regularly to recharge and relax.

So, do we need to work 24/7 to achieve our dreams? No, we don’t. Therefore, it is important to start thinking about using our energy to our best ability and advantage, perhaps developing little rituals which can contribute to energy renewal, while companies, in turn, need to come up with solutions to ensure the demands at work are manageable and employees have opportunities to recharge and recover.

By Tereza Urbánková

Tereza Urbánková is a PR, communications and marketing professional with 20 years’ experience and proven success in delivering award-winning communications programmes for multinational companies operating in industries such as hospitality, retail, IT, defence, broadcast, logistics, pharma and engineering. After having lived and worked in the UK for 12 years, she moved to Germany where she now works for Boehringer Ingelheim, a global pharmaceutical company, as Head of Global External Communication, Animal Health. Tereza is a member of the Executive Committee of the Czech British Chamber of Commerce in London. She speaks Czech, English, Spanish and Russian and can be reached through her LinkedIn profile.