Strategic Recovery and How to Avoid Burnout
When I was in high school I played volleyball (for a very brief period of time). I liked it because every point was a new opportunity. As soon as the ball hit the ground, the best players would forget the point (win or loss) and focus on resetting their physical and mental position to treat the next point with the same energy as the one before. Whether it was a handshake, a chant or just a quick deep breath, they used the time in between points to prepare, to recover. The strategic recovery.
If you’ve never heard of strategic recovery before, don’t worry. Until two weeks ago I hadn’t either. At a work program I had a training session around this concept and since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. If you’re one of those people who gets sick the second you go on vacation (which I’m guilty of) it’s probably because you’re not recovering on a regular basis.
The whole idea is that we work ourselves so hard and so frequently and then we go home, watch TV and cancel plans and we don’t give ourselves even 5 minutes to get below a normal stress level. We go from high stress to normal stress without fully recovering from those higher stress periods. When we do finally have time to recover (like on vacation) the body has a lot more to catch up on than we may have realized. When we treat recovery as a must-have in high stress periods, rather than something that will come when we’re done working, our bodies can continue for longer in high stress environments.
So, how do you get to that point?
A lot of these ideas are in sync with the idea of self care. It’s not just something you can practice once when you’re stressed, but something you should be implementing daily. A face mask won’t solve your acne, but a multi-step skin care routine you implement daily could. The cure to the hustle and to the stress isn’t just an Instagrammable moment defined as self care, it’s an ongoing commitment.
My Strategic Recovery
For me, maintaining my stress levels is dependent on meditation, time spent outside, and conversations with friends.
Meditation is something I’ve been trying to prioritize because I can feel a noticeable different when I do it. I hadn’t been doing it enough, but as I move into a more stressful period at work I’m pushing myself to meditate daily, even if it’s only for 3 minutes before I go to sleep. I’m currently on a 10 day streak and very proud of it. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, a Headspace subscription is one of the best things money can buy.
Another super important aspect of my day is getting outside for lunch. Backtracking for a minute, if you don’t take a lunch break you absolutely should because if you’re working 8:30-6:30 without one your work is going to show that. I take at least 30 minutes every day to leave the office. I walk to get lunch and take my time walking back. If I bring lunch, I try to take a short walk, or at the very least eat in our kitchen space instead of at my desk. The physical space away from my computer helps me clear my mental space. On days when I don’t get away for at least 15 minutes I can feel it by 4 pm. The day drags on, concentrating gets harder, and my work gets turned around slower. The busier you are and the harder your day is the more important it is to take that time for yourself.
In New York it’s so easy to go from place to place to place without stopping. I’m fortunate enough to be within walking distance of my office and I take advantage of it. I walk to and from work almost every day and use the time to listen to a podcast, music, get ready for my day or unwind after a long day. It helps me show up at work and at home more refreshed.
On the note of life in New York, I’m sorry to all of the friends and family members I’ve subjected to the sounds of New York City because I call them while I’m walking. They’ve probably heard a lot more honking and sirens than they’ve wanted to. A lot of my friends and extended family don’t live near me so phone calls and FaceTime are how I maintain those relationships. Taking time to exchange stories and laugh is so important to me, and as with everything else, is especially important when I get busier than normal.
TLDR: life isn’t meant to be lived in extremes. Find quick and easy ways to reset yourself throughout the day, every day to avoid burn out and maximize your performance.
Photos by Allie Provost