What’s the common belief about resilience? The longer we tough it out, the stronger we are, and therefore the more successful we will be. However, resilience is not so much about endurance, as it is about recovering from and recharging after a period of endurance. Michelle Gielan, psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, believes that “the very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.”
Research by Judith Sluiter shows that there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increase in health problems. And lack of recovery — whether by sleeping lesser or having continuous cognitive activity by watching our phones — is costing our companies a staggering $62 billion a year in lost productivity. Not just that. Researchers today define ‘workaholism’ as “being overly concerned about work, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.” Given the modern day preoccupation with work, it is even more crucial that we engage in recovery, to be resilient.
How do we build such depth of resilience into our lives? It goes beyond just drawing boundaries between our work and our personal lives. Resilience at work demands adequate and dynamic forms of recovery. We are stressing on recovery here, because it helps us achieve homoeostasis – our brain’s ability to maintain a stable psychological condition under conflicting situations and motivations.
The key to achieving this – letting it evolve naturally, as opposed to trying hard to feel relaxed. As authors Loehr and Schwarts write in their book ‘The Power of Full Engagement’, trying hard requires burning energy in order to overcome our exhaustion. This is called upregulation. It actually increases our exhaustion, because we end up using whatever little resources we have, without building more. Thus, the more imbalanced we become due to overworking, the more value there is in activities that allow us to return to a state of balance.
According to Zijlstra and Crople (2014), there are two kinds of recovery all working professionals need to aim towards. The first is internal recovery, which refers to the short periods of relaxation that take place within the work setting – scheduled or unscheduled breaks. It requires shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for a given task are temporarily depleted or exhausted.
On the other hand, external recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work— in the free time between workdays, and during weekends, holidays or vacations. It involves giving our brains a break from high arousal situations, such as making challenging decisions or engaging in heated debates. Our brains need a rest as much as our bodies do.
After all, life evolves from the balance between yin and yang – recovery and effort. What is your strategy going to be, to achieve stronger levels of recovery and resilience?