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Mental resilience toolkit #2: Rest and recovery

Resilience is just as much about how you recharge as about how you endure.

It may be easy to think that to reach our goals or get ‘everything’ done, we need to just work more and work harder. This idea is not supported by science. According to this HBR article, “The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful.” We can end up never switching off completely, especially when the distinction between work and home is blurred. But we all need structured rest periods. Our number 1 source of recovery is sleep.

A panda having a nap

Getting enough sleep is perhaps the most important ingredient for reducing stress, recovery for tired muscles, lowering body fat, and refuelling our energy levels. It’s maybe not the easiest thing to change in our hectic world, but it is one of the most important tools we have for increasing vitality.

And maybe, if you have more time at home right now, this could be a good moment to make sure we get enough sleep. Try to get at least 8 hours every night.

Getting enough sleep can have an effect on our immune system and how likely we are to get sick. We might get used to a routine of sleeping less than we need, but we don’t really adapt to it. It still has an effect, on our energy levels, health, mood, and decision making.

Here are a few things that can help set us up for a good night’s sleep:

  • Going to bed at the same time every day – on work days and days off.

  • Avoid screens just before going to bed. The blue light from screens affects the sleep hormone melatonin, telling our brains to be awake and alert.

  • Fit in some exercise during the day, to be more physically tired at the end of the day. But avoid exercises or activities that raise our heart rate or adrenaline level just before going to bed, to help us wind down.

  • Contain worrying. If our brains are wrestling with thoughts about work or worries it can disrupt our sleep. A tool that can help is to take a few minutes to write down any tasks we need to do, so that we can look at it in the morning. Or schedule a time for worrying, to help contain worrying to designated periods.

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