Active Recovery: A Lifestyle Piece

burn out
1. to cease functioning because something has been exhausted or burned up, as fuel or a filament: Our light bulbs burned out.
2. to deprive of a place to live, work, etc., by reason of fire: They were burned out and had to live with relatives.
3. to wear out; exhaust; be worn out; become exhausted.

It’s a phrase all of us are familiar with and many of us have experienced. I have to admit, I’ve very loosely used this phrase in the past: I’m so burnt out on school right now, This project is burning me out, etc….

However, it wasn’t until very recently that I fully experienced what being “burnt out” actually meant; that my concept of “burnout” stopped feeling like definition #3 (above), and started feeling like definition #1. My light bulb was out.

Our society is constantly moving, talking, creating, challenging, and innovating. We live in a very fast-paced world these days, and, as a result, many businesses, and the lifestyle of business itself, has adapted to keep up. The advent of modern-day technology has made it difficult to actually disconnect from the emails, texts, updates, and notifications that we rely on to be productive. (I will never buy an Apple watch for this reason — the concept of being permanently tethered to my digital responsibilities sounds both terrifying and exhausting. Perhaps hypocritical seeing as my iPhone is always within arms reach. Regardless, I rest my case).

For me, this past bout of burnout was difficult, and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I was exhausted all of the time, unmotivated, and, let’s face it, kind of a cranky bitch on occasion. I receded from my friends and close connections, and my anxiety increased. Conveniently (that’s sarcasm), it coincided with a large period of growth in my professional career, so I found myself having to work harder and speak publicly during a time when I was very much feeling the opposite. It lasted about 3–4 months.

In learning from that experience, and reflecting back on how I got there, I’ve adopted a new philosophy: active recovery.

Recently, in one of my cycling classes — at 545 PM on Wednesdays to be exact — my cycling instructor spent most of the class focused on ensuring we were actively recovering. We’d climb a big hill — our legs like Jell-O at the end — and then continue to ride at a slower pace until our thighs stopped throbbing. We never stopped moving — we just adjusted our pace so we could keep going.

With such constant movement all of the time — jobs, hobbies, social media, careers, family, relationships, dating, expectations — it’s important to be able to actively recover while you continue to grow professionally and personally. For those of us who are entrepreneurs, or who work a large amount of hours, the dreaded burnout usually occurs more frequently, which makes active recovery all the more important.

This manifests itself in different ways for different people. For me, I find that I need at least one day a week that I have mostly, if not completely, to myself. I do laundry, go to the gym and church, watch some highly-entertaining-but-oh-so-bad Netflix TV shows, and make a healthy, Thai-curry-veggie-stir-fry for dinner. Because a lot of the work I do involves meeting people, speaking, phone calls, and networking events, I find I really need some quiet time to myself to balance it out.

Sleeping, exercising regularly, and avoiding drinking too heavily during the week (a very real challenge in my industry) are also key elements of my active recovery. Staying connected with friends and family, and finding times every day to unplug from my digital persona are also critical pieces in this process.

To sum it up, burnout is a very real thing. It happens to all of us. Take a bit of time to understand what active recovery means to you, and work to implement it on a regular basis. The big-bad-burn-out-monster will have to work harder to bring you down.

ac·tive re·cov·er·y
(ak’tiv rĕ-kŭv’ĕr-ē)
1. Exercising with gradually diminishing intensity immediately after a bout of vigorous exercise; facilitates lactate and metabolic waste removal by maintaining blood flow in muscles during recovery.
Synonyms: active cool-down, tapering-off