One person’s stress is another person’s recovery

And nine other surprising things that I’ve learnt about resilience

Photo by José Martín Ramírez C on Unsplash

Resilience has become a buzzword in recent years but it’s a topic that’s long fascinated me.

My interest began when I was training for an Ironman more than ten years ago. Preparing to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 miles is not the sort of distance where you turn up and “wing it”. So I explored my food, mindset and how to best recover between work-outs.

Over the last ten years I’ve continued to explore physical resilience doing events like 5K races, marathons and long distance cycling trips. More recently, I began training as a psychotherapist which is helping me to better understand mental health and emotional resilience.

This passion has now become my job. I work with CEOs, directors and founders of start up companies to explore their resilience and what it means for them to thrive in their work. I also work with teams and support company wide resilience programmes.

As part of my approach I use heartbeat analytics to assess people’s resilience. The wearable technology provides amazing insights into each person’s unique areas of stress and sources of recovery.

Each day I’m going to share one of the ten most surprising things I’ve learnt about resilience after doing more than 200 of these assessments. The observations are based on personal accounts rather than objective data or quantitative research.

I would welcome your feedback if you have any comments that support or disprove anything I’ve written in these insights.


Insight #1 — one person’s stress is another person’s recovery

Everyone gets stressed by different things.

Perhaps that’s an obvious insight, but I was surprised to discover that one person’s stress is another person’s recovery.

This is true of commuting, yoga, socialising with friends and countless other activities. For example I recently watched Netflix crime thriller Breaking Bad (yes, I was late to the party) and found each episode to be a significant stressor for me. However, for one of my clients watching the same programme was their biggest source of recovery!

The same is true of work. Being in lots of meetings is a big stress for many people, while for others it’s an opportunity to recover. A chief executive I recently worked with had high levels of recovery when chairing his company’s monthly risk committee.

My point is to say we all perceive the world around us differently. Our response to a stressor is dependent on countless variables such as our temperament and personality or whether we’re tired, hungry or hungover, for example.

Saying this I have found one exception to this rule — alcohol! Most of us associate having a drink with relaxing. In reality, drinking is a major stressor on the body. Even when it’s just a few glasses.

Tomorrow I will share Insight #2 — life is more stressful than work.