Rest is not the same as recovery

And nine other surprising things I’ve learnt about resilience

Rowan Gray
Jun 15, 2018 · 3 min read
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Photo by Wil Stewart 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 #10 — rest is not the same as recovery

I have found this insight the most surprising:

When you are resting it does not mean you’re recovering.

The Oxford Dictionary defines rest as ‘ceasing work or movement in order to relax, sleep or recover strength’.

However I have observed countless instances among my clients where restful activities do not create recovery. For example socialising with friends in the pub, watching TV in the evening or gardening on the weekend.

Unfortunately, it’s even possible to be asleep without being in recovery. This usually happens when people are feeling anxious or they’ve been drinking alcohol.

In comparison, recovery is what happens when the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is in a parasympathetic state and releases anabolic hormones to support growth and repair of the body.

In other words, recovery means you are re-energising and bouncing back.

Just to be clear, restful activities can support recovery. But recovery can also happen at work or when we’re doing something that feels tough.

For example, one of my clients stayed up all night to complete an essay for her part-time Masters course. She had procrastinated about doing it in the days and weeks before the deadline.

However once she began to write the essay she had high levels of recovery. Interestingly, her recovery was strongest in the early hours of the morning when she’d nearly completed her assignment.

Click here to read insight #1 — one person’s stress is another person’s recovery.

Click here to read insight #2 — life is more stressful than work.

Click here to read insight #3 — introverts should be more introverted.

Click here to read insight #4 — culture eats recovery for breakfast.

Click here to read insight #5 — exercise isn’t always good for you.

Click here to read insight #6 — senior leaders are not more stressed.

Click here to read insight #7 — the power of purpose.

Click here to read insight #8 — numbing out from stress.

Click here to read insight #9 — work can be addictive.

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