“The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically and seek renewal.” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
I’m very interested in recovery, both personally and professionally, possibly because my natural inclination is to go as hard as I can until something breaks.
In my personal life, I try to balance out (positive and negative) stress, from work, working out and the vicissitudes of living through a global pandemic with recovery practices that keep me moving towards my goals of increasing physical fitness, learning new things, deepening my relationships and attempting to live a useful and fulfilling life.
And I very much want to support parallel endeavours through my work. There’s plenty of stress to go around right now, perhaps more so than at any other point in our lives, and when you add on intense exercise and total-immersion work and home-life commitments, you need to make extra sure that you’re considering ways to stay in balance, or it’s only a matter of time before you and everything you care about topples over. Relationships fall apart, our health disintegrates and we’re left facing an intimidating uphill battle just to craw ourselves back to zero.
A 180° ON REST
I used to shun recovery practices, pushing myself well beyond healthy limits, time and time again. But not anymore! Now, I am all about them. I do my best to spend 8 hours in bed every night and take naps during the day if I feel that I need to…which brings me to an interview that I listened to this week. On The Courageous Life podcast, author Melvin L. Smith, made an interesting distinction between rest and renewal activities, proposing a theory that, “rest is necessary but not sufficient” for us to thrive. A lightbulb flashed on in my head!
Engaging in renewal activities is required for next-level, ninja recovery.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REST AND RENEWAL
Both rest and renewal activities activate the parasympathetic nervous system. They slow down your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and allow your brain to make new neural connections. What differentiates renewal activities from rest is that they require engagement and focus as opposed to switching off and disengaging (necessary but not sufficient for ninja recovery). And there’s a different feeling associated with the after-effects of renewal—more aliveness in your body and clarity in your mind.
Renewal activities include, jumping in the car with a friend and taking a picnic to the countryside, undistracted play with your kids and/or pets, exploring new bicycle routes, engaging in a meaningful conversation with a loved one, playing music, bird-watching, painting, cabinet-making, paddle-boarding, whirling, meditating, cross stitching, cooking, reading and of course, practicing yoga.
WHEN REST IS NOT AN OPTION
What the guys in the interview didn’t touch on is that rest isn’t always so easy to come by. When we most need sleep, it seems determined to elude us, and it’s not always possible to take days off at the drop of a hat. However, I submit that we can all commit to engaging in regular renewal activities to keep our energy, health and wellbeing levels topped up.
Not only does this keep us from falling off the deep end but it also ensures that we’re firing on all cylinders. It keeps us alert, motivated, productive, clear-headed, creative, vital and flexible. Our relationships flourish, work feels like flow and there’s a lightness and spring in our step.
What are your favourite renewal activities and how do they make you feel?