Restore productively without feeling guilty
1. In moments of high tension and anxiety
In moments of high tension and anxiety, when we're not performing under imminent time-pressure, your stress response may serve as a signal that something needs to change. For example, if you’re unable to find a creative solution to a problem you’ve been working on for hours, taking a few minutes to restore may do wonders. The same applies if you’re feeling anxious for no apparent reason. A brief breathing exercise, a walk, a nap, a meditation session or just a change of scenery (digital or physical) – may offer you a whole new perspective.
2. First-thing in the morning
Stress is mostly about the sense of having little or no control over our circumstances. This is why having a simple morning routine can be so impactful on how we cope with things during the day. We can start by commanding our day or being at the mercy of it. In practice – hack your human “negativity bias” by placing an emphasis on gratitude and laughter, have at least 5 minutes to yourself, and engage in a grounding activity such as walking, yoga or standing on a balance board.
3. During meal-times
Human evolution has designed a special state of our nervous system suited for optimal food digestion and nutrient absorption. It’s called the “rest and digest” mode, and the name says it all! When this mode is activated, blood flow, motility as well as enzyme secretion in the gut increases. We restore our body and brain by replenishing them with the much needed nutrients used up in abundance during stressful times.
4. During the 3PM “slump"
By 3pm we’ve likely exhausted the natural capacity of our brain to be doing the same type of work. So rather than fighting our natural capacity, why not respect it? Let go of deliberate thinking for about an hour by doing something else. Choose something still productive, but different in nature – such as an exercise break or a creative group activity. Remember that creativity most often comes from the spaces between deliberate thinking.
5. In the evening
Sleep is one of our primary mechanisms of growth and renewal on a physical, mental and emotional level. During a period of stress, sleep is vital to help our body and mind restore themselves, but also to help us be more emotionally and physically resilient. When it comes to sleep, having a regular evening routine is what matters – enjoying dinner 2-3 hours before bed-time, dimming the lights, adopting a digital pause, reading a book and not starting any complex work 2 hours before bed-time.
6. One day a week
So many of us are struggling to clearly delineate the boundaries between work and home, particularly during the current lockdown. Switching off entirely for at least one day a week has been shown to improve our performance, creativity and state of mind during the week. But you knew that already! What can you actually do in practice? Try to immerse yourself in a few hours of “mindful cleaning”, declutter your home, make a vision board, bake something, explore your bookshelf or think of a soul-nourishing activity which you used to do or would like to learn.
7. During holidays
Taking one or two days off a week is not a replacement for a longer break. Research shows that breaks lasting 7-10 days tend to have positive effects on wellbeing, motivation and productivity that can last up to a month. As we’re allowing our body and mind to restore, we’re also gaining clarity over the things that are potentially causing us stress in our day-to-day life. We’re more able to think rationally and design a confident and proactive coping strategy.
Restoring productively is essential in order for us to reap the benefits of our meaningful stress. Otherwise we end up in a half-way house – never fully restoring, and yet never able to stretch ourselves beyond our current capabilities. If you’re still thinking that this all sounds good and nice but you simply don’t have time, I’m inviting you to challenge yourself – do you make time for what’s important? How important to you is being your best self? Can you repurpose any of your time?