Resilience through recuperation
August has been a month of recovery for me, the most keen amongst you may have noticed this is the first blog of the month, though in reality I doubt many people have realised. A busy first quarter of the year in finalising the practice purchase has been followed by a busy second quarter of stabilisation and change management within the practice. August saw the arrival of my summer holiday, our staycation to Liverpool (where I completed my undergraduate degree and met my future wife) including a jaunt up to Formby beach, followed by days in and out closer to home in Yorkshire. It is without a semblance of guilt that I took this time out because I know that one of the keys to sustainable high performance is rest.
One book I loved listening to in recent years was Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg who provides the equation Stress + Rest = Growth. Any improvement is fundamentally built not just on being able to push ourselves further but being able to give our minds and bodies the opportunity to recover and rebuild in order to go again. Stressing our muscles, tearing the tiny muscle fibres, activates our repair system and our body will rebuild the muscle stronger when it has the opportunity to do so. Fail to allow the body to rebuild and the muscles don’t strengthen effectively. It’s the combination of stress and rest that the best athletes in the world pay absurd amounts of money to clever people to tell them how to maximise this balance.
The mind is no different. With each new mental challenge we’re presented with we develop an use new, slow neural pathways. When our brains realise these pathways may be needed more often, like a muscle, it rebuilds stronger by building new more direct connections which allow us to process yesterday’s information faster, today. This only happens when we rest however. A second book drop and another essential read is Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep who gives plenty of scientific evidence for this with study after study showing participants being able to do tasks much quicker if they take a nap between attempts, rather than practising themselves into submission.
It's not enough to feel we need to wait for the next summer holiday to roll around to get our rest. Deliberate rest is something that happens on a daily basis. Sufficient sleep at night, appropriate breaks through the day, stopping work at lunch time. These are not luxuries reserved for the lackadaisicals, these are essential ingredients in the recipe for peak performance. Week on week, we need periods of lower intensity to enable us to perform at our best when it matters most, whether your a healthcare professional caring for patients, a parent, a student or anything else.
My batteries have been recharged by my August absconsion, but the plan is to maintain the energy levels with a balanced schedule over the coming months.