Why using active recovery to rest your mind is as important as resting your body
I was talking to a client recently about how she sets up her life for maximum energy and calm. She mentioned that after every big work call, she takes 10 minutes for “brain recovery” where she does a meditation or quietly rests her mind before going into the next task.
I realized how the mind’s need for a rest after working hard is the same as the body’s need to recover after a hard workout. I need mental recovery after a zoom call, working on a work project, refereeing a fight between the kids, or anything that requires total concentration.
Why recovery makes you stronger and more calm
After strenuous exercise, unless injured, I’ve found that the next day it’s important to utilize the “active recovery” method. I’m not totally sedentary, but I move in a low-key, gentle way.
Recovery gives an opportunity for sore muscles pushed to the breaking point (including the brain!) to heal and fuse back together in a stronger, bigger way!
This concept applies to mental exercise as well. Especially tasks and activities which we’ve never done before, we get pushed to fatigue because we’ve not moved that muscle in that way before or with that level of strength.
Our brain needs energy just like our biceps and quads do. Maybe our brain doesn’t get physically bigger when we exercise it in new and challenging ways, but think about the synapses and connections made in our brain as it gets stronger and more able.
Our brain and body need rest in between workouts so that we can show up to the next workout or task with strength versus weakness. We are not robots, and we need to take care of and honor our bodies and minds to keep them in optimal shape.
Whatever your job is, whether you run a company or stay home with the kids, your mind needs active recovery.
How to build in active recovery time
Every body and mind is different, and when you schedule out your day, be mindful of your recovery time. Figure out what cushion you can build in between tasks for active recovery. It could be 10 minutes or two hours, you know what you need.
You may find you’re getting demands from others when you know deep down you need active recovery time. Have the courage to tell them, “I’m unable to do that right now, but at xyz time I can address that.”
For example, my colleague’s teen suffers from social anxiety and her mind truly needs to rest in between functions, even as simple as doctor appointments or going out to dinner. Since only she knows what her limits are, it’s up to her to protect those limits. She’ll tell her mom, “Can we reschedule piano lessons this week as it’s the first week of school and I know I’ll need recovery time that week.”
Sometimes events happen that stress us out of the blue, and that’s the time you can say, “I just need a quick walk around the block or a 5 minute rest before I can go to the next thing.”
Do not ever feel guilt or shame or weakness for taking recovery time. It is actually giving you more strength to do this!
Active recovery examples
Active recovery in physical exercise is straightforward. You’d take a slow walk, or some light stretching. So what are some examples of how you’d do this for your mind?
- Play a song from your favorite playlist that calms you, close your eyes while you listen
- Spend 5 minutes writing what you’re grateful for today in your weekly planner
- Listen to a meditation
- Use the time to breathe and reflect on the experience you just had
Parents at home with kids: I totally know this is harder and you have to be more strategic about building in this time during naps or asking your partner or a friend to watch the baby while you decompress. Just knowing you have that to look forward to though, will make such a difference in your patience levels.
Friends, recovery of your mind is just as important as sleeping and eating. If you don’t do it, just like if you don’t rest the muscles in your body you risk injury and not being able to do anything at all.
Don’t sprain your brain – Treat it like any other organ and muscle in your body, and it will take care of you!
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