Every once in a while we all need to pause, catch our breath, and do a self audit. So often it’s easy to get caught up in whatever we’re doing for weeks, months, and forget to set an intentional time for recovery.
This is part 1 of 3 on "Establishing A Successful Recovery Routine". In part 1, I'll dive into setting time, expectations, and finding an activity of choice that will become part of your recovery routine. In part 2, I'll talk about nutrition as part of recovery and I'll walk you though how your nutrition should match your recovery--you don't want to miss this! Lastly, part 3 will be about establishing a mindfulness practice for stress management, an essential component to recovery.
Much of my personal experience with recovery comes from 20 + years of being in competitive, endurance sports. If you don’t schedule recovery, you won’t last long, especially if you’re juggling life on multiple fronts.
In my professional and clinical experience, I see chronic fatigue, depression, weight gain, low libido, and a host of other symptoms that are a result of prolonged exposure to stress. It’s not like someone wakes up one day and realizes that things are not the same—our bodies are very good at letting us know that, hey, pay attention! First comes a yellow flag, then a red flag, then you’re sick, can’t work, can’t make it to the gym, and then that becomes a wake up call.
How about we prevent that from happening?
Scheduled and intentional recovery is one of the best ways to prevent gradual burnout and achieve sustained energy, mental focus, improve immune function, and reach optimal wellbeing.
I can’t tell you how many cases I see where hormones are balanced, diet is perfect, exercise is in place, but the big component that is missing is stress management, sleep, and active recovery.
I don’t buy the concept that you need to compromise on sleep to attain your goals, and I hear this frequently: you can catch up on sleep, work during the day and on your goals until 2 am, you can sleep later. Yes, later, when your energy is tapped out and you don’t have anything left!
What you should do is practice good time management that allows time for personal and professional growth, and time to reflect and recover so that you can do it all over again the next day.
Doesn't that sound better?
Here are some ways that you can be strategic about your day when it comes to scheduling time to recover and unwind:
- Define what recovery means to you. What would you want to see as a result of incorporating recovery? More energy, less irritability, being more present, increased performance in personal and professional life?
- Find which activities allow you to relax, unwind, and pause. It can be yoga, floating in a salt pool, journaling, meditation (even walking meditation), or a stroll in the woods. This can also include more of active recovery like a light jog or a yoga flow class. But, this needs to be separate from your typically scheduled workouts and the goals are also different.
- Find time during the day or week to do your activities of choice based on time commitment and frequency. If you can squeeze in a walk and a journaling session daily, great. If you can only do yoga or a hike on the weekends, awesome. The point is that this time is yours to do what you want in a way that gets your mind and body in sync.
Some people simply don't know what to do with 1-2 hours before bed, and that time ends up being occupied with laundry, social media, chatting on the phone, watching TV, and then, oops, it's time to go to bed. This time is precious and can be used more intentionally, purposefully, and strategically, because that's what health requires. That's what we need to do in order to be prepared for the day or week ahead rather than just make it through. If your issues is that you only have 10 minutes, use that time rather than doing nothing at all. The difference in doing something rather than nothing can be life changing, and I see this all the time in my clinic.
Here’s a sample of my personal recovery routine that I do on a daily basis, at the end of the day. In my personal life, I do believe in recovery on a daily basis, because that's what works for me, but you decide what schedule works best for you and stick to it.
Dr. Elena's 30 Minute Daily Recovery Routine:
15 minutes yoga flow (sometimes on my own, or sometimes a video that I like)
10 minutes journaling and time chunking the next day (pretty much most of the day is written out)
5 minutes gratitude meditation (everything and everyone I am grateful for)
This is so simple, and I can do this any time during the day when I can squeeze it in. Sometimes 30 minutes is a luxury for me, so I change it to a 10 or 15 minute version, but regardless, I make it happen, because it is absolutely better than doing nothing. I also interchange activities, a yoga flow is substituted with a jog and a journaling session is taken over by a quick read.
Part 2 on recovery nutrition is coming soon, but in the meantime, use the tips above to establish your own recovery routine. I'd love to hear what you come up with!
Dr. Elena specializes in gut health, women’s health, weight loss, nutrient injectables, and offers unique chronic pain treatments at Proactive Health, A Naturopathic Clinic. She's the founder of Crave Reset: Ultimate Craving Control, nutritional support for food cravings, mood, weight management, and hormone balance. Got a question? Post in comments or contact directly at firstname.lastname@example.org