The Six R’s of Recovery Mode

Have you ever had it happen that you finally get away for a much needed vacation, and you immediately get sick? It’s like you’ve been running on adrenaline and the second you even think about relaxing, the germs attack. It’s your body’s way of forcing you to slow down.

How often do you come through a big event, a hectic holiday, a massive work project, and just keep pushing into the next thing? So often, especially when it comes to work, we just move from project to project, without taking any time to recover. Busy and overworked becomes our new normal, and it feels “wrong” to slow down and not move at full tilt. The problem is, if we don’t take the proper time to recover, we will be less effective. Each project that follows will be a little more stressful, and we will be a little more tired, a little more irritable, a little closer to burn out.

The same thing goes for personal stuff. If we come through a particularly busy or stressful time at home without taking the time to recover, we won’t be showing up the way we want to. We need to schedule time for recovery or life can just keep speeding ahead before we realize we are headed for exhaustion and overwhelm. We do this automatically for our kids but why is it so hard to make this time for ourselves?

I’ve just come through a very busy season. We had two major work events back to back. We ran the first Mom Camp: The Camp weekend, and immediately after that we launched the Mom Camp: Around the Campfire podcast. Both Mom Camp activities have kept me busy in just about every free moment for months. Historically I would have just keep plugging away after that, with maybe one or two days off that wouldn’t be particularly restful.

This time is different. I decided to practice intentional recovery. I took a full week off work (yes, the same week I launched the podcast so not totally “off”). I prioritized rest. I made an effort to sit in the positive moment and not jump to picking it apart with analysis and critique. And through this process, I have come up with what I call the Six R’s of Recovery Mode. Specifically, recovery from an exceptionally busy season.

Six R’s of Recovery Mode

  1. Rest – AKA Sleep. This is the number one most important step. In a super busy time it can be common to skimp on sleep, prioritizing more work over shuteye. If it comes with a side of stress, a good night’s sleep may be elusive at best. Try for between 7 and 9 hours, if possible. Set yourself up for success by starting with a relaxing bedtime routine, perhaps a warm bath and a good book, and no screen time in the final 30 minutes, if you can. Getting a good night’s sleep is the most important thing you can do for recovery. It improves your health, your mood and your brain function.
  2. Relaxation – If you’re anything like me, slowing down after a busy time can be difficult. It can take a while for our brains to take a break. It’s important to take some purposeful time to relax – whether it’s a massage, a bath in Epsom salts, meditation, a slow rambling walk…try for 30 minutes a day of some intentional relaxation activity.
  3. Refuel – Whether it’s stress eating or convenience, busy times can usually lead to less-than-healthy choices. I try and do my best, but I definitely know that I need to refuel my body with healthy food. Balanced meals with vegetables, protein and healthy fats, with only one carb serving max per meal. Cutting back on sugar and alcohol, and making sure I’m drinking at least 80oz of water a day. We tell our kids that our bodies are like engines, and we need to fuel them properly so that they can run well. Putting junk in the tank will just make your engine break down eventually.
  4. Review – Do this step once the physical recovery stuff is taken care of. It can be easy to jump right into analysis and critique, but taking a few days to absorb what you’ve just come through is important. Focus on the positives and look at anything you might tweak for next time as an opportunity to improve and grow.
  5. Reward – It’s time to acknowledge the good work you put in. This isn’t about a tangible reward, this is about being kind to yourself. We so easily cheer on others, pat people on the back and give kudos, but we rarely do the same for ourselves. Sure, you can also treat yourself to a tangible reward, but take a moment and tell yourself “You did a good job.”
  6. Refocus – Okay, now it’s time to think about how you want to show up moving forward. If you did get close to burn out, is there a way you can avoid that next time? Have your goals shifted at all? Have your priorities adjusted? What did you learn in this busy time, and how can you apply it in the future? Before you jump in to the next thing, take some time to plan in advance. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Take the time to recover. I have the luxury of a full week of intentional recovery this time, but I will practice this same method even if I only have a day. And better yet, I will use Step 6 to do what I can to not get overworked in the first place.

You work hard, mama. Take the time you need and practice intentional recovery. Tell people you are in recovery mode. Set boundaries. You deserve it.

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