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Rest V Recovery: Why knowing the difference prevents burnout

One of my clients had recently come off a streak of intense work projects - ones that consumed her mind, heart and energy for far too long into the evenings on most nights. While she was proud of her work and excited about what she accomplished, she was tired…and also a little nervous that burnout was waiting for her around the corner. I asked her, “What are you doing to recover?” She let me know she was taking a Friday off, but that it would likely be filled with catching up on some home projects she'd been putting off - and maybe even replying to a few emails. I told her that sounded a lot like rest and not recovery. Rest v Recovery

Why is not just rest, but recovery, so important for women? According to the 2023 Women @ Work Global Outlook from Deloitte, 46% of women reported feeling burned out. The reasons for this is the inability to “switch off” from work and the burden of childcare and maintaining household tasks. It's hard to build sustainable confidence if you are overworked and overwhelmed. Over 15 years ago, I started a daily morning habit - weight lifting. While I pause in between sets to catch my breath, it's not enough. One of the cardinal rules of weightlifting is to include full days for recovery. Why? Because the process of lifting weights breaks down the muscle fibers - it actually damages them. However, with proper recovery like muscle rest, food, water, stretching and adequate sleep, those muscle fibers heal and grow back stronger. In fact, a lack of proper recovery leads to fatigue, illness, sleep disturbances, adrenal issues and even emotional health declines (ask me how I know 🫠 ) As a former corporate leader and a leadership coach, I see these same health consequences from leaders who refuse to give themselves a break. Pushing harder when we're already tired doesn't help us better solve problems or lead our teams confidently, it just makes us more anxious. For me, my best ideas often come after extended periods of not just rest, but recovery. 🔥 What is the difference between rest and recovery to you? See below for more hints and ways to put this into action.

Rest v Recovery chart
Rest vs recovery

PUT THIS IDEA INTO ACTION

So what does rest and recovery look like? I've compiled a list of my clients', and a few of my own, best practices. As a leader, how are you fostering rest and recovery on your own teams? Rest:

  • 30 minute buffers in between meetings

  • Blocking out a 3 hour chunk of time every week for strategy & planning (CEO time)

  • Delegating an assignment that is no longer a growth opportunity for you

  • Designating one night per week for take-out / no plans / kids do the work

  • Logging out of work email/messages after 6pm

  • Taking a day or half-day off after a long week

  • Allowing your kids/partner to imperfectly take over a chore for you

  • Outsourcing something you dread

  • Doing something just for fun at work with a co-worker / your team


Recovery:

  • Taking a full week's vacation without logging into work

  • Spending a full weekend doing everything you want to do, and not a think you feel like you “should” do (full disclosure: I recovered this weekend by having my cleaning lady come and bingeing two seasons of The Morning Show bookended by evenings with friends)

  • Sleeping well, eating well, drinking enough water

  • Accessing your company's mental health resources or seeing a therapist or coach

  • Moving your body in a way that feels fun to you (walking, dance class, cooking, anything in nature, etc)

  • Dropping something you dread and instead investing that time and energy in something you've always wanted to learn

  • Traveling with someone you love to a place that has always interested you (and being present in the moments)

  • Heeding this permission slip to drop your shoulds, set boundaries, articulate your desires and allowing others to do their share of the work (when you overfunction, it allows others to underfunction)

What would you add to these lists? Or, which one will you try this summer? I'd love to know!


Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 private coaching and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

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