There’s a known militaristic look to what it means to be resilient. People would often associate the image of Marines going through the mud with the word grit, thinking that a football player picking himself up for another round of play is what tough means. We firmly believe that the longer we endure things, the tougher we are, and therefore, the more successful we will be.
Despite of this prevalent concept, science has proven this to be inaccurate. Humans have misunderstood what it means to be resilient, and the impact of overworking oneself.
DEBUNKING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE TOUGH
The “true grit” belief we’ve been applying our whole life is actually dramatically holding us back to be truly resilient and successful by robbing us the ample time for a proper recovery period. According to a research done during the year 1999 by Judith K. Sluiter, there’s a direct correlation between the absences of convalescence and increased incidence of health and safety problems. The lack of rest – be it in the form of disrupted sleep by thoughts of work or mental stimulation caused by our phones – is causing several companies billions a year in lost productivity.
Though just because we stop “working”, it doesn’t mean that we’re actually recovering. Admittedly, a large majority of us stop working around 5 PM, but still spend the remainder of our day coming up with solutions to work problems. We often talk about what transpired during our workday over dinner, and still end up falling asleep with our to-do list for tomorrow in our minds. Scientists have cited a definition of “workaholism” as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”
More often than not, the misconception on the ideology of resilience is bred from such an early age, with parents constantly instilling in their kids that ‘hard work’ meant staying up until 2 AM to finish a project – and will be carried through until they enter the workforce. The habits manifested within humanity have resulted to a complete distortion of true grit or the real essence of being resilient.
Founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, wrote in her book The Sleep Revolution “We sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity, but ironically our loss of sleep, despite the extra hours we spend at work, adds up to 11 days of lost productivity per year per worker”
True resilience is knowing how to try really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again – and this isn’t just any baseless conclusion, it’s heavily influenced by biology.
The fundamental biological concept of homeostasis describes the ability of our brains to continuously restore and sustain our well-being. Neuroscientist Brent Furl of Texas A&M University came up with the term “homeostatic value” in explaining the merit that certain actions carry for creating equilibrium, and this well-being, in the body. When our body becomes unaligned due to overworking, we misuse a large amount of time trying to return the balance we had before in order for us to move forward.
And according to New York Best-Seller The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal; if you spend a large amount of time in performance, you may need more time recovering – otherwise, you will risk burnout. The more imbalanced we become from “trying hard”, the more value we can find in activities that allow us to return that lost balance.
RECOVERING AND BUILDING RESILIENCE
One would naturally assume that our brains get its much needed rest the moment we stop working. That when we stop answering emails or writing papers, our brain will naturally recover. And come the next morning, you’ll be able to work again.
Much to our dismay, it’s not always the case. Some of us have a hard time going to sleep because we’re still thinking about our jobs and there are certain days wherein despite having completed the required eight hours of sleep, we still feel exhausted – this is because rest and recovery are two different things.
In order to truly build resilience and grit at work, it’s important to have adequate internal and external recovery periods. Internal recovery means having short periods of relaxation within the time frame spent working. External recovery, on the other hand, refers to breaks that take place outside of work. If when you come home and lie around your bed, you still end up getting riled up by political commentary, your brain still hasn’t received the break it really needs.
Experts suggest that we can start by strategically stopping – meaning controlling our use of technology to avoid overworking. Apps such as Offtime or Unplugged help create tech free timeframes within our day by scheduling an automatic airplane mode. In addition, they also recommend taking cognitive breaks every 90 minutes to recharge your batteries. Take lunch breaks with your colleagues or spend some quality time talking or having fun! With much importance being placed on productivity and ample breaks at work, serviced space providers have added certain leisure facilities to their offices. For example, Sales Rain’s Mandaluyong serviced office provides its tenants with a cozy in-house coffee shop accompanied by a relaxing lounge area plus a few games such as their foosball tables.
It’s important for young professionals of today’s workforce to slowly transition their mindset from the militarized view of true grit and understand what it really means to be resilient.