10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

10 Tips for Rest, Recovery and Rejuvenation

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.
Written by 

The Season for Stillness

We tumble to the end of another warp-speed year. We spin through our tasks and grasp at floods of information.

We press too hard, too fast and for too long. Reservoirs are sucked dry. Self-awareness fades. Self-regulation is impaired. Your health and your relationships are at risk.

It is time to slow down, repair, rejuvenate and reconnect with what matters.

In a world of optimisation, ambition, pride and duty, we push hard on multiple fronts. The rest, recovery and rejuvenation cycle is squeezed out between ever shorter bursts of dopamine. We are child-like in our impulsive tapping, swiping, checking, buying, rushing, feeding… compelled to chase the next hit.

As I come to the end of 2019, I feel battered. My mind is a little flat. Attention is fragile. Relationships are edgy. I know I need a good break. I am struggling to disconnect, calm my hypervigilance, and allow the natural cycle of recovery. I sense it in our family, friends and colleagues.

Rest, recovery and rejuvenation (R3) is the next competitive edge. Ironic!

My end of year message it to give rest, recovery and rejuvenation your full attention.

At a cellular level, the R3 cycle is vital to repair and rejuvenation. It is the key to longevity and sits at the biochemical core of fasting, sleep quality, intense activity, meditation, and cold water baths. It is a promising solution that supports this process of slowing, cleaning and repairing hard working cells.

The R3 cycle is key to musculoskeletal strength and physical wellbeing. Intimacy, touch and dreaming (REM) sleep stimulate the R3 cycle for emotional wellbeing. The default network is the R3 cycle for cognition allowing us to focus, engage and refresh our minds.

Our end-of-year pause is an opportunity to capture the R3 cycle for life and family. Please make an effort to allow for adequate rest, recovery and rejuvenation as your year comes to an end. Engage your family in this process so that you may reconnect in more intimate ways.

Share what works well for you.

Christmas Presence

Christmas Presence

Somehow throughout December I kept myself busy, dealing with the daily. Forgetting to look around and connect, forgetting to check my course.  I only half noticed the shops starting to fill with Christmas fare, the familiar sign of nativities, trees, and decorations beckoning… tiny lights flickering and glistening everywhere I turned.

I remember the crammed supermarket. I would smile, merrily humming along to the music dreaming of a white Christmas while filling my shopping trolley with only the regular shop, pushing straight past the baubles and puddings.


Then suddenly one day, I was taken aback. Unexpectedly, right there in front of me, ’twas the night before Christmas. Surprised and unprepared, I felt disorientated and wondered where December had gone. Not a creature was stirring, not a stocking in sight. I jumped up and dashed and pranced into action. I rushed through the motions, preparing the house, buying Christmas food, and finishing the gift wrapping.

In no time, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas. My clean and tidy house ready to welcome the guests who would never know about my last minute pop up Christmas.

But a part of me felt sad, and robbed, and something was missing. My heart longed for the season I had almost missed. Distracted by life, I had missed the usual turn off, forgotten to notice. No inner preparation, no festive evenings by the tree. No community browsing, smiling and nodding merrily at those who dare to wear Santa hats in public.

No silent nights at home, holy nights of gratitude, nor evenings in, when all is calm as the tree sparkles, and my heart celebrates and awaits.

Looking back, Christmas day was lovely. Candles, holly, crackers, bubbly, turkey and money pudding. Jokes and chit chat. After lunch conversation. The clean up. The hugs and the farewells.

Was that really a year ago? I remember sitting in my lounge, in the warm glow of another Christmas passed. As the dishwasher hummed, I remember gazing out of the window cradling my warm cup of tea, reflecting on another Christmas Day. Phew. I thought, only just made it this year. In a twinkling it was over. In a few days, I will pack down the tree, hiding it away, in it’s big box in the garage for another year.


In that moment I made a decision. To be certain to always linger over Christmas. To savour every Christmas moment and to live slowly.

Never again, I vowed, would I miss all that December has to offer. Never again would I rush past Christmas, failing to connect, or miss the big red stop sign, or ho hum at the commercialism… yes, tempting me to spend, but also, inviting my heart to prepare.

So this time last year, I made a diary entry for a year in advance. December 1st, 2016. It read “Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”. And here we are. Another year lived. It’s almost December again, and Christmas is coming!

[clickToTweet tweet=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season”” quote=”“Tree decorated, shopping finished, linger this Christmas season””].

I look around and smile. I greet the season.  This year I will be ready. I will prepare my home and my heart. I will not procrastinate as if December goes on forever. It doesn’t. Time waits for no one. I love this life cycle of seasons. Yes. This year I will slow down, remember Christmas, and connect.  And I will give myself, and others, the precious gift of presence.


Christmas Connection Workouts

Christmas Connection Workouts

The Point

Coming to the end of 2016, NOW is the time to work on connection. All too often we crash exhausted into Christmas holidays. Combined with unrealistic expectations we are irritable and prone to excess. Conflict erupts, anger and sadness leave us isolated and disconnected. An opportunity for rejuvenating connection and joy can be lost.

The Solution

We know that it takes time to adjust the body, emotions and brain. At this time of year many of us are at a low ebb. We are hanging on to the end. The holiday season is an event that requires training. We have concrete evidence for what we can do to get fit and celebrate meaningful connections. There is just enough time between now and 24 December to get fit.

Here is HOW

Make a PLAN

You have 30 days before the bell rings. Starting today, allocate a few minutes a day for deliberate practice. My suggestion is 15 minutes each day that you dedicate to building your connection muscles. These may be short bursts adding up to 15 minutes. Get them in your diary.

Define your PRACTICE

The smarter and more effective your practice the quicker your physiology, emotions and brain circuits will show sustained change. Each of us must find the right practice but we have good science to support five key practices to shape up and work on every day.


If you are caught up in the mental storm of pressure, worry and regret, you will only find suffering. The first practice is to exhale slowly, drop your mind into your body and fully sense, feel and observe the moment. Each time you do this your blood pressure and heart rate will drop, you will activate vagal tone (relaxation and connection), and allow your mind to be fully attentive. You have activated the right physiology for connection (1).

Practice Tip: take a minute to do this before every meeting over the next 30 days. When you are actually in a dialogue use the same practice.

2.  Be OPEN

Connection starts with your body. Research shows that an open body posture changes your hormone status within minutes. Your second practice is to remind yourself to sit upright, roll your shoulders back, and open your arms (palms visible). Your goal is to signal warmth (oxytocin) and strength (testosterone). During periods of connection, stay facing the person and maintain your presence (2).

Practice Tip: build a couple of oxytocin-pumping moments into each day. Give your pet a serious cuddle, hug your kids in the morning, get or give a massage, and when you can make time for touch in your partnership.

3.  FEEL emotions

Emotional empathy is the ability to feel the emotions of another in your own body. This is done by your mirror neurons (anterior insula). They are trainable. Once you are in the presence of another, work on really feeling how they are feeling. Watch body posture, note each change in facial expression and listen carefully to the tone of voice. See if you can map some of the same signals into your body. Notice carefully what you are feeling. This can be pretty intense (3). Work slowly. Breathe out some more.

Practice Tip: take care of yourself. To empathise emotionally takes calm, inner strength. You want to notice, engage but not be overwhelmed.

4.  SEE others

Cognitive empathy is being able to know how another is thinking. We can also call it perspective-taking. Prof Tania Singer has been able to show that this happens in a different part of the brain (temporoparietal junction). Other have named spindle cells (von Economo Neurons). In short it is worth trying to think the thoughts of others (4).

Practice Tip: take a moment to check with another if you have read their perspective or point of view accurately. Given them a moment to acknowledge your accuracy or help you correct your reading.

5.  Do GOOD

At the end of the day it will come down to action. This may be making a call to someone, saying thank you, sending a birthday note, or simply picking up some trash. Research clearly shows that taking positive action – even if a little random – helps us and creates a virtuous cycle of generosity and trust. Don’t wait for Christmas ‘prize-giving’.

Practice Tip: keep it authentic you will find yourself feeling so much better. It is a good addiction to develop. Be good by doing good! This is the purpose of the Christmas Season. Connect……


  1. Porges, Stephen, The Polyvagal Theory, 2012
  2. Cuddy, Amy, Presence, 2015
  3. Ricard, Matthieu, Altruism, 2016
  4. De Waal, Frans, On Empathy, 2009 and Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?, 2016.
How to Stare down a Bear and prioritise self-care

How to Stare down a Bear and prioritise self-care

Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

Prepare your SELF for a market correction

Wobbly times strike our global markets. Abundant advice is pushed on how to protect your financial assets (63,800,000 on Google today). What about you? NotBear market your money, your company, your home or your investments but your fundamental core value driver – Y O U. Your physical body, your emotions and your thoughts need your attention.

Global markets in the red are both a reflection and cause of human fear. Often a correction is a helpful signal to humility and caution. Occasionally, it is a major and devastating destruction of value – government, corporate, retirement, and personal. What is happening now may just be a timely correction. Or, perhaps we cannot “kick the can down the road” any more. Government debt, personal debt and the abuse of our planetary resources will, at some time, be addressed.

Poverty is a cause of suffering yet the real suffering is self-inflicted by our thoughts, our feelings and physical behaviours. The spread of these self-inflicted tortures ranges from suicide to relationship breakdown with a mass anxiety in the middle. Following the GFC of 2008, suicides increased by 5,000 globally – mostly male (British Medical Journal). These men did not die from poverty. They took their lives when hope was lost or shame was overwhelming.

Millions panic, hundreds of millions sink into anxiety, depression and doubt. Business suffers, innovation collapses, relationships become distressed and healthcare demand accelerates. Yet, we barely address and execute on the personal dimension. The single most important thing you can do is take care of yourself, then put cash under the mattress.

Both the greed of booms and the terror of crashes lead us into stupid personal decisions and behaviours. Just as airlines urge us to put our own oxygen masks on first, so we must stop and get our biological self in order. Here are 7 focus points:

  1. Define and lock down your rituals

At a behavioural level the single most important action you can take is to maintain your daily practices. Time with loved ones, exercise, sleep, regular meals and time in nature will help you hold stability and clarity of thought. If you know how to meditate add in 10 minutes twice a day.

  1. Work like mad to stay calm and present

Fear is incredibly infectious. As anxiety and doubt increase our discomfort increases. Increasing the emotion of fear cripples your capacity to stay focused and connected to what matters. Think of lemmings running off a cliff. Do not join them. Force calm, not denial, into your moments. Use long slow exhalations to slow the physical reactions of fear and focus the mind. Keep your body relaxed.

  1. Define what is important to you and execute

By being calm and clear, take time with those you love to define priorities. Develop a plan to protect those things most important to you and cut your unnecessary expenses and investments. Once you are clear on priorities, move fast and execute.

  1. Connect and communicate with loved ones

When markets crash dreams are shattered. It is tough feedback and it hurts. Absorbing this pain alone in the office or the pub will not help. Take time to connect with loved ones. Tell the truth, share your feelings and offer your support to others. The evidence shows clearly that when we reach out with altruism, we help others and ourselves.

  1. Protect your sleep

Sleep is often the first foundation of your resilience to crumble. This is due to the physiological effects of fear and the worried thoughts that tumble through our minds. Alcohol, electronic distraction, late nights and drama at home will make it worse. Make sure you create calm down time and a “no worry zone” for your hours of sleep.

  1. Stay fit and eat smart

Turbulent times demand personal discipline and consistent self-care. Make sure you maintain your fitness and eat quality regular meals. Stretching, yoga, tai chi and aerobic exercise will all reduce anxiety. Avoid the inevitable desire for sugars and processed/ fast foods.

  1. Sustain your passions

Most of our real passions don’t require a lot of money. Take time to remind yourself of where your joy and flow come from. Take time to get out in nature, do things with friends, maintain your hobbies, and take time with friends.

Remember that humans are naturally resilient. We have always bounced back. Make sure you are ready to be the early adopters of recovery. All change is opportunity.



Originally published on www.resiliencei.com and reproduced with permission.

In this Resilience Insight we look at how we harness the mind to change-grow-transform.


Change – a tale of two systems

Change is not straightforward – our default position is to operate much of the time on ‘auto pilot’ playing out behaviours that are well established without even thinking about them too much.

The brain has two fundamentally different operating modes – the first being the instinctive/auto-pilot system. This is a very efficient system that takes little energy for us to operate. This can be the most useful way to go if we want to ‘do more of the same’, but when we want to change our behaviour, this system can lead us down the vulnerable ‘low road.’ When this happens the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ reaction triggers a physiological response that decreases our ability to move towards change.

When we want to engage in some sort of change we need to access the ‘mindful/reflective’ part of the brain, which involves a whole separate system. When we understand how to access this system we can choose to go down the resilient ‘high road’.

The performance supply change

To make changes we need to engage this different part of the brain and understand ‘the performance supply chain’. If we can do this we significantly increase our ability to bring about real change.

All aspects of what we refer to as ‘the performance supply chain’ interact with each other to lead to the actions necessary to produce change. When we go down ‘the low road’ our body is switching on some aspect of the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ reaction that means the sympathetic nervous system is in the driver’s seat. This then colours our emotional reactions (heart), which in turn impacts on our style of thinking (mind).

To break the loop we need to ‘reframe’ at each level of the ‘performance supply chain’.

Begin at Base camp

The first link in the chain is the body. We often refer to this as ‘base camp’ – because without paying attention to our physical state and dealing with it first, we can not sustain the effort needed to change.

To sustain efforts to change we need to engage our ‘willpower’, which involves locking in the ‘mindful/ reflective’ system we referred to earlier. Research shows this is an ‘energy hungry’ system and that some key aspects of the body need to be taken care of before we can sustain the effort to produce lasting change. Four key factors that the research shows support willpower are:

  1. Sleep
  2. Meditation/mindfulness
  3. Physical Exercise
  4. Low glycaemic, plant based diet

These are corner stone practices within The Resilience Institute’s approach.

The other key here is that it is often the physical reactions of the body, and the emotions linked to them that we notice first and give us the clue that we need to switch ‘systems’. When we notice these cues we can start to intervene to ‘take the high road’.

Pause and plan

When we can notice signals from the performance supply chain (physical sensations, emotions, un-useful thoughts) that cue us we are heading down the ‘low road’ we can pause and start to ‘reframe’ starting with the body link in the chain.

This involves intervening to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system and activate instead the parasympathetic nervous system. We can ‘breathing our way to self-control’. By breathing with our diaphragm, slowing both our inhale and exhale, we can even out our heart rate variability.

By calming ourselves in this way, we keep the prefrontal cortex of the brain active and from this space can make choices of action that are more flexible and adaptive (activating the parasympathetic nervous system). This is a very different way of responding than when we are on autopilot or when the fight/flight/freeze response is warmed up in some way (activating the sympathetic nervous system).

A key aspect of this ‘consciousness’ is that we are more able to be aware of what we are thinking and feeling – and therefore are in a position to reflect and then choose a different path for our behaviour. From this position we can ‘Pause and Plan’ – choose not take that drink of alcohol, eat that piece of cake, shout at a colleague, continue to ruminate and beat ourselves up over something that can not be changed. To do this, the next step is to build a different relationship with our thinking and emotions.

A different relationship with thought and emotion

We can easily get caught up in treating our thoughts and feelings as if they are ‘reality’, as if they are an actual external threat. This then triggers some aspect of the ‘fight/flight/freeze cycle’. When we can identify that our thoughts and feelings are purely ‘internal’ we can evoke a different response.

The first step is to train up the ‘watchman’ or ‘witness’, to be able to stand back and observe our thoughts and feelings and as a result to experience more clearly the part of us that can take this perspective. This builds on the concept of ‘open monitoring’ raised in the ‘Awaken the Mind’ Resilience Insight.

Try this simple exercise – do this for a couple of minutes at least 3 times a day. Stop and become aware of what thoughts are passing through your mind. For each thought/feeling you are aware of, think to yourself; ‘I am having the thought that the deadline for the report is coming up’ or ‘I am having the feeling of anxiety’ or ‘I am having the thought I am not very good at observing my thoughts’. This first step is just to strengthen the ‘watchman/witness’. The next step in strengthening this new perspective is to add to the same exercise an extra step. ‘I am having the thought that the deadline for the report is coming up – that is just a thought – it does not control my action – what is important to me/what do I value – and therefore what action do I want to focus on’. The same with the feeling of anxiety – ‘this is just a feeling – it does not control my action – what is important to me/what do I value – and therefore what action do I want to focus on.’

This seemingly simple exercise starts to strengthen our awareness that there is a calm and focused ‘observer’ available to us all the time – a part of us we can keep ‘in the driver’s seat’ by developing a different relationship with our thoughts and feelings. Doing this also brings our attention more often to the ‘present moment’ and enables us to choose action that lines up with what is important to us rather than being pulled off target by the ‘instinctive/autopilot’ system. This gives us ‘behavioural flexibility’ – we are consciously choosing our path – taking the ‘high road’.

Where do values fit in?

Ultimately the goal of having the behavioural flexibility to make changes is to be able to follow a path in our lives that lines up with our values. If our motivation for stopping smoking is a result of our GP saying it would be good; to lose weight so we can look like the person in the magazine ad; to improve our relationship with a work colleague in another department to meet a target set by our boss – all these have the danger of being driven by what others expect of us rather than something we are personally motivated to do.

When we are on ‘auto pilot’ we are more likely to respond to things that provide instant gratification and to respond to what others (bosses, partners, advertisers etc.) expect of us. Part of the usefulness of engaging the ‘Pause and Plan’ part of our brain is we can think longer-term and reflect on what is really important to us.

Before we can do this we need to have spent some time reflecting on what is really important to us – and this is not a one off exercise, because that changes over time and often has to take into account others that are important in our lives (if that lines up with your values). A web search for ‘what are my values’ bring up a number of lists/questionnaires that can be a starting point.

One technique that I have used with some of my coaching clients to get them in touch with their values involves getting them to have a conversation with their future self. The first step is imagining yourself 10 or 20 years from now and asking that future self to comment on the issue your are addressing – you then ‘keep the conversation’ going until you feel you have got the information you need. E.g. “Future Self – how do you feel about the amount of exercise I am doing?” “Well Present Self, I am going to have to live with what ever body you leave me with 20 years from now – I still want to be in shape to tramp and mountain bike – the way things are going I can’t picture I will be in shape to do that – here is what I suggest…”etc

Getting a clear picture of why you want to make the change you are focusing on, how it links to your values and future and developing a ‘mental touch stone’ to remind you of why you are going down this road is a key element in keeping us on track. We end up with a ‘personal GPS’ that helps us navigate a path that aligns with what we value.

How this ‘Reframing’ looks in practice

Tim is part of a ‘virtual team’ tasked with delivering a complex project for the business over the next six months. The pressure is on and this morning his boss had a go at him about complaints that have been coming from Sally who is the Marketing team’s member on the project team.

Response 1: “I am sick of the boss blaming me! Bloody Marketing again – Sally is going behind my back” = Instinctive/autopilot system = un-useful rumination=sympathetic response =fight/flight’ activation – going down the low road.

Response 2: Tim notices! and starts to reframe at the body level – Pause – ‘need to calm myself – use my breath’ – Breath= calm= parasympathetic response= ‘Pause and Plan’ “I am having the thought that the boss and Sally are blaming me. I am having the feeling of anger. These are just thoughts and feelings – they do not have the power to control my behaviour – I can calm myself. My personal values include being a good team player. I personally believe in the benefits this project will bring to the business. The boss’s response is more about his/her short fuse rather than anything I have actually done wrong – maybe Sally did not feel confident to raise the issues with me directly (having reframed at the ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ levels of the performance supply chain we can more clearly see things from the point of view of others). I need to get along side Sally – I will suggest we have a weekly one on one review of how the project is tracking and give each other feedback on what is working well/not so well in the way we are working together. This feels more like the way I want to be.”

These same principles can be applied to a whole range of changes:

  • Responding differently in a relationship
  • Building a regular exercise routine
  • Stopping smoking
  • Being able to focus more on our positive vs. negative thought
  • Staying calm yourself and helping others to understand and engage in a change project

Building Skill Just having an intellectual understanding of this process is not enough – all of these things take practice. There are some key skills to build to be able to ‘take the resilient high road’ and operate more often in the ‘Pause and Plan’ mode.

  • Shifting from ‘sympathetic’ to ‘parasympathetic’ response. We need to practice using our breath to make this switch.
  • Mindfulness. Understanding that the basics of a simple mindfulness practice is like taking your prefrontal cortex to the gym. It directly strengthens our ability to keep the ‘Pause and Plan’ system active when we need it.
  • Building a different relationship with our Thoughts and Feelings. Regularly stepping into ‘observer mode’ strengthens our ability to activate this reflective stance.
  • Clarifying Values. Without our ‘personal GPS’ we are less likely to make good choices around our actions.
  • Making a Plan. When wanting to institute a change in your behaviour – make a plan. Reflect on why this is important to you personally – think about what disciplines need to be applied and what ‘tricks’ or techniques might aid you in the early stages. Don’t try to make too many changes at once.