3 rituals to help you build resilience and beat stress

3 rituals to help you build resilience and beat stress

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I was watching Good morning America recently and saw a segment where they were advising people to take short breaks between work tasks. The program cited an analysis in the journal PLOS ONE showing that “micro breaks” during the workday increase energy and decrease fatigue.

This is the essence of the recovery methodology that I learned from research and personal experience, dating back to my days as a teenage lifeguard at Jones Beach in NYC. We focus on practicing what I call resilience rituals and how they help us battle exhaustion, exhaustion, and burnout as we rebuild resilience.

The forces driving us towards burnout are chronic stress (driven in part by being constantly online), multitasking, and forgetting to attend to the needs of our bodies and minds. The results can be catastrophic for our health and well-being, but there’s good news: Resilience rituals, when practiced regularly, can help us recharge, rejuvenate, and be our best selves.

Related: 7 Keys to Build Resilience

When I was a lifeguard, we had dozens of sea rescues every day, but there was one rescue that botched when we couldn’t find a swimmer who fell in the rough waves. Since that tragedy, we have promised to make sure it would never happen again under our control. To keep that vow, our lifeguard crew had to learn to become more capable and navigate themselves in the face of major tragedy. To ensure everyone was performing at their best, we started taking more breaks and texting each other.

Today I call this concept the toggle method, a way to recharge energy and increase resilience.

How the toggle method helps recharge resilience

For a long time, people have defined resilience as our ability to take a hit and bounce back. The person who was able to produce more, endure more stress, and be the first in and last out of the office was deemed resilient. Trying to live up to that old paradigm is one of the reasons why so many people are burnt out, close to, or past burnout.

You can’t endlessly absorb stress and take the hits of uncertainty and anxiety and keep coming back stronger. It’s like fighting a rip current. Instead, I believe resilience is about recovery. It’s the recovery process that ultimately allows you to bounce forward, rather than recover.

Practicing resilience rituals allows you to alternate between periods of focused energy (the “Zone E”) and periods of focused rest and recovery (the “Zone R”), like a light switch flipping on and off. Taking breaks throughout the day allows you to alternate between your E-Zone and your R-Zone, using intermittent rest, recovery and regeneration as a tool to boost productivity and performance.

When you switch back and forth between these two states often enough throughout the day, you find that your ability to concentrate increases. This allows you to get more done throughout the day with less tiredness, less exhaustion and less risk of burnout. Over time, this also helps you build higher levels of resilience.

Related: Want to prevent burnout? Start building resilience now.

Change menu

So how can we regenerate ourselves in ways that increase our longevity, capacity and sustainability, both as individuals and as a team? We have developed a “toggle menu” of things people can do throughout the day to reset, recharge and rejuvenate. Some tasks can be done in less than a minute, while others can be done in 30 minutes or less. Here are a few to try:

  • Legs to the wall: This is my ultimate go-to for afternoon energy. Rather than drinking coffee or eating a candy bar, try lying on your back with your legs vertically against the wall, with your body in an L shape. You can do this for a minimum of 20 minutes with your eyes closed, with or without meditation. Set an alarm because you could literally fall asleep! After 20 minutes in that position, you will wake up or get up refreshed. It feels like taking a multi-hour nap without grogginess. You have relieved the pressure on your back and legs. You have better circulation and blood flow. You will feel mentally, physically, emotionally and maybe even spiritually restored. When I do this for 20 minutes in the afternoon, I find my capacity matches my best productive hours in the morning.

  • Cardio walking zone 2: The impact of walking can never be overstated, especially if you walk after a meal. Walking helps regulate biochemistry to lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and increase levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body. Take one or more 20- to 30-minute walks throughout the day and you’ll likely feel better. A cardio walk in Zone 2 is a little different because you breathe through your nose and keep your mouth closed as you walk, so you don’t talk to other people or talk on the phone. By inhaling and exhaling through your nose, you create more of an aerobic experience with greater benefits for your cardiovascular system. It is a combined walking/breathing exercise that you will find restorative and beneficial to your sense of well-being. If you walk after eating, you get the benefit of increasing your metabolism and helping the digestion and assimilation of what you ate.

  • Hand/ear massage: Your ears typically aren’t touched much, and massaging them can be a bit of a change of state. This is an area that has been shown through research to produce a change in the way neurons fire in the brain. So when you’re sitting at your desk feeling tired, close your eyes and massage your ears up and down for about 60 seconds. You can also try massaging your hands between your thumb and forefinger. Little switching rituals like this one can have a big effect!

Related: 5 Reasons Science Says You Seriously Need to Take a Break

There are many ways you can take breaks throughout the day to recharge your energy and restart your resilience. Try to set aside some quiet time for meditation, gratitude, and prayer to start and end your day. Set reminders on your phone to remind you to unplug for a little while each day. Experiment with different activities of various durations and see what works best for you.

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