Stress and Recovery. The Two Vessels in Each of Us

Image of stress and recovery

The Scourge of Our Generation

Stress is one of the greatest problems of our generation and often the root of many modern illnesses such as burnout and depression. In the past few weeks, several people came to me with more or less the same problem. They were successful in their chosen careers but they were feeling down and stressed. What is even more interesting, most of them were also doing the usual things that should have helped them recover from the stress: moving more, regular exercise, mediation, reading, interacting with people, etc. What could have been the things that still bothered their minds and did not allow them to recover?

Stress and Recovery as the Two Vessels of Your Mind

It turned out that it was not a single thing but rather a misguided approach towards stress and recovery as a whole. Let’s imagine that your body contains two communicating vessels: stress and recovery. When one fills, the other empties. When the two are in balance, you are in balance. Simple enough. However, most people don’t know that some of the things that should have help them recover are actually causing them more stress.

Some examples

Let’s take exercise. If we go out for a walk in the part or do a slight jog, it is easy to conclude that these activities will fill our vessel of recovery. However, if we have a Type A competitive person, they might get too bored and try and do some easy (for them) sprints during their run, making it look more like an interval training. Now, sprinting is one of the most taxing activities for our bodies and actually fills the vessel of stress. What this person just did was turn a recovery session into a stress session. They will need to recover from their recovery and if they need to go to work afterwards, this is unlikely to happen. That is why it is very important to have in mind what do you want to get from your training session, stress or recovery and structure it according to your current needs.

Another area that most people consider aiding for recovery is socializing. Being among friends is great but if you are a more introverted person (and if you don’t know if you are, is there to help), this might actually become a stressful activity, especially if the you are meeting them in a loud place. On the contrary, the universally calming activity of reading a book might be so boring for an Extravert that it may cause them more stress that recovery. In the case of the Introvert, a night that should have been used for recovery after a stressful day fills their vessel of stress and empties their vessel of recovery.

This is all good, but what can you do about that?

  • First of all, know yourself, what you love, and what makes you (and not those around you) recover
  • In physical activities, the key variables are volume and intensity. The longer and more intense the activity is (i.e. very long runs or sprints or a very heavy weight session), the more stressful it is.
  • That said, when you are feeling stressed, moderate physical activity is one of the best things you can do.
  • Plan your recovery as hard as you plan your stress (i.e. if you are an introverted person about to go out with friends, make sure that you will have time to unwind before the next stressful thing in life)
  • Know how to monitor your stress. Take a moment each hour to ask yourself, Is the thing I am doing right now filling my vessel of stress or my vessel of recovery?
  • If you are able to, make use of the modern technologies. More and more smartwatches offer continuous monitoring of stress (mostly as HRV)

Using this simple metaphor can you identify the things that you thought fill you vessel of recovery but actually where filling your vessel of stress?


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