Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure


Personal note– I am a Driver, a Workaholic, and I sleep very little. I feel that I don’t follow this advice as much as I should. And then social factors don’t favor us as much, I tell myself that women have to work extra hard to get where a mediocre man would get with little effort. Not sure if that is my excuse. 

Nonetheless, I hope you find this valuable. I plan to work on my recovery and resilience as well. 

Why is work depleting us? Why can’t we be tougher – more resilient?

  • Based on current research, we have come to realize that the problem is not our hectic schedule, the problem comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to be resilient, and the resulting impact of overworking.
  • We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach to resilience and grit.
  • We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefore the more successful we will be. However, this entire conception is scientifically inaccurate. The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful. 
  • And just because work stops, it doesn’t mean we are recovering. We “stop” work sometimes at 5 PM, but then we spend the night wrestling with solutions to work problems, talking about our work over dinner, and falling asleep thinking about how much work we’ll do tomorrow.

The scientists cite 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.”

  • The misconception of resilience is often bred from an early age. Parents trying to teach their children resilience might celebrate a high school student staying up until 3 AM to finish a science fair project. What a distortion of resilience! 
  • Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience. And the bad habits we learn when we’re young only magnify when we hit the workforce.

The key to Resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. HOMEOSTASIS.

  • Homeostasis is a fundamental biological concept describing the ability of the brain to continuously restore and sustain well-being. Positive neuroscientist Brent Furl coined the term “homeostatic value” to describe the value that certain actions have for creating equilibrium, and thus wellbeing, in the body.
  • If you have too much time in the performance zone, you need more time in the recovery zone, otherwise, you risk burnout. 
  • Mustering your resources to “try hard” requires burning energy in order to overcome your currently low arousal level. This is called upregulation. It also exacerbates exhaustion. 
  • The value of a recovery period rises in proportion to the amount of work required of us. 

So how should we recover and build Resilience?

  • Most people assume that if you stop doing a task like answering emails or writing a paper, your brain will naturally recover. But surely everyone reading this has had times where you lie in bed for hours, unable to fall asleep because your brain is thinking about work. If you lie in bed for eight hours, you may have rested, but you can still feel exhausted the next day. That’s because rest and recovery are not the same things. Stopping does not equal to recovering.
  • If you’re trying to build resilience at work, you need adequate internal and external recovery periods.
  • Internal recovery refers to the shorter periods of relaxation that take place within the frames of the workday or the work setting in the form of short scheduled or unscheduled breaks, by shifting attention or changing to other work tasks when the mental or physical resources required for the initial task are temporarily depleted or exhausted.
  • External recovery refers to actions that take place outside of work—e.g. in the free time between the workdays, and during weekends, holidays, or vacations.


  • If after work you lie around on your bed and get riled up by political commentary on your phone or get stressed thinking about decisions about how to renovate your home, your brain has not received a break from high mental arousal states. Our brains need a rest as much as our bodies do.
  • If you really want to build resilience, you can start by strategically stopping. Give yourself the resources to be tough by creating internal and external recovery periods. 
  • You can use apps like Off time or Unplugged to create tech-free zones by strategically scheduling automatic airplane modes.
  • In addition, you can take a cognitive break every 90 minutes to recharge your batteries.
  • Try to not have lunch at your desk, but instead spend time outside or with your friends — not talking about work. Take all of your paid time off, which not only gives you recovery periods, but raises your productivity and likelihood of promotion. 
  • When we get off the recovery zone/ time, instead of being depleted, we feel rejuvenated and ready to return to the performance zone.