THURSDAY THOUGHTS: From D1 Athlete Grit to Business World Grind-Why Recovery is the Ultimate Power Move

For most of my life, the mantra “no pain, no gain” was gospel. As a Division I ‘full-scholarship’ athlete, pushing my body to its limits and winning was the norm. It translated seamlessly into the business world – hustle, grind, sacrifice – that’s the recipe for success, right? WRONG.

While that relentless drive brought initial victories from game day to work day, it wasn’t sustainable. Burnout became my unwelcome training partner, leaving me physically and mentally depleted. That’s when I had a revelation: recovery wasn’t a sign of weakness; it was the ultimate power move.

This shift from “go-go-go” to “growth through recovery” applies far beyond athletics. It’s the secret weapon for entrepreneurs, creatives, and anyone who wants to achieve long-term success without self-destruction.

Let me explain why prioritizing recovery is crucial and how to incorporate boundaries with work to cultivate a real work-life balance.

Why Recovery is Your Unsung Hero

Think of your body and mind as a high-performance machine. You wouldn’t expect a race car to run at full throttle forever without regular pit stops, fuel, and maintenance, would you? The same goes for you. Here’s why recovery is critical:

  • Boosts Productivity: When you’re constantly stressed and sleep-deprived, your brain struggles to focus. Taking breaks allows your mind to recharge, leading to sharper thinking and better decision-making. After the insanity of around-the-clock work that COVID-19 brought, were you able to disconnect and recharge when the world was opening up and the constant chaos pulled back (for a few seconds!)?
  • Enhances Creativity: The constant pressure to “perform” can stifle creativity. Stepping away allows your mind to wander and make unexpected connections, leading to fresh ideas. What do you do to keep your creative juices flowing?
  • Reduces Stress: Chronic stress weakens your immune system and increases your risk of burnout. Recovery activities like meditation or spending time in nature are powerful stress-busters. Are you utilizing daily techniques and methods to practice mindfulness and relaxation?
  • Improves Overall Health: Physical recovery allows your body to repair itself, preventing injuries and keeping your energy levels high. Did you know that getting adequate sunlight exposure can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and boost vitamin D levels, which are essential for bone health and immune function?

Boundaries: Your Path to One’s Overall ‘Balance’

Boundaries are the golden key to success. They are the lines you draw between your work life and personal life. They help you prioritize your well-being and prevent work from bleeding into every aspect of your day. Here’s how to create healthy boundaries:

  • Set Clear Work Hours: Establish a designated start and end time for work. Stick to it as much as possible, even if you’re working remotely. This helps train your brain to switch gears when it’s time to unwind.
  • Embrace the Power of “No”: Don’t be afraid to decline additional tasks if your plate is full. Your employer would rather have you deliver high-quality work on time than burnt-out and mediocre work all the time.
  • Silence the After-Hours Notifications: Turn off work email notifications and silence your work phone outside of work hours. This prevents the constant ping-pong of emails and messages that disrupt your personal time.
  • Create a Dedicated Workspace: If you work from home, designate a specific area for work. Ideally, this should be a space you can leave behind when the workday ends. This helps create a physical separation between work and personal life.
  • Schedule “You” Time: Block out time in your calendar for activities you enjoy, whether it’s reading, spending time with loved ones, or simply taking a nap. Treat this time with the same respect you would a client meeting.
  • Vacation is Not a Luxury: Schedule regular vacations and take them! A change of scenery and a break from routine are essential for mental and physical rejuvenation.
  • Communicate Effectively: Be upfront with your colleagues and manager about your boundaries. Let them know your preferred communication methods and response times outside of work hours.

Recovery Rituals for Peak Performance

Here are some specific recovery practices you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Prioritize Sleep: Aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine and create a sleep-conducive environment.
  • Move Your Body: Exercise is a natural stress reliever and improves sleep quality. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s pickleball, dancing, running, or yoga.
  • Practice Mindfulness: Activities like meditation and deep breathing can help you manage stress and improve focus.
  • Spend Time in Nature: Nature has a powerful restorative effect on the mind and body. Schedule regular walks in the park or hikes in nature.
  • Disconnect to Reconnect: Schedule digital detox periods where you disconnect from social media and electronic devices. This allows your brain to truly relax and recharge.
  • Fuel Your Body: Eat a healthy diet that provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function optimally.

Remember: Recovery is not a sign of weakness. It’s a strategic investment in your long-term success and well-being. By prioritizing rest and rejuvenation, you’re equipping yourself with the energy, clarity, and resilience needed to tackle challenges and seize opportunities. Embracing recovery allows you to perform at your peak levels, consistently innovate, and sustain your passion and drive without compromising your health. So, give yourself permission to rest, recharge, and thrive – because true strength lies in recognizing the power of balance.

Leah DeMasters is a results-driven marketing professional with over a decade of experience, seamlessly transitioning from Division I athletics to dominating the business world. As a recipient of Wilmington’s 40 Under 40 Award, Leah’s knack for turning challenges into triumphs and her passion for data-driven strategy have been locally recognized. Known for her visionary leadership style that inspires collaboration and innovation, she actively contributes to organizations such as The OOPS Foundation, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Advisory Council, Wilma Magazine’s Women to Watch Leadership Initiative, Cape Fear CREW, and the Honor Flight of the Cape Fear Area. Leah is here to transform brands and make magic happen.