Oscillation: Stress and Recovery

Stress has built up a bad reputation over the years. Avoiding or reducing stress has often been prescribed as part of a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, you may have been to a workshop or course that has provided ways to manage your stress. However, a certain amount of stress is essential to stimulate growth and help the body maintain itself. The problem is not stress, but specifically chronic stress i.e. stress without periodic recovery. It is an issue of balance. Balance between stress, which stimulates growth and repair, and recovery, which allows growth and repair to actually occur.

As Dr. Jim Loehr "puts it", human beings are complex energy systems seeking stress/recovery equilibrium and at our best, cycle between spending and recovering our energy reserves throughout the day. Everything we do has energy expenditure or energy recovery consequences. Moving and being physically active expends energy. Focus and concentration expend energy. Conversely, sleep, rest and a healthy diet help us to recover energy, as does taking a break from a mental task such as working through a hundred emails or so. Issues of drive, motivation, achievement, health and even happiness, according to Loehr, can be linked to a healthy balance between stress and recovery. However, imbalances between stress and recovery all too often lead to issues of fatigue, boredom, irritability, low motivation and even burnout.

Stress balanced with periodic recovery is what we call oscillation at the Human Performance Institute (HPI) and it has been a key component in HPI’s successful training of world-class athletes and other elite performers including military personnel, elite surgeons and CEOs over more than 30 years. In sport, this is called periodization which simply means getting the optimal balance between stress, or training, and recovery, or rest, to achieve maximum performance at the right time. Overtraining in sport simply means too much stress relative to recovery and can lead to sleep problems, physical and mental fatigue and decreased performance. It is commonly known as "overtraining syndrome", but is also sometimes referred to as "under-recovery syndrome".

The lessons we have learned about recovery translate directly into any high-stress environment, where carefully planning strategic doses of recovery in between periods of high stress can prevent the problems associated with chronic stress and help sustain high performance like a professional athlete.

Watch the video, Secrets of High Performance, to hear co-founders of HPI, Dr. Jim Loehr and Dr. Jack Groppel, recall the first time they uncovered one of the key principles in Corporate Athlete® training...and it only takes 16 seconds.