Jim Loehr is a performance psychologist and author who has worked with some of the world’s top athletes. Loehr’s philosophy is that one’s success is proportional to the strength of one’s character. And, he believes that character strength can be built the same way we build strength in our muscles – a powerful idea. In Tim Ferriss’ book “Tribe of Mentors,” Loehr says the following about stress –
“Another piece of bad advice: “Protect yourself from stress and your life will be better.” Protection from stress serves only to erode my capacity [to handle it]. Stress exposure is the stimulus for all growth, and growth actually occurs during episodes of recovery. Avoiding stress, I have learned, will never provide the capacity that life demands of me. For me, balancing episodes of stress with equivalent doses of recovery is the answer. Playing tennis, working out, meditation, and journaling provide rich mental and emotional recovery. Adhering to my optimal sleep, nutritional, and exercise routines during stressful times is critical. Seeking stress in one dimension of my life surprisingly brings recovery in another. Avoiding stress simply takes me out of the game and makes me weaker. In a real sense, to grow in life, I must be a seeker of stress.”
His notes on stress and recovery resonated deeply. As stress tends to have a negative connotation, I use the word “stretch” instead and have come to observe that intervals between stretch and recovery are a wonderful combination for growth.
TLDR: Be intentional about what you are looking to learn, seek challenges and work intensely when you are working. Then, switch off completely to reflect and recharge when you are not.