Recovery is an important stress-management technique and something that you have to learn to use, preferably more often than you are now. There is never too much recovery.
According to the DRAMMA model, recovery can be divided into six subcategories. So, recovery isn’t only relaxing and doing nothing, it’s about much more than that.
Recovery is also not only something you do after you’ve finished work or on the weekends. It’s something you can do between tasks during your work day. Actually, it’s something you have to do during your work day in order for you to be creative, productive, and efficient.
Without recovery there is no innovation.
The six subcategories of the DRAMMA model are detachment, relaxation, autonomy, mastery, meaning, and affiliation.
Detachment – cognitively switching off from work/the stressful situation. Preferably an activity that does not draw on the same resources as work-related activities. One of the most effective ways to disengage from work is to fully concentrate on some other cognitively demanding task, such as painting.
Relaxation – essentially ‘doing nothing’. Sleeping, reading or watching tv fall into this category. Whatever you need to feel like you’re doing nothing and relaxing.
Autonomy – being able to decide over actions and decisions. Autonomy refers to having a free will and a voice. Self-determination theory (SDT) states that autonomy is one of the three basic needs required of overall well-being. To achieve maximum recovery, you need to feel in charge of what you are doing with your spare time. Running errands and doing chores might help you detach in some way, but will not ultimately help you recover. While they might be voluntary, they are still not activities that you would have chosen for your free time.
Mastery – engaging in something that challenges you, for example playing chess or training for a marathon. Too much challenge results in stress, too little in boredom – we have to find our own ‘Goldilocks zone’ of recovery. This will create a sense of flow that ultimately leads to feelings of achievement and competence.
Meaning – something that adds meaning and purpose to your life. When we engage in activities that provide a purpose in life, it helps reduce negative emotions and provides a sense of tranquility and peace of mind. This, in turn, increases relaxation. What gives you purpose in life?
Affiliation – sense of belongingness and social support. Most of us need other people around us in order to feel well. Being connected to other people and belonging to something larger than oneself helps create meaning and decreases loneliness. Activities that involve collaboration or meeting other people can help you recover better.
All recovery activities do not have to include all 6 features but it would be good to have something from each category. As a researcher, reading non-fiction books might be fun and inspiring, but might not help you detach from your work. Or if you spend all your work time surrounded by people, you might want to spend your free time alone to charge your batteries.
There is no one size fits all – you have to figure out the combination that works best for you.
- Newman, D.B., Tay, L. & Diener, E. (2014). Leisure and Subjective Well-Being: A Model of Psychological Mechanisms as Mediating Factors. J Happiness Stud 15, 555–578. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9435-x
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist, 55(1), 68.
- Virtanen, A., De Bloom, J. & Kinnunen, U. (2020). Relationships between recovery experiences and well-being among younger and older teachers. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 93, 213–227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-019-01475-8