When I hear the word resilience, I typically think of attributes like stamina, strength, or grit, as well as the ability to endure external blows.  Not just physical blows, but psychological and emotional blows, as if a resilient person possessed some kind of magical spiritual exo-skeleton.  

Recently I received some unofficial resilience training.  It involved hiking 500 miles with a backpack for 25 days. Qualities like positive attitude, acceptance of pain, and endurance were essential.  But one of the most surprising lessons was this: Rest is critical to resilience.  

After day 3, fatigue left me doubtful I could trek another 20 miles.  However, the utter exhaustion also meant an early bedtime of around 9:30 PM – something I have never had the discipline to do before.  This meant roughly 8 hours of sleep each night. And though sore and achy every morning, miraculously, I found I had healed enough to rise up and press on into the next day’s long walk.  Some of my favorite books claim 8 hours is needed for peak contribution, but I confess I’d always been skeptical. Now I believe.

So the next time you feel a lack of resilience to handle what life is handing you, consider more or higher quality rest, rather than simply muscling through or giving yourself another pep talk to keep working.  Rest can come in many forms. One of the best is, of course, sleep. But many times that is not enough to feel balanced. Slow walks, a gentle yoga practice, a bath, reading and writing – these simple actions are deeply restorative and create resilience.