Have you ever woken up on a Monday morning so exhausted, even if you spent the last two days sleeping in and watching your favourite shows? Have you ever had trouble sleeping even if your body is so desperate for rest, because your mind just won’t stop thinking? Have you ever felt so irritable, yet you try to gather all your strength to smile and say you are fine when you’re asked how you are doing?
If you’ve ever found yourself in these situations, it is likely that you are not as well-rested as you may think. Physician and author of “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity”, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, says sleep and rest are actually very different things. Anything we do in our daily lives takes different kinds of energy, therefore they require different kinds of rest. In her book and herTED Talk, she outlines the seven types of rest. This blog will go into how you can tell which one you need and what you can do about it.
1. PHYSICAL REST
This is the “traditional” definition of rest, including sitting down or lying down, taking a nap, or having a full night’s sleep. The body has its requirements for rest, and this includes the 7-8 hours of sleep we keep hearing as advice for rest.
There are several ways to know if you need physical rest. These include observing your body and really listening to what it is trying to tell you. Maybe you will observe some muscle soreness or tightness in some areas. Maybe your eyes are strained from too much screen time. Maybe you will observe that you spend most of the day fatigued and relying on substances like coffee, energy drinks, or sugar to keep you alert and lively for the rest of the day. When you do notice that you have these physical symptoms of an unfulfilled need for physical rest, you may opt to take a break and stretch, walk around your office or house for a bit, take a nap, or commit to getting enough sleep tonight.
Although, Dr. Dalton-Smith says , “sleep alone could never restore us to the point where we feel rested”. So keep reading to be introduced to the rest of the six ways you can rest.
2. MENTAL REST
You could sleep a whole 8 hours or more everyday and wake up feeling like you haven’t slept a wink. You’ll know it’s a different kind of torture if you’ve ever tried resting your weary body, but your mind refuses to calm down and it keeps zooming around to things that happened in the past, your worries for the future, things you need to do tomorrow, things you forgot to do today, and everything in between.
A question you may ask yourself when looking into how much mental rest you need is how much of your mental capacity have you spent for the day. We all know the feeling of being overloaded or overwhelmed with information. When you feel yourself approaching your personal limit, it will be good to make a conscious effort to either mentally unload or shut your thinking off for a quick minute with meditation.
This could be done with journaling to offload, or simply writing stuff down so your brain doesn’t have to use its energy to store it for you. You will find a great sense of mental relief when you know whatever it is you need to remember is written down somewhere and you can come back to it later. It could be helpful to keep a notebook and pen by your bedside to make this habit easier to build. You’ll notice we didn’t suggest taking notes on your phone, especially when it is your intention to wind down for bed. This is because it’s so easy to get distracted on our phones. A new notification might come in or you may see media that triggers you to think about something that’s hard to get off your mind. Before you know it, you could be spending another 30 mins scrolling through your different apps without realising it.
Which brings us to the third type of rest...
3. SENSORY REST
We are so used to experiencing the world with our senses that we could forget they need rest too. If you really take a step back and look at your average day, can you find pockets of silence or the lack of sensory stimulation? With the way the world works right now, the answer is probably “no”. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important to mindfully carve out those pockets of sensory deprivation. It may sound like an extreme measure, but it’s actually very simple.
Examples of sensory rest you could take today could be closing your eyes and leaning back on your seat for a minute and enjoying the darkness and the lack of visual stimuli. Something similar can be done for your ears when you're the kind of person who has a podcast running in the background all day while you're working.
It could be a good opportunity to rest your senses when you a shower at the end of the day in silence or turn the music off on your drive home. Aromatherapy is therapy for our sense of smell, and in turn our mind and body. You could light a scented candle while you lay in silence and in darkness for a few minutes each night. And finally the almost-age-old advice of no screens two hours before bed, since all of the blue light, as well as the visual, auditory, and mental stimulation that comes with consuming media is not going to help our quality of sleep.
When you have the opportunity to do this for longer, like for example during the weekend, it would be good to unplug from technology and turn off all your screens.
4. EMOTIONAL REST
Have you ever gotten tired from being “on” all the time? This is the state of auto-accommodating the preferences, requests, and feelings of others before our own. It's the state of always trying to be okay for everyone else’ sake, but at the cost of our own. A lot of us don't even feel the need to take an emotional break because we keep at it until we reach our limit. This is definitely not the healthiest way to go. It will serve us in the long run to be honest with ourselves and take frequent emotional breaks.
Emotional rest is being authentic with owning and expressing our emotions. It also includes prioritising relationships that mirror positive feelings back to us. It is cutting back on our instinct to please people or put other people first. Emotional rest includes putting up healthy boundaries and refusing to take on heavy emotional loads that do not belong to us. This type of rest is often interlinked with the next.
5. SOCIAL REST
Social rest can look different for every other person based on their degree of extraversion and introversion. Some folks derive social energy from being out and about, and bouncing the energy off of other people. For some people social rest looks like staying at home and recharging by spending time alone. For many people, social rest includes different degrees of both.
Social rest is basically spending more of our time in environments that nourish connectedness to others and ourselves. With this in mind it would be beneficial to identify key relationships we have in our lives where we feel safe and able to express ourselves in an authentic manner. These are the connections and relationships that replenish us emotionally. This is how emotional rest and social rest may be practised at the same time.
6. CREATIVE REST
Creative rest is replenishing your sense of inspiration and passion for whatever it is that you do in life. It can include putting yourself in beautiful environments, appreciating art, going out in nature, or doing something creative just for the sake of it, with no attached negative consequences like rejection or any desired outcomes. For people especially in creative fields, creative burnout is common. Ironically, when you are forced to be creative, or to come up with new out-of-the-box ideas all the time, it could be harder to come up with anything at all.
For anybody and everybody who desires to stay inspired, it is helpful to keep art, elements of nature like flowers or potted plants, postcards of beautiful destinations, and even photos of those you love in your work space for that quick creative reset.
7. SPIRITUAL REST
Spiritual rest is applicable no matter what you believe in, if you believe in anything at all. It is simply connecting to purpose or a reason for doing whatever it is you do day to day. According to Dr. Dalton-Smith, spiritual rest is “connecting beyond the physical and mental, and feeling a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance, and purpose.” It could be the release of stress and control with the knowledge that everything will be worth it or that everything will turn out alright in the end. That takes pressure off of us for a bit, and we are able to rest in that space.
With the knowledge of these seven different ways to rest, we hope that you will find yourself more rested and energetic in the weeks and months to come. We hope that you will find rhythms of rest and that you are able to create those intentional pockets of rest throughout your day. With this information, we hope that you are able to rest more completely so that you can show up as your best self in your life. If you are looking for more ways to take care of yourself, we have a few suggestions.
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