When I used to think of rest, I immediately thought of physical rest, the kind of rest you need after doing something physically demanding, like going for a run, and I also thought of mental rest, a need to rest the mind from the constant stream of thoughts from thinking hard about something or worrying about a situation. I hadn't considered that there were more types of rest until I came across Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, the Author of Sacred Rest: Recover your life, Renew your energy, Restore your sanity.
Dr Sandra Dalton-Smith states "We don't really understand their are multiple types of rest." According to Dalton-Smith there are actually seven types of rest:
Physical - this rest focuses on the physical body and sleep is an obvious rest for the physical body but not the only one. I am sure you will have experienced 8 hours sleep before but still woken unrefreshed and not recharged. So for this rest deficit we may need something like a massage or a yoga class.
Mental - this rest is about giving the mind a break and meditation can really help here, or a walk in nature, anything that allows your mind to start to really slow down and feel restored afterwards. One of my favourites is doing a yoga nidra, which means yogic sleep, a guided visualisation where the mind to focuses on a number of exercises to gives it rest from the wondering around the mind often does. It also allows the physical body to deeply rest too, so it is a win win!
Emotional - when we are playing roles, either with family or at work, and sometimes with our friends, we might not be being totally authentic. We may have answered to "I'm fine" when asked if we were ok, although really we might be feeling anything but fine. When we are on emotional auto-pilot and aren't true to our authentic feelings, then we may need emotional rest. So perhaps time away from the roles we play or slowly taking the steps to become more authentic in your relationships, is a way to get your emotional rest you might need and your emotional needs met.
Sensory - from the minute we open our eyes in the morning our senses are operating on full. When we work on a screen all day our eyes can get tired from taking in all the stimulus, couple that with working in a busy and noisy office, then it can feel overwhelming, particularly for highly sensitive people or empaths, Taking a break from too much sensory input can give the senses a break. If you can't get away from your desk at work, then try closing your eyes and focusing on your breath for 3 or 4 breaths. Taking a few conscious breaths like this during the day can give the nervous system the break. Or if you work next to a window, look out into the distance to give your eyes a break.
Social - whether you need this type of rest will depend on your level of socialisation and the types of people you socialise with compared to your own nature. If you are naturally a quiet person, then socialising with extroverts for a period of time can be fun, but for too long, it may feel exhausting. A long time ago I had a friend who always left me feeling exhausted, she seemed to drain my energy. Being highly sensitive and an empath, means that I need to be very discerning about who I spend time with and for how long. In the end my friend and I stopped seeing each other.
Creative - being in an environment that allows you to connect with your creative nature and the inspiration you can receive from being in that type of environment, can be very therapeutic. Nature is often a place to be in to help ignite ideas when you feel stuck. For me playing helps me to restore and recharge my batteries, particularly creative play, where we can easily get into a state of flow. I do laughter yoga most days, along with singing, to help me to connect with my creative inner child. I believe creative rest is a critical rest for people close to burn out, play is imperative.
Spiritual - when we connect to something that is bigger than us, it can provide the spiritual rest we need. It allows us to transcend our usual day to day worries, problems and issues, and connect with the well of peace inside us that is often covered up with all our thinking. Getting out in nature can really help to connect with this aspect, meditation can help, and for those who are religious, going to church, the synagogue, or temple, can help you to connect to that aspect of life that connects us all.
Dalton-Smith states "Most of us are producing from a place of exhaustion." If we are exhausted we can not produce our best work, and the work that we do produce will not inspire or fulfill us. I wasn't aware of all these different rests when I went through burn out and went onto develop a chronic illness. I had massive deficits in most categories. I now use the categories in order to ensure that I am more balanced and I am much more aware of the cues that my body gives me when I am focusing on one aspect. I'm not perfect and still can overdo it. It is always a work in progress getting the balance right, a bit like a captain will continually adjust his ship to keep to a course, so we can adjust each day to ensure we are not going off course too much.
Being aware of the different types of rest is a really good start, then starting to discern where you feel you have some deficits, and working on getting the largest deficit back into balance first. Ask yourself where your time and energy is being spent during the day? Where are your resources being used up? Which rest deficit is having the largest impact in your life? Which one will help you to feel better now? If you are spending a lot of time in the head worrying about various situations, then you may need mental rest. If you are training for a race you may need more physical rest. If you are recovering from a chronic illness you may want to look at looking at taking small steps with all of them.
Restorative activities are not always passive, like sleep, but can include gentle activities and involve putting some effort in, like doing a restorative yoga class, a yoga nidra, or taking a gentle walk in your local park. If you need to take a sensory break, you may need to stop yourself from looking at any screens for a time period. I know for me just taking a break from checking my emails can really help me, having set times where I am online and making a conscious choice and effort, to be offline for set periods of time.
Taking a little time
We don't actually need a lot of time to feel the benefits of getting the various rests we need. A few minutes during the day can really help. As I said above, closing your eyes and becoming conscious of your breathing for a few breaths can help. Something that is incredibly useful for touching all the rest deficit categories is Sophrology. Sophrology allows us to take a physical and mental break, it can help emotionally and creatively and also connect us with that higher or bigger aspect of life and it is often done in groups, so can connect us socially too. The beauty of Sophrology is that it can be done in just a few minutes each day, and it is the repetition that starts to deliver the benefits.
Let me know which category you feel deficient in and how you might re-balance. It is so good to share ideas.
Wishing you a restful day.
With warm wishes,