Seven forms of rest: why we should embrace them

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In our fast-paced world, where busyness is often glorified, the value of rest is frequently overlooked. However, prioritising rest is essential for our overall wellbeing. Rest is not just about stopping activity; it’s a crucial component of maintaining overall health. In this blog, we will explore why rest matters, how it impacts different aspects of our lives, and practical strategies for incorporating rest into our daily routines. 

Many of us go through our daily lives feeling exhausted and burned out due to the relentless schedule that shapes so much of modern life. While it’s tempting to believe that sleeping more will alleviate this tiredness, the fact is that sleep and rest are not the same thing. 

In her book, Sacred Rest, medical physician and expert on workplace wellbeing and burnout prevention, Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, explains the difference. She points out that, very often, what people need is more rest, not more sleep. By not realising this and by not bringing rest practices into our daily lives, we can find it very hard to get off the hamster wheel of exhaustion and burnout.

In her clinical practice and research, Dr Dalton-Smith identifies seven types of rest that we often overlook in our daily lives:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Sensory
  • Social
  • Creative 

She explains how a deficiency in any of these types of rest can adversely affect our health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Her findings integrate a scientific understanding of rest, its spiritual dimensions, the benefits it offers, and the positive outcomes it yields. 

Burnout can show up in various ways, including metal and physical exhaustion, along with a significant loss of motivation. When you feel burnt out, it’s essentially a warning sign from both our body and mind letting us know that we have to stop and rest.

Rest holds significant power over our health. It helps aid in the repair of our body, the calming of our brain and the replenishing of our energy. During periods of rest, our body engages in essential repair processes that are crucial for good physical health. While resting, our mind gets a chance to process and file all that we are experiencing.

Rest, unfortunately, is frequently misunderstood or underestimated. In fact, we often feel guilty about even thinking about taking time during the day for any kind of rest. It would serve us well to remember and understand that when we are really rested, both our mind and body can unwind and recuperate from the multiple pressures of daily life. 

Traditionally, in literature, rest has long been acknowledged as a vital aspect of maintaining good health. In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank writes: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.” According to English author, John Lubbock, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” It has always been vital that we pay attention to both our body and mind and take a rest when we need one.

Activities such as painting help us get creative rest

Seven Types of Rest

  1. Physical rest: This encompasses both active and passive rest. It is more than just getting a good night’s sleep; it involves various activities aimed at allowing your body to recuperate and recharge. While quality sleep plays a significant role, physical rest also includes practices such as lying down, relaxing your muscles, and engaging in gentle movement. These actions are essential for helping your body recover from the physical strains of daily life, reducing muscle tension, and replenishing energy levels. Sometimes, activities like yoga or taking a leisurely walk can be just as restorative as a nap. By prioritising physical rest, you can enhance your overall well-being and better manage the demands placed on your body. 
  2. Mental rest: This is crucial for maintaining cognitive function and mental clarity. It involves giving your mind a break from constant stimulation, such as work-related tasks, digital screens or information overload. Mental rest can be achieved through activities like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises or simply taking short breaks throughout the day to clear your mind. By allowing your brain to rest and recharge, you can improve concentration, memory retention and problem-solving skills.
  3. Emotional rest: This is essential for managing stress, regulating emotions and maintaining mental health. It involves acknowledging and processing your feelings, setting boundaries and engaging in activities that promote emotional well-being. This may include spending time with loved ones, journaling or engaging in creative expression. Emotional rest allows you to recharge emotionally, cultivate self-awareness and build healthier relationships with yourself and others.
  4. Sensory rest: This is about reducing sensory stimulation to give your senses a break and prevent sensory overload. It involves creating environments that are calm, quiet and free from excessive noise, light or other distractions. Sensory rest can be achieved through practices like spending time in nature, taking a warm bath, or listening to calming music. Even closing your eyes for a few minutes can help. Of course, switching off from technology for a period every day is vital to help reduce sensory overload. By giving your senses a chance to rest, you can reduce stress, improve focus and promote relaxation. 
  5. Social rest: This involves nurturing meaningful connections with people who uplift and rejuvenate us while minimising interactions with those who drain our energy. It can include spending time with friends and family, participating in group activities and engaging in meaningful conversations. Social rest can provide emotional validation, reduce feelings of loneliness and strengthen social bonds. By prioritising social connections, you can improve your mental and emotional well-being and enhance your overall quality of life. 
  6. Creative rest: This is about giving your mind the freedom to explore, play and express itself without pressure or expectations. It involves engaging in activities that stimulate your creativity and imagination, such as painting, writing or gardening. Creative rest allows you to tap into your inner creativity, problem-solving abilities and innovation. By embracing creative rest, you can reduce stress, boost mood and enhance overall mental well-being.
  7. Spiritual rest: This involves nurturing your ability to connect to something greater than your physical and mental self and find connection, meaning and purpose in life. It encompasses practices that promote connection with something beyond yourself, whether it be through meditation, prayer or spending time in nature. Spiritual rest can provide a sense of peace, contentment and alignment with your values and beliefs. By cultivating spiritual rest as part of a daily routine, you can foster a deeper sense of fulfilment and resilience in the face of life’s challenges.

By prioritising rest in all its forms and introducing it into your daily life, you can start on the road to optimising your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

We can find moments of rest daily whether we are in the city or countryside. By taking this time, each day, we can help avoid burnout and exhaustion.

Seven tips for integrating the seven types of rest into your daily life

Physical Rest

  • Prioritise quality sleep by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Incorporate short breaks throughout the day to stretch, relax your muscles and take deep breaths to reduce tension.

Mental Rest

  • Practise mindfulness meditation or deep breathing exercises to quiet your mind and reduce mental chatter.
  • Take regular breaks from screens and digital devices to give your brain a chance to rest and recharge.

Spiritual Rest

  • Carve out time for reflection, prayer or meditation to connect with your inner self and cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning.
  • Spend time in nature or engage in activities that inspire awe and wonder to nourish your spirit.

Emotional Rest

  • Set boundaries to protect your emotional well-being and prioritise activities that bring you joy and fulfilment.
  • Practise self-care rituals such as journaling, spending time with loved ones or engaging in hobbies that promote emotional healing.

Sensory Rest

  • Create calm and soothing environments by minimising noise, light and other sensory distractions.
  • Spend time in nature or engage in activities that stimulate your senses in a gentle and relaxing way, such as aromatherapy or listening to calming music.

Social Rest

  • Cultivate meaningful connections with positive and supportive individuals who uplift and energise you.
  • Set boundaries with toxic relationships and prioritise spending time with those who nurture and revive your social well-being.

Creative Rest

  • Make time for activities that inspire creativity and play, such as painting, writing or exploring new hobbies.
  • Allow yourself to daydream and explore new ideas without pressure or expectation, giving your mind the freedom to wander and innovate.

Listen: The seven types of rest and why you need to build your rest ethic with Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith.

Read: Sleep and rest are not the same and failure to address both can increase risk of burnout: Rest is the most underused, chemical free, safe and effective alternative therapy available to us, workplace wellbeing expert says.,%2C%20sensory%2C%20creative%20and%20spiritual.


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