The Different Types of Rest: What Type Do You Need?
Updated: Jun 4
We've all been there. Regardless of how many hours of sleep you get you're still feeling tired. You've had an eight hour work day and come home adamant that you're going to rest, so you plop on the couch and zonk out watching your favourite show. Hours pass...but you're still feeling tired. You might question how that's possible because you've just spent the last few hours resting.
Not many people look at rest as more than what it is, "rest." But there are many different types, and the type that you're focused on might now be the type that you're deficient in. Saundra Dalton-Smith has laid out these different types of rest in her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, and below is a brief outline of the types of rest.
This is what most people would think of when they think rest, and it's arguably the most obvious one to know. You might notice yourself lacking physical rest because you're frequently getting sick, you have muscle pains or soreness, and that you require things like energy drinks or coffee to give you energy. So how can you achieve physical rest? You can think of physical rest in two forms: active and passive. Active will look like yoga, stretching, breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, eating healthy, and ultimately taking care of the way your body functions. Passive will look like sleeping, napping, taking a bath, resting your eyes or even skipping the gym!
Being depleted mentally can be a result of many things such as negative self-talk, rumination, and anxiously worrying about the what-if's. It can also simply be constantly going through your mental to-do list. When you're mentally exhausted you find it hard to stop your mind from racing and falling asleep, or you even notice that your memory has taken a hit. Some ways to include more mental rest in your life can look like taking breaks from your screen, positive affirmations, grounding exercises, meditation or jotting down some of those thoughts on a notepad before bed to create some mental space.
Another type of rest is one that might come naturally to some and less to others. This is emotional rest. You might find yourself feeling emotionally drained after experiencing a taxing relationship argument, or a recent loss, or even constantly receiving or hearing about bad news (2020-2022 anyone?). Checking in with yourself and your emotions can help you get a sense of how emotionally drained you are. This is often harder for some to create as it's not that obvious. So some ways you can create emotional rest is through unloading some of those emotions you're holding on to through journalling, talking to a trusted person, or therapy! Another way load up on emotional rest is to laugh! So cue up your favourite comedy and search for some humour in your day.
You ever been around someone for a few hours only to leave and feel like they've sucked the energy right out of you? This doesn't always mean that you're surrounded by negative people because sometimes it can even be your loved ones that need things from you and end up draining your energy. Our loved ones drain our energy when it feels like we're pouring most of our energy into them and not receiving any energy back. This is when social rest is needed; cultivating relationships where connecting is not draining or allowing others to pour energy back into you. This can look like connecting with someone that you can be your authentic self with and where they don't need anything from you and you can just be. It can also mean reconnecting with yourself! Make a list of the relationships in your life and your favourite solo activities. Ask yourself, of those relationships and activities, who and what is pouring into my bucket vs draining my energy.
This next type of rest is unique because many might think that if you're not stereotypically creative that you don't need this one. Everyone is creative in their own way and it involves more than being an artist. We use our creativity a lot...even when we don't realize it. For those that use a lot of problem solving or brainstorming in their day, you may be in need of creative rest too. Sometimes we need to step away from being the creator of creativity and shift towards engrossing ourselves in other people's creativity. Give yourself a creative break by allowing yourself to appreciate other people's creativity: read a book, go on a walk and look at trees/ocean/mountains, look at artwork! Allow yourself to actually take in the beauty of these things to help rejuvenate your own creativity.
Overstimulation is the norm now. Shout out to all my "I need a TV show playing in the background for me to scroll through tiktok" people out there. Even when you put your phone away, sensory input is all around us and our body's are attentive enough to pick up and respond to a lot of that input. There are frequent virtual meetings to attend, screens to look at, text messages and calls coming through our phone, social media notifications, bright screen lights. Constant sensory input creates an overload in our system that can show up through irritation, frustration, and anger. Consider sensory rest through: turning off your phones, taking out your headphones (yes, even you, the one that is trying to avoid conversation!), look up and around as you commute throughout your day. Intentionally creating sensory rest can help reduce the impact of the overstimulation that we all experience today.
Spiritual rest will look different for each person depending on their beliefs, but this doesn't always have to be religious. Spiritual rest can be about feeling like you belong and connecting with something bigger than just yourself. If you find yourself asking questions like "what I do doesn't really matter" or "I wish I had some sort of purpose in life" you might be deficient in spiritual rest. Consider: exploring your purpose/meaning in life, volunteering, joining a group, or even finding meaning in your day-to-day to cultivate the belief that "what I do matter."