Are you tired? Are you tired of being tired? Do you need a rest? We’ve all been through so much, especially in the last year. Did you know there are several different types of rest we all need? I didn’t until I watched a TED Talk by Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith.
Inspired by her work, I did some research and I also reflected on the topic myself. As we all know, rest is not just about sleep. I’m sure you’ve had those nights when you’ve been lucky enough to have 7 or 8 hours shut-eye, but you didn’t wake up feeling refreshed.
Everything we do requires energy, mental, emotional, physical, and it can be difficult to allow ourselves to switch off. Our brains can be in overdrive regurgitating conversations from the day, even though we are stretched out on the sofa or in bed. I also know that when I’m lacking motivation for projects that once inspired me, I’m usually in need of rest.
There are two types of physical rest; passive and active. Passive rest is sleep. I like to view quality passive rest as sleeping through the night and waking naturally without an alarm. I’ve never been one to nap, but napping or having forty winks would classify as passive rest too.
Active rest includes activities such as yoga, stretching, having a massage, meditation, and conscious breathing. I find it fascinating that the body has this in-built wisdom as we stretch and yawn when we are tired, but perhaps we can gift ourselves active rest more purposefully.
When we feel overwhelmed, swamped, and can’t switch off, we are in need of mental rest. Our minds are likely to be in flight or fight mode, juggling commitments and on alert for perceived threats.
Mental rest means taking a break, even if it is only for a few minutes during the working day. Disconnecting from the inputs, technology and news sources is a key component of mental rest.
I know that physical movement will take me from my overactive mind and into my body. That’s why we will go for a walk around the block to clear our heads. Meditation of course is a terrific way to quieten the mind as is listening to soothing music.
It’s through our five senses that we make sense of the world. Contrast the input our senses are exposed to daily with what our grandparents experienced sixty years ago. From just a visual perspective how many screens do you watch every day? Lights, noise, voices, music – we live in a world of incessant stimuli. It’s like we’ve set up camp in Times Square. Just as an overworked PC will slow down or crash, sensory rest requires us to switch off and reboot.
Think about the volume of brainstorming, lateral thinking, quests for new solutions, idea generation, business pivots and the imagination to keep kids entertained, that we’ve had to do over the last year. Whilst creativity can fuel us, any muscle when it is overused will get tired.
Movement that connects the right and left sides of the brain such as walking, running, swimming or cycling supports creative rest. I’ve also found the ‘morning pages’ exercise from Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way, a useful technique for clearing the head and replenishing those creative juices.
I would hazard a guess that if you’re reading this you would view yourself as an empathetic, caring person. Of course, we want to be a support and a help to others, but we can reach a point where we only have so much to give. Helping others from a place of exhaustion always leads to resentment. We all know the analogy of putting our own oxygen mask on first, or as the spiritual teacher, Iyanla Vancant says, only feed people from the saucer, because your own cup is overflowing.
Allowing ourselves some emotional rest, is not about being unkind or selfish, it’s being aware of the trade-offs, what am I saying yes to and what am I saying no to. We become just a little more conscious of our boundaries as we ensure we are caring as much for ourselves as we are for others.
On one hand, you could say that with the degrees of lockdown we’ve experienced over the last year, we’ve had an opportunity to avail of social rest. When it comes to parties, conferences, and large social gatherings that is true.
For me, social rest is required when I feel weighed down by the expectations of others when favors somehow transform into commitments. I know I also need social rest when other people frustrate me, I become tetchy and can feel like I’m bending over backward.
A social media detox, especially when you sense it drifting into anti-social media, supports not just social rest, but also presses pause on FOMO, the toxic comparisons that social media fuels. Social rest also reminds me of the Blaise Pascal quote – “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” And he wrote that in the 1600’s nearly 400 years before the invention of the smartphone.
Spiritual rest, as referenced by Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith in her TED Talk is slightly different from the others. It’s not a rest from spirituality practices, because when we are talking spirituality we are talking connection with the Divine, an infinite resource of love.
For me, this one is all about resting in my spirituality. When I’m feeling burnt out and stressed, it’s because my ego has been running the show, my focus has been on individual achievement as opposed to fulfillment.
For me, spiritual rest is all about engaging with something greater than myself, something that helps in shaping meaning. As Oprah says you can never have true fulfillment without a spiritual practice. I know this to be true for me. Walks in nature, reading spiritual texts, connecting with art and of course my daily yoga practice allows me to rest into my spirituality.
Maybe it’s just a reflection of my work and personality but I do believe we can benefit with rest from pursuing goals and objectives. I know many people who place extreme focus on climbing the career ladder, raising their profile, and staying visible. Too much of anything include personal development and goal-setting is tiring. All work and no play and so on! Pressing pause, taking a breath from all that climbing, maybe even considering a sabbatical keeps us balanced.
Logically, we all know the benefits of sharpening the saw, but so many people have the pattern of working until they drop in their tracks, running the belief that anything less than 100% effort 100% of the time, would make them lazy. Sometimes we simply have to give ourselves permission to rest, acknowledging that we are allowed to replenish depleted energy.
The Italians have the wonderful phrase ‘dolce val niente’ (as referenced by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat Pray Love) meaning the ‘sweetness of doing nothing.’ How about gifting yourself some of that in the coming weeks?
If you enjoyed this post then make sure to listen to my podcast episode titled ‘Do you need a rest’ and do join my community below by subscribing to my monthly E-Zine.