Last month, a Tweet went viral: "How to avoid burnout. Get 7 types of rest”. Like all viral tweets, it received mixed reviews. Some on Twitter agreed, and others said that advice was impossible, especially when working two jobs just to keep up. The original thread is lengthy, with good points on either side, but it’s hard to debate a mere 41-character statement.
The good news is there is an entire book on the subject. Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, best-selling author and speaker, gave a TEDx talk on the topic in 2019. In her 9-minute presentation, she shared the real reason why we are tired. She believes that as a society, we have wrongly combined sleep and rest into one. We use the terms interchangeably and think that if we sleep 8 hours a night, we should be full of energy - but this isn’t true according to her research. A lack of rest is why so many of us perpetually suffer from low energy and feel exhausted, despite spending enough time on our millet pillow each night.
Sleep is just one of the seven types of rest. Many of us go through life thinking we are “rested” simply because we slept but we aren’t getting enough of the other six types of rest, and the result is chronically tired individuals. This is what Dr. Dalton-Smith calls a “rest deficit.” She says, “rest is the most underused, chemical-free, safe, and effective alternative therapy available to us.”
We have seven energy banks that include mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and physical. As we go about our day, specific interactions, activities, and events draw from these different energy banks. For example, if you go to work and your boss reprimands you while sitting at your desk. This isn’t an exceptionally physically draining event, but it does draw from your emotional and social energy banks. Likewise, when you are stuck in traffic, worried you'll be late to pick up your kids, you use mental and sensory energy to process your surroundings and emotional energy, worrying about your children.
If you think about everything that happens in your day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on your millet pillow, you will find you are drawing from all seven of your energy banks. However, we often tend to use more of specific types of energy. For example, some jobs require more physical energy, while others require more creative energy. The first step to truly feeling more rested is to identify where you are expending the most energy - then you can focus on getting more of the type of rest you need!
Rest isn’t just binge-watching Netflix on the couch or spending hours scrolling through social media; if you think it is, it could be why you always feel tired. To restore energy and feel revitalized follow the tips presented in Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.
Rest Type #1 - Physical Rest
This is the type of rest we most often think of. If you aren’t getting enough sleep at night or are putting your body through physically demanding activities like overtraining at the gym or renovating your bathroom you may experience a physical rest deficit. In these scenarios, you must ensure you are getting enough physical rest. There are two types of physical rest, passive and active. Passive physical rest includes sleeping eight hours a night and taking a power nap when needed. Active physical rest includes stretching, practicing yoga on your yoga cushion, using an ergonomic chair and desk, or getting a massage.
Rest Type #2 - Mental Rest
A mental rest deficit is caused by overthinking or focusing hard for a prolonged period. This can happen when studying for an exam, trying to solve complex problems at work, or doing your bookkeeping. To fix this, you need to unload some of the mental weight you are carrying. For example, if you are keeping a running to-do list in your head, put it down on paper. Writing down your to-do’s can free up mental energy. After work, try incorporating a shutdown ritual to separate the work day from your personal time. This could be a relaxing bath or meditation. Spending time on your meditation pillow is excellent for mental rest. At least 10 minutes a day on your meditation pillow can mentally rejuvenate you.
Rest Type #3 - Social Rest
There are some social interactions that will drain you of energy and others that can energize you. You have likely experienced this energy draining after hanging out with a toxic coworker or confrontational family members. Although you can’t always avoid these types of social interactions altogether, you can prevent a social rest deficit by evaluating your relationships and where you spend your social energy. Think about who drains you and who you feel good around. Spend more time with the people who give you energy and less time with those who steal it. And, if you are more introverted and find most social interactions draining, you should block out alone time.
Rest Type #4 - Spiritual Rest
Spiritual energy simply means being a part of something meaningful and bigger than ourselves. Although it could involve religion or Church, it is essentially whatever feels good for the soul. Life can feel frustrating or dull when we get caught up in the day-to-day. This is a sign of a spiritual rest deficit. To catch up on this, you can spend time volunteering for a cause that is important to you, participating in spiritually based activities, or working in a field that fills you with purpose.
Rest Type #5 - Sensory Rest
It’s not hard to become overstimulated. With our smartphones, we receive constant streams of information and can be contacted anytime. If you are on social media, you have stimulating music, visuals, and text to consume in just 15-second videos. It’s a lot! Our brains haven’t evolved as fast as technology, and we become overstimulated. Take a break from social media for better sleep at night (physical rest) and for sensory rest. You can set limits on how much time you spend on your phone or scrolling certain apps. You can also turn off turn notifications or set your phone to Airplane Mode in the evenings so you can unplug. Step away from technology and create soothing environments. For example, instead of watching TV in the evening, put on some relaxing music, sit on your meditation pillow, and read a book.
Rest Type #6 - Emotional Rest
There will be times in our life when our emotional energy banks are drained quickly—for example, losing a loved one, being laid off from your job, or even planning a wedding. When we experience high emotions daily, we can become emotionally exhausted and burnt out. That said, there doesn’t have to be a significant life event to feel emotionally drained. We can experience an emotional rest deficit whenever we feel like we can’t be authentic. For example, if you are a flight attendant and need to smile at everyone - even passengers who are being rude. The good news is, even if you have one of those jobs where you have to smile when you don’t feel like it, there are ways to get the emotional rest you need. First, ensure you are spending time with people you can be authentic around. If you feel you need to fake it all day at work, speak with a coworker you can be yourself with or perhaps look for another job. Speaking with a therapist is a fantastic way to release your emotional weight. Talking about what bothers you and working through problems with a neutral, supportive person will help.
Rest Type #7 - Creative Rest
Creativity doesn’t always mean painting pictures or creating art. It can be thinking of a new marketing campaign for your business, ways to engage your kids during summer holidays, or even thinking of what to make for dinner every night. To get creative rest, appreciate something beautiful. Beauty can be found in nature or be human-created. For example, you can walk through a forest or sit and watch the sunset. If the weather isn’t cooperating, walk through a museum, go to a concert or read a fiction novel.
Still not sure what kind of rest you need more of? Dr. Dalton-Smith has created a free personal rest assessment quiz online that will help you discover what you need to live a more well-rested life! She recommends identifying one to two of your most significant rest deficits and finding ways to get the rest you need. And, of course, sleep is non-negotiable, so always be sure you are getting at least 8 hours. As you find ways to get each type of rest, you can incorporate more into your daily life. Remember, it doesn’t need to take long. A 10-minute meditation on your meditation pillow or a yoga class with your best friend can satisfy more than one type of rest.