Burnout and stress are more prevalent than ever, according to the American Psychological Association. But there is a way to fight these mental health conditions: rest. And no, that doesn’t just mean sleep.
Have you ever made it a point to get seven to nine hours of sleep—the recommended time for adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation—only to still feel exhausted once your alarm rings? As it turns out, a lack of sleep might not be your issue—a lack of rest could be.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REST
We all know what it’s like to feel well-rested—awake, grounded, centered, and ready to take on whatever comes our way. Unfortunately, making time for rest is often a second thought.
Rest is vital for optimal health and wellbeing, however, rest is often viewed as something not valuable because work is not being completed—productivity is not being accomplished. Yet without adequate rest, it’s impossible to work effectively, which makes it more difficult to be productive.
That’s why it’s so important to incorporate rest into your routine before the stresses of daily life take their toll. Resting—both your body and mind—can help reverse burnout, as well as prevent it before it strikes. Even whenever we are not focused on completing a task, our brain is still engaging in its default network—meaning it is examining possible answers and seeking new knowledge. Learning to rest more effectively can help give our brain the rest that it needs to continue functioning optimally.
THE 7 DIFFERENT TYPES OF REST
According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD, there are seven types of rest that can have real, lasting positive impacts on the body and mind: mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and physical.
1. PHYSICAL REST
Physical rest is exactly as it sounds: a break from physical exertion. Physical rest is important because it gives the body a chance to release tension and enter a state of reparative calm.
Examples of physical rest include taking a day off from working out or engaging in hands-on labor. That’s not to say you can’t be active while still incorporating physical rest into your routine. Meditative exercise like yoga can provide your body with adequate rest and relaxation, while also helping to calm the mind.
2. MENTAL REST
Speaking of the mind, mental rest is pivotal. Mental rest occurs by providing the brain with breaks and activities that involve little brainpower.
If you’re worried breaking up your workday will make you less productive, opting for an easy cleaning session over strenuous mental work (like taking a 20-minute break to tidy up your work area) can prove just as effective. Other examples of mental rest can include taking time to catch up on a favorite show, work in your garden, or listen to a podcast. Mental rest can even be as simple as writing down your nagging thoughts so that you can get them off your mind.
3. SENSORY REST
By now you’ve likely heard that the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt healthy sleep patterns. Of course, electronics and lights aren’t the only sensory elements that can weigh heavily on a person’s mental restfulness—noise can, too. While these things can make falling asleep particularly difficult, they can also make staying calm and focused throughout the day more of a challenge.
Sensory rest can include implementing a phone-free bedtime routine, as well as silencing distracting notifications throughout the workday. (Pro tip: Apple’s new Focus modes help tremendously with that!) And, sensory rest can also incorporate avoiding driving or commuting and other crowded instances that can put your senses on high alert.
4. CREATIVE REST
Even the most creative people in the world—artists, musicians, writers—need breaks from creating. In fact, without breaks, creating becomes more difficult than ever before (such is the concept behind phenomena like writer’s block).
Great ways to engage in creative rest include activities spent in nature, whether a walk around the block, a moment of birdwatching, or simply getting grounded to the earth beneath your feet. Participating in creative rest can allow the brain to restart and gain its creativity back. Adding music to the background of creative rest can make it that much more enjoyable—it might even inspire your next creation.
5. EMOTIONAL REST
Emotional rest occurs whenever the time is taken to express emotions honestly. By sharing your emotions, you’re able to lessen their burden on your mind and body and, in doing so, you can promote a healthier mental state.
Venting to a trusted friend or family member, attending therapy, or even journaling are all examples of productive emotional rest. Emotional rest can also mean taking a step back from situations that make you overly emotional, whether it be relationships with friends, family, and significant others, or a difficult-but-necessary aspect of your career.
6. SOCIAL REST
Social rest can mean taking a step back from engaging in too many social interactions, which can feel overwhelming after a while. But, social rest is all about prioritizing social encounters that revive us.
Saying no to an event or activity you genuinely don’t want to attend is an important form of social rest. Additionally, quality time spent with a close friend or family member with whom you feel completely comfortable is an excellent way to practice social rest. Social rest goes hand-in-hand with creating a proper support system throughout all aspects of life.
7. SPIRITUAL REST
Despite its name, spiritual rest doesn’t mean taking a break from your spiritual life, but rather leaning into it.
Spiritual rest occurs when connecting deeply, be it through prayer or meditation. This type of rest can help restore and refocus some individuals. Non-Sleep Deep Rest (or NSDR) can be defined as different forms of restorative mindfulness techniques, including meditation and yoga.
HOW TO USE THESE TYPES OF REST
If you’re hoping to find a prescribed amount of rest, it doesn’t exist—it varies from person to person. The type of rest that each person needs depends on who they are and how they feel the calmest and rested. For example, yoga may help one person rest and reset, while taking a walk out in nature would work best for a different person. Everyone is different and figuring out what type of rest works for you is essential to resting properly and effectively.
Striving for all the different types of rest discussed can decrease the chances of experiencing burnout and can promote a life filled with happiness and wellbeing.
RESOURCES FOR GOOD REST
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