The Importance of Rest

Rest. Who in our culture actually gets enough of it? In honor Labor Day Weekend, here is an ode to the seven types of rest, according to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity. (Note that very few of them have to do with taking a nap!)

Mental Rest
When you feel distracted, overwhelmed, or unfocused, you likely need a mental rest, which allows you to disconnect from cognitive demands so your brain can have a break. Get mental rests by taking shorter breaks throughout the day  (lie in your hammock for a few minutes!). Journaling is also good for mental rest, as it allows you to empty all your mental tension out onto the page. Setting aside your devices is also crucial for mental rest.

Physical Rest
The body never lies: if you’re in pain or physically dragging you need physical rest. This can be either passive or active: passive physical rest means sleep; active physical rest is any activity that improves your physical well-being, such as acupuncture, mild, restorative exercise like yoga and qi gong, meditation, dipping your feet in the ocean or a river, or anything else that offers your body a re-set.

Social Rest
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need some of this kind of rest from time to time. If you’re feeling depleted by the idea of being around others, don’t worry about FOMO, just say no to that invite.  Get some snacks, turn off your notifications, put on your comfy clothes, and prepare for some serious “me” time.

Emotional Rest
Life is known to throw a curveball or two. In times of stress, it’s easy to feel emotionally blown out. Take a break from the world’s demands and nurture yourself. Watch a funny movie for a laugh. Hang out with a friend who doesn’t require too much emotional energy. In other words, give yourself permission to come up for air from the stress you’re experiencing.

Creative Rest
This is the rest you need if you’re feeling blocked creatively. Get into nature: go for a trail run, a hike, or go lie on the earth somewhere lovely. You could also do something just for fun, like playing a board game or corn hole, knitting something, or baking bread. Going to the theater or a museum also counts, as you are immersing yourself in other people’s creativity, which can stimulate your own.

Sensory Rest
You know you need this when you feel a shot of dread mixed with anxiety when a notification on your phone comes in. Non-stop sensory input from light, noises, other people, and media can create sensory overload. Rest from this by taking a digital detox, lying in a quiet, dark room for 15 minutes, or resting on the earth (without your phone).

Spiritual Rest
Feeling disconnected and unmoored?  This is a sign your spirit could benefit by a rest, too. Spiritual rest offers a sense of purpose, belonging, and groundedness. You can get it by engaging in activities such as spiritual practice in a group with others (what Buddhists call “sangha” and Christians call “church”), volunteering, or seeking guidance from a spiritual counselor or mentor.

It’s a misperception that being busy equals being productive. Rest is valuable for living a life of regeneration rather than depletion. Now please, go indulge in a rest day, and why not indulge in some first-rate self-care while you're at it? 

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