Feeling tired, overworked, mentally drained, or emotional, most of us turn to
sleep to cure our ails. But according to author of Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra
Dalton-Smith, not only is this ineffective, but it means we’re missing out on the
seven types of rest we need to function and feel well.
is important, without meeting all of our resting needs, we wind up with a high
achieving yet chronically burnt out population.
Of course, entering our third year of pandemic life, we’re all feeling the
fatigue - and we always recommend visiting your GP to support your health
journey. But if you find yourself reaching for three and four cups of coffee to get
through the day, this might be a sign you need other forms of rest - all seven of
them - to reach a more refreshing baseline.
1. Physical rest
The one we’re all familiar with, physical rest can be either active or passive.
Passive rest involves things like sleeping or napping, while active physical rest
covers activities that nourish the body in restorative ways - think yoga and
stretching, massages, epsom salt baths, and any physical therapy that boosts
flexibility or circulation.
The National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise averaging 7-9 hours of sleep
each night to ensure a healthy level of physical rest. As for the active rest styles,
experts suggest 2-3 times a week will support your overall physical rest.
2. Mental rest
Mondayitis, the 2pm slump, brain fog - whatever you want to call it, it’s a sign
of mental rest deficit. And it’s caused by an overuse of our brains, whether
it’s working without breaks or being ‘always on’ thanks to our digital age
Dalton-Smith says the best way to counteract this mental fatigue is to take a
10-minute break every two hours; step away from your desk, take a walk around
the block, have a snack, meditate - anything that lets your brain reset away from
screens (that last part is important!) Make it a habit by scheduling these breaks
with an alert in your phone or computer, and see if you notice a difference.
Dalton-Smith also recommends having a journal where you jot down any
nagging thoughts that keep you awake at night, another way to relieve your
mind and rest better.
3. Sensory rest
With our eyes glued to multiple screens, the noise of your environment, the
fast-paced world we live in, our senses are bombarded with stimuli all day long.
Dalton-Smith says, “The bright lights, computer screens, the background noise
of phones ringing and multiple conversations going on in the office can all cause
our senses to be overwhelmed”.
To avoid what’s known as “sensory overload syndrome”, you’ll need to turn
off lights, unplug your electronics, find a quiet space, and even close your eyes
for a few minutes. Do this during the day and again in the evenings and you’ll be
on track to reaching new levels of sensory rest. Treat yourself to a longer sensory
rest with a digital detox, a soak in a sensory deprivation tank, or a weekend
4. Creative rest
For all the creative types, problem solvers, and folks in strategic roles, this type of
rest is especially important! Creative rest encourages you to immerse yourself in
inspiring spaces and take a break from being an ideas machine. Ditch your
phone and get back into nature, listen to music (without doing something else),
watch a film that uplifts you, or enjoy some no-purpose stream-of-consciousness
Creative rest asks you to seek awe and creativity without the pressure of
performing. This lets you recharge and return to your job or life with new creative
vigour - because you can’t pour from an empty cup!
5. Emotional rest
This one is for all the carers and people pleasers - the activists, parents, teachers,
social workers, and counsellor types. Using the same ‘empty cup’ analogy, you
can’t be expected to maintain high levels of emotional output without your own
This can look like building a regular self-care routine, saying ‘no’ to prioritise
yourself (yes, even when it might disappoint someone else), and identifying the
activities that replenish your emotional energy. As they say on aircrafts, put on
your own oxygen mask before helping others.
6. Social rest
The introverts out there will feel this type of rest, which is all about restoring your
social deficit. When we spend more time with people who drain us, rather than the
people who leave us feeling full, it takes away from our social capacity.
Dalton-Smith recommends spending more time in the company of our positive
social circles, and less time with those who fall on the draining or demanding side
of the spectrum. For many, a certain amount of solo time is also useful to revive
your energy levels.
7. Spiritual rest
The final type of rest we need is spiritual, and while for some this might mean
religion, for many it has an entirely different meaning. Spiritual rest means finding
ways to reconnect with a deeper sense of self beyond the physical and mental,
particularly if you’re feeling lost or disconnected from the world.
To restore your spiritual levels, Dalton-Smith recommends doing something that
speaks to you on your own spiritual level; meditation, volunteering in the
community, going to church, and getting back to nature are all examples of
Getting the ‘right’ kind of rest
It might seem like a lot to squeeze into your already busy life, but by knowing all
the different types of rest, we can better identify which ones we need on any
Dreading work? You need mental or sensory rest. Avoiding creative passions
because you’re lacking inspiration? It’s time for creative rest. Burning the candle
at both ends in work and life? This calls for physical and social rest. Drained from
caring for a loved one? Emotional rest all the way.
Take a leaf out of Dalton-Smith’s book and pay attention to when and where you
feel most tired during your week. A fresh, sparklier version of yourself is right
around the corner!