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Are You Getting the Right Kind of Rest?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “rest”, I think of getting enough sleep, taking a nap, or maybe relaxing. So, I was quite surprised when reading the book How to Live in a Chaotic Climate by LaUra Schmidt to read about seven kinds of rest.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, who did work on preventing burnout, identified these seven areas. She found that people she worked with sometimes needed physical rest, but it didn’t end there. They also need mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual rest.

Why physical rest isn’t enough

As soon as I read about the different types of rest, it felt like a bit of a revelation because I’ve had times where I’ve gotten enough sleep and haven’t understood why I still feel tired.

Physical rest is important, of course. Getting enough sleep is critical, but physical rest can also be some kind of restorative activity, like stretching, yoga, or getting a massage. But when you’re tired in other ways, these will only go so far.

Other types of rest and restoration

According to Dr. Dalton-Smith, the other types of rest we need are:

  • Mental rest: this is when your mind needs a break from constant use – some options are taking short breaks throughout the day, practicing meditation, and giving your mind a chance to wander.

  • Sensory rest: with so much sensory stimulation – lights, TVs and computers, noisy machines – it’s easy for our senses to get overwhelmed. To address it, some ideas are unplugging from devices, closing your eyes and focusing on breathing, or using noise-canceling headphones.

  • Creative rest: this can be a problem if you’re trying to solve a problem and your mind hits a wall, or if you find yourself lacking inspiration on a creative project. Getting creative rest involves finding a sense of wonder again, including by getting outside, looking at images that speak to you, and listening to music that moves you.

  • Emotional rest: this is when you allow yourself to fully experience your feelings, perhaps by speaking to someone you trust about what’s really going on or finding ways to release emotions, such as dancing, singing, or painting.

  • Social rest: this is when you need to understand which relationships drain you of energy and which ones replenish you. You’ll also need to limit time with those who drain you and focus on being with positive, supportive people.

  • Spiritual rest: this involves connecting with something greater than yourself. This might mean attending church, but it could be spending time in nature, meditating, or spending time in reflection.

What does this have to do with eating?

It’s very common for people to eat when they’re bored or when they’re trying to cope with some other issue, like being lonely or sad. Some people also eat when they’re tired, hoping to boost their energy.

But if you’re not physically hungry, eating doesn’t address the real issue in the same way taking a nap won’t make you feel rested if the problem isn’t lack of sleep.

Focusing on these different types of rest and restoration may instead help you address the underlying reason that’s triggering you to eat. Maybe you’re bored because you feel stuck creatively, in which case creative rest could help. Perhaps you’ve been having a difficult time but haven’t allowed yourself to process that – give emotional rest a try. If you’re lonely, you could consider your relationships and see if you want to spend time around different people.

And if you can find a way to address the real issue, you’ll likely be less inclined to reach for food.

Feeling rested in all ways is important

Our society doesn’t treat rest very seriously. I’ve heard people say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and I once had a CEO who claimed that no one ever had any problems due to lack of sleep.

But physical rest is important, and so are other types of rest. Only when you’re feeling rested in all these areas will you be at your best, in your work, in your play, and in your relationships. And that will benefit everybody.


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