It’s time for a break. You weigh your options and decide to curl up under a warm blanket. You wake up from a nap and realize that you’re still tired. What’s wrong? When we think of rest, what immediately comes to mind is sleep. However, certain types of exhaustion need more specialist and targeted treatment. We’ve said a lot about prioritizing wellbeing or creating a proper nighttime routine, yet there are still more ways we can take care of our bodies, minds, and souls. Seven, to be exact.
In her Ted Talk, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, physician and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, lists them as follows:
Whether passive (drowsing, napping, watching a movie in a comfortable position) or active (yoga, stretching, massage), this type of rest benefits our physical form (and subsequently our mental state). It might be the most common way we relax. From resting your body on a bed to running a 5K, physical relaxation bears many names but generally aims at regulating your body’s functionality.
If you’re looking for a balanced solution of passive and active physical rest, we’d suggest taking a gratitude walk. It’s the happy medium between effort and a lack thereof: not too demanding, not too static either, with an added bonus of cultivating your appreciation for life. Which brings us to:
Our daily lives can be really tense, with many of the stressors lying outside our control. City noise, traffic, information overload, hectic schedules, and tight deadlines – there’s a certain kind of rest insufficiency that no amount of cups of coffee or energy smoothies can cure. As a result, at home we find it difficult to switch off our brain, the hamster wheel in our head preventing us from enjoying mindfulness or falling asleep in time to get those 8 hours of slumber.
We need an interlude for the mental mechanisms. As much as possible, schedule packets of time off throughout the day. Every two or three hours calm your mind by consuming a healthy snack and focusing only on the taste of it – no emails, no phone calls, no distractions – just you and your delicious food, tune the rest of the world out. After work, let your mind release all your worries and doubts onto paper. Journaling is healing, it will help your mind declutter and rest.
Speaking of technology breaks, we need rest from sensory stimulation. Glued to multiple screens at a time, we overwhelm our senses to the point of exhaustion and then tend to deny the reason for our fatigue by branding time online as relaxation. In reality, a quick pause to check your social media feed might easily turn into doomscrolling. The Internet is both a marvelous invention and fickle business.
There’s only so much diverse information our brains can process. More often than not, multitasking leads to sensory overload and the kind of weariness even sleep may fail to ease. If you’re agitated, anxious, and irritable, target overstimulation. Plan a more organized day and focus on one task at a time. Every half an hour, close your eyes for a few minutes. Turn off the radio on your way back from work. Disconnect from screens to reconnect with nature. Your body and mind will feel more rejuvenated than you never thought possible.
So many of us deem the power of childlike awe and daily creativity unnecessary. We bury our artistic impulses under seemingly more important to-dos. We want to adult properly, there’s no time for frivolity anymore, we have jobs to land, bills to pay, and families to support. Nonetheless, whether you’re a pro or an amateur, making art has benefits. Basic doodling will lower your stress levels, spark your imagination, and help you process difficult emotions.
However, creative rest is not all about writing songs or sculpting. A sunset at the beach that takes your breath away is poetry. Time spent enjoying a piece of music is creative relaxation. Anytime you find yourself in a state of wonder, you become a passionate person capable of inner depth that will give your life meaning. What's more, innovative, out-of-the-box ideas come from unexpected strokes of amazement that you can trigger yourself, for example, by decorating your (home) office walls with vision boards.
Humans can experience 34000 different emotions. Those colorful strands of energy flowing inside us dictate how we feel, act, and treat others. It can be a lot of work to manage our emotions effectively without burying them under a cold armor of indifference, yet emotional authenticity is vital to our happiness. Hence, we need to normalize answering “I’m not ok” to a “how are you” question, accept crying as a form of tension release, and reach out for help if we need it.
Emotional rest prevents random outbursts of what we sometimes carry inside ourselves. One effective way to monitor your emotional wellbeing is mood tracking. Use an app or simply write down how you feel every morning and evening to swiftly identify the moment things might potentially take a darker turn. Taking care of your mental health should be an essential part of your daily schedule.
Emotional rest deficit often goes hand in hand with social rest deficit. After all, emotions connect or disconnect us from others. Regardless of whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, we all need company to survive and enjoy life – this much is true for everybody. At the same time, we’re not all the same. People are unique which means we all differ in terms of character, dreams, aspirations, and attitude and we will never be compatible with everyone.
Hence, in order to rest socially, we either have to learn how to spend time alone, or how to form and focus on the most meaningful relationships in our lives. We are the sum total of the five people we surround ourselves with the most. Choose your tribe wisely because you will absorb the emotional states of those closest to you whether you like it or not. Our family, friends, and colleagues can either revitalize or drain us. In case of the latter, give intentional solitude a chance.
Life is what you make it. If you choose to believe there’s nothing more to it, you might never find or experience anything beyond the physical realm. And that’s ok, by all means, you need to live and realize your life vision according to the rules your heart dictates. Yet, we believe, every time there is a why behind what you do, a deeper layer opens up in your endeavor. Is love alone not proof of something greater than ourselves? We could reduce its romantic incarnation to mere chemistry, yet how would we explain all the selfless deeds we do for one another?
If you ever looked in the loyal eyes of a dog and saw a best friend who’d be ready to jump into fire for you, you know devotion that cannot be described. If you ever had a purpose so strong that it made you move mountains, you know passion beyond any definition. When your child tells you they love you, you know unconditional love that escapes explanation. Life is a miracle in the simplest of moments. If you choose to perceive it that way, you will know gratitude that leads to spiritual rest.
Rest may be effective and ineffective in equal measure. We cannot prevent burn-out with an extra hour of sleep and it would be useless to try and heal from emotional trauma by putting our feet up and whistling. Since most of our energy is not merely physical, it’s important to correctly determine and interpret the undertow of our tiredness to be able to relax accordingly. Dear readers, take proper care of yourselves. Rest smarter, not harder.