How to Know If You’re Resting Correctly

How to Know If You’re Resting Correctly

Absolutely pooped. Does this describe how you’ve been feeling from the moment you crack open your eyelids ‘til you head to bed? And that’s despite clocking a solid seven to nine hours of sleep.

What you need to stop feeling so blah all the time isn’t more sleep, but rest. Now, of course, you're wondering: "Isn't rest the same thing as sleep?" Contrary to popular belief, it’s not.

  • Rest: A waking state in which you’re not actively engaged in anything
  • Sleep: A non-waking state during which specific, involuntary activity takes place in the brain and body

Also, while there are only two types of sleep (REM and non-REM), there are seven types of rest your body needs to feel and perform its best, according to Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D. (the author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity). Learn what they are and which you’re desperately short on, so you can finally get back to feeling your best.

The seven types of rest

Here are the seven types of rest (in no particular order):

  1. Physical:Relieving your body from physical stress (e.g., from intense workout sessions).
  2. Mental:Quieting your mind and focusing on what’s really important.
  3. Creative:Exposing yourself to things that inspire and motivate you.
  4. Sensory:Taking a break from sensory input from electronic devices, aromas, and background noise.
  5. Social:Spending time on relationships that enhance your life while limiting exposure to toxic individuals and “energy vampires” (i.e., people who drain—sometimes intentionally—your emotional energy).
  6. Spiritual:Connecting with something larger than yourself and having a sense of belonging and fitting in. (Note: spiritual rest doesn’t have to involve religion.)
  7. Emotional:Expressing your genuine feelings (i.e., saying “No, thank you” to your people-pleasing tendencies).

What type(s) of rest do you need?

Wait. So, how would you know which type(s) of rest you need? A quick hack is to think about how you spend your time daily. Which tasks take up most of your day? What resources (e.g., creative thinking) are you using to accomplish those tasks?

For example, let's say you're a certified personal trainer and spend most of your time coaching clients one-on-one. You're probably using a lot of physical, social, and emotional energy—which means you'd need to prioritize these areas of rest.

Here's a quick disclaimer: this method of determining which type(s) of rest you need isn’t always accurate. To illustrate this, research shows that high levels of passion can motivate and energize. So think about it: a musician genuinely passionate about creating music is less likely to feel creatively drained from their work than another who may be in the trade primarily for fame and riches.  

Thankfully, Dr. Dalton-Smith created a free quiz (aptly named “Rest Quiz”) you can take to find out the exact type(s) of rest you need to incorporate into your life. A heads up for the easily distracted and time-short: this quiz will take you at least five to ten minutes to complete. There are 70 questions—yep, we counted, and you’re welcome.

So, clear some space in your schedule and find a quiet place to take the quiz; it’ll be worth it, promise!

How to get the rest you need

Know which type(s) of rest you need but don't know how to actually make it happen? Start with these ideas:

  1. Physical
  • Do "gentle" activities, like slow-flow yoga or stretching.
  • Sign up for self-care treatments like chiropractic care, massage, and acupuncture.
  • Lay on the couch and re-watch your favorite TV shows or movies.
  1. Mental
  • Take short breaks throughout your day (e.g., step away from whatever you’re doing every hour or so).
  • Disconnect from the internet, social media, and emails for some time.
  1. Creative
  • Get out into nature. Take a walk around the neighborhood, through a park, or go on a hike.
  • Create something just for fun.
  • Visit a museum, pick up a new book, or listen to your favorite music. 
  1. Sensory
  • Try sensory deprivation therapy, like a float tank or noise-canceling headphones.
  • Meditate.
  • Unplug your electronics, turn off the lights (if possible, of course), and shut your eyes for a few minutes.
  1. Social
  • Say no. Turn down social invitations that will likely emotionally drain you.
  • Stay present (i.e., leave that phone alone!) when spending time with loved ones; allow the interaction to recharge you.
  1. Spiritual
  • Volunteer for a cause that’s personally meaningful for you (e.g., at an animal shelter or hospital).
  • Join a faith-based organization, spiritual community, or a group that aligns with your interests.
  • Work with a life coach or mentor to understand the bigger picture of what you’re trying to achieve with your life.
  1. Emotional
  • Express your emotions honestly in a safe space, such as with close friends and family members or writing them down in a private journal.
  • Stop saying “yes” to everything before you’ve had a chance to really weigh the pros and cons. Instead, say, “I’ll think about it” before making your decision.
  • Engage a counselor or therapist.

If you have multiple rest areas to juggle, here's a tip: start improving the one with the greatest negative impact on your life and move down the list. You’ve got this.

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