The 7 Types of Rest You Need
I have been managing anxiety for some years now, especially after I got my Lupus diagnosis. At that time, besides taking care of my health, I worked 60+ hours a week, managed a family with two little ones and a husband who traveled 75% of the time. With COVID-19, everyone is experiencing anxiety at some level: some people are eating more, others are sleeping less, etc.
Some of us use rest to recover – put our minds to think something else out of problems, finances, diseases. Shutting our brains off can provide some rest in certain situations. Nevertheless, it’s just one of the seven forms of relaxation that help us function as humans.
According to Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D., author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Renew Your Sanity, humans need physical, mental, social, creative, emotional, spiritual, and sensory rest.
“People say, I’m tired all the time, I’m drained.” Dr. Dalton-Smith says. “If they’re waking up (after sleeping) and still exhausted, the issue probably is not sleeping. It’s likely a rest deficit.” What?
Getting the proper type of rest requires identifying what, exactly, you’re missing.
“For a lot of people, if you have a deficit in an area, you’re likely to experience specific symptoms,” Dalton-Smith says. “If your deficit is in mental rest, you might have trouble with concentration. If you have an emotional deficit, you may find you’re snapping at your husband, and he hasn’t done anything. If you have a sensory rest deficit, maybe you used to love 4th of July fireworks, but now you’re jumping out of your skin, or you’re chronically anxious when getting out of the car.”
Can you relate? I can!
Once you’ve figured out the type of rest you need, it’s time to adapt your rest to fit that specific need. Here’s how to get the rest you deserve:
You’ll know if you’re physically exhausted: You’re struggling to keep your eyes open, and even walking to bed feels like moving through quicksand.
The most common form of physical rest is sleep, so consider hitting the hay 30 minutes earlier or sitting out that HIIT class.
Catching up on physical rest can also mean taking deep breaths during the workday or squeezing in a restorative yoga class to give your body some time to stretch. More energy (and less yawning) should be a pretty obvious sign that it’s working.
Ever felt like your brain’s turned to mush? Then you know what it’s like to need mental rest. For us with lupus and lupus fog, that can be hard to see the difference between the chronic condition and what relates to overworking our boundaries.
You may realize you’ve been staring at the same page of a book for 10 minutes or just sent a barely-comprehensible email. Perhaps you notice your thoughts starting to turn negative, judging everything you do (like, perchance, sending an awkward email).
The next time you need a mental break, turn off your screens and take a few moments to ground yourself. You might try adding meditation to your day or simply repeating a calming mantra.
Socializing can be exhausting, but balancing draining encounters with restorative ones can help bring balance. “My biggest deficit is social rest,” Dr. Dalton-Smith says. “I’m an overachiever, I’m competitive, and I like to be moving toward goals—it becomes easy to be this solo warrior. So for me, (social rest) means finding people who are in my tribe—women I don’t have to compete with.”
For us, social rest might mean catching up with an old friend who knows the way you think and feels without any lengthy explanation. Or, perhaps it’s just taking a night off from socializing via Zoom and FaceTime and reconnecting with yourself. Now, with many people vaccinated – including me, it is easier to be out of the woods and reconnect face-to-face.
Chances are, you flex your creativity more than you think. Ever brainstorm solutions at work, or put together plans for a trip? You’re tapping into creative thinking—and putting yourself in need of creative rest.
Give yourself a break by going on a walk in nature or reading an engaging book. Surrounding yourself with inspiration can help replenish your drained resources—and take the pressure to create off your mind.
Think of how you feel after a funeral or breakup or rewatching Titanic—hungry, exhausted, and confused all at once.
Get some emotional rest by offloading your feelings to a willing listener, then keep talking to prevent future emotional overload. That’s what friends and therapy are for.
That could mean scheduling regular therapy sessions or finding people with whom you can be 100% yourself – no masks.
Feel afloat, unanchored, alone? You’re likely in need of some spiritual rest. That could mean practicing your religion if that’s your jam, but it could also mean seeking a sense of purpose, something to ground you and provide a little context.
If you are not a religious person, volunteering can help you find that spark, as could chatting with a friend about the current state of the world.
I can tell you that my faith has been instrumental in my sanity.
Dalton-Smith says that sensory exhaustion is one of the most prevalent drainers, thanks to the prevalence of screens. In her practice, she’s seen it cause “a lot of eye strain and neck tension, and a lot of divorces and broken relationships,” she says. “It becomes easier to talk to the computer…That breaks intimacy, and over time, it breaks relationships.”
Catch up on sensory rest by putting aside the technology and stepping outside for fresh air if you’re able to do so. Check-in with yourself before reaching for the remote on nights “off”—is staring at a screen the rest you need? It is so easy to get lost in useless social media content or video games. If you are doing that, check how you feel afterward. I can tell you I feel guilty when I wasting time on something that does not makes me a better person.
You might consider a short walk in nature or a good, old-fashioned book — they still exist!