I’ve been working – with and without pay – in the social service/mental health field for the past 10 years. I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen and heard A LOT. Something I recognized very early on was there was a lot of burnt-out, jaded workers in the field. I was determined I wouldn’t get caught up in the grind/hustle culture because I didn’t want to become burnt out and jaded too. I remember back in 2016 thinking “I’m going to a mini-break from the city at least once a month.” That literally lasted about 2 or 3 months. I found myself skipping lunch, seeing clients back to back, working 3 jobs at one point, working 6 days a week, and high on coffee. So yes, the grind culture had gotten me!
I was burnt out, I was tired. And there was no amount of “Good Vibes Only” that was going to fix it. I needed to rest – slow my pace. Granted the pandemic was a major cause in the slowing of my pace. But when I started my business about a year ago, I was very intentional about not getting caught up in overworking myself again. I am dedicated to only seeing clients 4 days out of the week, not packing my caseload to an overwhelming number, and actually weekending on the weekend.
“Work-life balance is such a misnomer because nobody wants work on one side of the scale and life on the other – in that scenario if you’re succeeding in one area, you’re failing in the other. Nobody wants that. We want work-life integration. We want work-life harmony.”
— Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith
So naturally, you may think: “She must have it figured out, she has mastered the work-life integration“. Wrong. I’m human and we always have room for improvement. There are still moments I have to hold myself accountable for the boundaries I created for my overall well-being. There are so many ways I am learning to incorporate rest and have an improved work-life integration.
We tend to think of vacation as an indulgence. Rest and leisure as a luxury for the rich and famous. Who has time to rest when we have bills to pay? Who has the money to rest when inflation is at records high?
“Wisdom is knowing when to have rest, when to have activity, and how much of each to have.”
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
So I went on an exploration to learn more about rest and how we can optimize it. That’s when I learned about Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith. She shared there are seven different types of rest that we should be experiencing. I think learning all of them can help you identify what you might be missing out on and what kind of rest you need to incorporate into your routine.
1. Physical Rest
This is the most obvious and well-known type of rest, but many people are not aware that physical rest is actually divided into two components: active and passive. Passive physical rest are activities we do like sleeping and taking a nap. But active physical rest are things like yoga, stretching, walking, and getting a massage are forms of physical rest as well.
Passive physical rest is crucial to our mood and functioning, so let’s be mindful of getting adequate sleep daily, and as for active physical rest, let’s try incorporating that once or twice per week.
2. Mental Rest
Do you know when a computer has too many tabs open? Do you ever feel like your mind has multiple tabs open? Someone with a mental rest deficit might find themselves having difficulty concentrating, or even finding it hard to fall asleep with hundreds of different things floating around in their minds.
Try taking mental or brain breaks within your day – you may be surprised what a 10 to 15-minute break can do. Get away from technology and other distractions, go for a nature walk, listen to music or sit in silence.
3. Social Rest
Social rest can be one of two things: surrounding yourself with individuals that pour back into you or conversely, taking some alone time. It’s your responsibility to confirm which one you are in need of. You can tell that you’re feeling the need to get social rest if you ever find yourself saying, “Can I just get a moment for myself?” This may be because the people around you may constantly need things from you. On the flip side, you may recognize that you need to reconnect over brunch with your close friend, for example.
4. Spiritual Rest
I know there is a vast amount of belief systems. Yet, we all have that innate desire to feel like we belong, feel like we have a purpose and that we are contributing to the greater good – that is spiritual rest. So whether it’s staying connected to God, the Universe, a higher power, purpose, and/or meaning it relieves us of feeling alone in our human experience.
You may feel like the work you are doing is meaningless or you’ve lost your sense of purpose or belonging. That is your cue to get connected or reconnected to your purpose. That may be through volunteering in your community, going to church or your spiritual center, or maintaining a work culture where you feel like your work is meaningful.
5. Sensory Rest
Living in a bustling city you can step outside your apartment and several things are happening all at once. You smell the garbage that hasn’t been picked up yet. Someone honking their horn. A baby crying in the stroller. Two people outside the local deli arguing. A car driving down the block playing music like it’s a block party. You’re texting your friend that you’re on your way, while you’re getting an incoming call. Now that’s sensory overload. It may seem extreme, but for a minute, pay attention to what’s around you right now – what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you feel, what you taste. Chances are there are quite a few things happening around you too. Our senses are receiving a lot of stimuli throughout the day.
You may find that by the end of the day you’re irritable or easily agitated – that’s your sign it’s time for sensory rest. The best way to describe this is to take a break from all the distractions and sensor inputs around you: loud music, bright lights, noisy neighbors, kids playing, and notifications on your phone. Maybe even challenge yourself to an hour, or two, with no screen time.
6. Emotional Rest
I think by now we all know how important it is to express and release our emotions in healthy ways. Yet sometimes we may notice we want to shield our loved ones from our true emotions or be guarded with our authentic feelings in that work meeting. Sometimes we’re hesitant to express ourselves because we don’t want to be portrayed as weak, stressed, depressed, or incompetent. Maybe we want our loved ones, colleagues, or employers/employees to feel like everything is going fine.
When we’re holding in our genuine thoughts and feelings too often and we may notice we don’t have an authentic space to be ourselves, to express our true feelings – that’s when it’s time for emotional rest. Speaking to a therapist or a trusted friend, or journaling and learning new ways to express yourself will definitely be helpful.
Remember it’s okay to not be okay.
7. Creative Rest
When was the last time you allowed yourselves to appreciate nature – the trees, animals in their natural habitat, oceans, and waterfalls? Or immersed yourself in experiencing beauty in the creative arts through paintings, drawings, photography, music, singing, or dancing? Or read an inspiring book? Well, that’s creative rest.
Most people don’t consider themselves creative. But the idea of creativity is more than just producing art. Creativity is innovation, it’s problem-solving. So chances are you have to get creative from time to time. You may have noticed you’re having a hard time being innovative, trouble brainstorming new ideas, or problem-solving is difficult for you – that’s when you need creative rest.
The restoration process to re-charging ourselves has to be something we can do intentionally and regularly. I know times are difficult, but we shouldn’t use financial or time limit excuses as reasons for not practicing rest. We all need to prioritize rest, probably more than ever. Not to overwhelm ourselves with all seven types at once, we can start with one area. Start where you notice the greatest deficit, and go from there.
If you’re still not sure, take Dr. Shaudra’s rest quiz to see where you need to start. Email me, I’ll love to hear your results and your journey to restoration. Hope I’m helping you Live Mindfully, Feel Restored – one step at a time.
Try this affirmation the next time you are in the need of rest:
My mind and my body are ready to rest. I am in my safe place. Everything will be okay!