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This post is an extract from my book ‘Everything I Wish I’d Known About Stress: A Hopeful Toolkit’.
The impact of stress isn’t one to be underestimated and, as such, healing can take longer than we might anticipate or hope for.
Rest doesn’t just occur when we’re asleep. In fact, if we spend our days zipping and zooming from one task to another, multi-tasking and switching between tasks willy-nilly, then when we lay down at night, our brain will probably start swimming through all that happened, might happen, or will happen. Sleep might feel elusive. This is because we haven’t had enough rest during the day or not enough of the right type of rest.
Similarly, it explains why we might wake up feeling exhausted and not at all prepared, energetically, for the day ahead. According to physician Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D., to feel tip-top, there are seven different types of rest to incorporate into our days and ways.
Where you give your brain a break from having to process, think, and do. Our brains aren’t ever truly resting: while we’re giving them space, they’re assimilating, storing, filtering, learning, and making connections. When we don’t give our brains a rest in this way, it affects our working memory, our concentration, and the ability to connect the dots and sleep.
Mental rest looks like taking regular breaks from work, every 90 minutes or so, writing down thoughts and tasks, exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and stepping away from screens.
When we think of resting, it’s usually physical resting, and we most likely acknowledge and make time for.
Physical rest can be passive, like when we’re asleep and napping, or it can be active, like when we’re doing yoga or having a massage. It’s when we allow the tension from our body to dissipate and give it relief from the aches and pains.
We take in a constant stream of stimuli through our senses. Without taking a break from it, those stimuli can become overwhelming and overstimulating, eventually causing a sensory overload if it becomes too much to process.
Sensory rest might be popping on some noise-cancelling headphones, going off to a quiet spot, turning off bright lights, taking a break from screens, listening to some calming music, removing any uncomfortable clothes, or soothing your senses with essential oils or a fluffy blanket.
We also need rest from all that coordinating, problem-solving, brainstorming, and creating that we do, particularly if we work in roles which regularly require it.
Creative rest happens when we tap into feeling inspired, experience awe, and rekindle our imaginations with the arts. This might look like watching a sunset, going to a museum or art gallery, looking at photographs, or going to a concert or listening to music, for example. When a solution or idea comes to you when sunbathing on a beach or while taking a shower, that’s a sign that you’re creatively rested.
Ever felt taken for granted, undervalued, and unappreciated? Perhaps you felt your well of empathy run dry, being unable to connect with someone else in that way when you’re usually so adept at it. Those were or are the times we’re in need of emotional rest. We’re emotion-ed out, likely because we’ve given so much of ourselves to others when they’ve needed support.
Emotional rest looks and feels like time and space to speak openly and freely. It’s also time spent with people with whom we can hang out, laugh, and be ourselves. It is also time alone, away from responsibilities.
Relationships ebb and flow, and some drain and others revive us. Too much time spent being drained will deplete and tire us, and we’ll need social rest from those.
Spend time with those who are inspiring, uplifting, grounding, and enjoyable to be around for a dose of social rest. Of course, sometimes, especially if we’re introverted, we just need a break from all things social.
Our spirituality is what gives our everyday lives meaning in a way that’s bigger than who we are. It includes those all-encompassing and oftentimes inexplicable experiences of love, peace, belonging, acceptance, gratitude, and awe. It’s the interconnectedness we find, and experience, to moments, nature, faith, and other people, and is often described as sacred, divine, cosmic.
Spiritual rest might be meditation, or it might be prayer. It can often be found in exploring nature, being part of a community initiative, or understanding your purpose and applying it.
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