It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and today we’re focusing on rest which is one of THE biggest influences on mental health. When thinking about rest, most people think it means a nap, sleeping in, a holiday or watching something. Although these can all be different types of rest depending on the person and their lifestyle, there’s so much more to rest than just these four options.
There are actually seven different kinds of rest according to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity published in 2017. Saundra also mentions in her book that sleep is just ONE of the seven types of rest, so if you’ve ever still felt tired, drained or fatigued after sleeping in or taking a nap it could be because you need to focus on a different type of rest.
The relationship between rest and mental health is important because so much of your mental health and quality of life depends on getting the right amount of rest and the right type of rest. With the pressures of living in such a fast-paced world – where there seems to be a never-ending sense of urgency to get things done as fast as possible, while making sure you’re doing things to the best of your ability, and at the same time trying to maximising productivity – among other constant stressors and demands, rest should always be a priority. Below we outline the different types of rest and provide examples too:
1) Physical rest:
If you’re not physically rested you could experience fatigue and body aches and pains. There are two types of physical rest: active and passive. Active physical rest is doing an activity like stretching, yoga or getting a massage. Passive physical rest is something like a deep, long sleep or nap.
2) Mental rest:
If you’re lacking mental rest it could show up as anxiety, struggling to concentrate, brain fog, forgetfulness, having a short fuse and feeling overly irritated or agitated especially by little things. You could also have sleep issues and struggle with quietening your mind when trying to fall asleep. Proper mental rest can look like scheduling regular breaks during the work day where possible. Taking regular breaks away from all screens and digital devices, making sure you’re not consuming content all day and night. It’s also important to find a way to ground yourself, some examples are meditation, journaling or going for a walk. However, you need to find what works best for YOU, your body and lifestyle.
3) Spiritual rest:
Examples of a lack of spiritual rest include not feeling grounded or safe, feeling fearful or alone and a lack of purpose or direction in life. Depending on your culture, belief systems and values the way you practice spiritual rest will be different. At the core, the purpose of spiritual rest is to feel a sense of belonging, acceptance, love and connection with yourself and your community. Again, this will look different for everyone but a few examples include volunteering, prayer or breath work.
4) Emotional rest:
If you’re suppressing emotions and are struggling to be vulnerable and authentically share your feelings you could need emotional rest. Knowing how to handle painful and challenging emotions is key to your overall well-being and especially to your mental health. When someone gets stuck on a particular emotion their mental health can quickly take a turn for the worse because they don’t know how to work through and release what they’re feeling. One way to practice emotional rest is to have open, vulnerable conversations with people you feel safe with and trust. It’s important to make sure that this is a judgement free zone where you can speak about anything, especially things that make you uncomfortable. Going to therapy is also a great way to foster emotional rest.
5) Social rest:
This is about identifying which relationships are genuinely rejuvenating and good for you. For a relationship to be good for you and your overall well-being it needs to be balanced, there needs to be reciprocity, honesty and vulnerability. Without these things it won’t work, at least not long term. Some relationships or connections won’t embody these characteristics and more often than not these are the ones that are draining and feel inauthentic. A few questions to ask yourself when spending time with people: Is this a meaningful experience? Does this relationship add value to my life? Is this person or connection genuinely supportive? Do they have my best interests at heart? – These questions go both ways too. Social rest can also look like spending time away from people and connecting with yourself.
6) Creative rest:
Most of us have to use our creativity in some way each day. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative or you don’t have a creative job or hobby, you’ve still used your creativity in some way. Creative rest refers to experiencing and enjoying beauty and creativity in all the forms it takes. This includes nature, music, dance and art. Essentially, it inspires and excites the inner-child within each of us.
7) Sensory rest:
This refers to needing a break from all of the things that consistently stimulate your senses. Everything is digitised today, and sometimes it’s hard to get away from technology. There seems to always be something that’s on in the background; notifications, aircons, bright lights, background noise, loud conversations, constantly looking at screens. This can create sensory overload which can cause agitation and frustration. Sensory rest can look like turning off all the plugs of appliances and electronic devices that you don’t need, putting your phone or / and laptop off or on airplane mode, taking regular breaks from screens and digital devices throughout the day.