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  • Writer's picturePatricia Afonso

7 Types Of Rest And How To Get Them

Although you've slept eight hours straight, have you ever woken up feeling as tired as if you'd never been to bed? Have you considered the difference between sleep and rest?

The most common advice when it comes to replenishing your energy is to make time for sleep, screen breaks, exercise and the outdoors. However, research has shown we’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest. Have you ever heard about emotional rest or social rest?

Enter Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith – physician, researcher, speaker and author of "Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity" (2017) which includes ground-breaking insight on the seven types of rest needed to optimize your productivity, increase your overall happiness and overcome burnout. Her work has also been featured in numerous media outlets including Fast Company, CNN, Psychology Today, Thrive Global and TED conferences.

"We go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep. In reality, we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need."Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

According to Dr Dalton-Smith sleep and rest are not the same things, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two. Rest is restoration in 7 key areas of our lives and she breaks these down as physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual:

1. Physical rest: passive physical rest includes sleeping and napping, while active physical rest are restorative activities (such as yoga, stretching and massage therapy) that help improve the body’s circulation and flexibility.

2. Mental rest: in spite of getting enough sleep, your nagging thoughts (replaying the past or anticipating the future) may prevent you from feeling mentally rested. Consider scheduling short breaks throughout your workday to remind (and train) your brain to slow down. Keep a notebook handy to jot down thoughts that could keep you awake at night or even schedule "worrying" time during the day to observe and journal your nagging thoughts so they don't crop up at bedtime.

3. Sensory rest: external stimuli (such as bright lights, computer screens or noise) that constantly trigger your senses can cause them to feel overwhelmed. Carve our intentional moments of sensory deprivation throughout your day, blocking out such stimuli by closing your eyes, switching off devices or using mindfulness techniques to find a single point of sensory focus.

4. Creative rest: especially important for anyone who must solve problems or brainstorm new ideas, creative rest is about reawakening the awe and wonder inside each of us. Dr Dalton-Smith highlights that allowing yourself to take in the beauty of nature provides creative rest, but it also includes enjoying the arts. Surround yourself with images of places or artwork that you love to boost your inspiration and creative flair.

5. Emotional rest: simply put, it's giving yourself time and space to freely express your feelings. This can be achieved through creative activities which allow you to physically express your feelings such as journaling, writing, painting or dancing. Dr Dalton-Smith points out that an emotionally rest also requires you to be authentic: an emotionally rested person can answer the question “How are you today?” with a truthful “I’m not okay” — and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid. Coaching or therapy sessions are other support activities that can help you unlock your emotions, find the courage to be authentic and set boundaries with others for emotional rest.

6. Social rest: to experience social rest is to spend time with positive and supportive people that energise you and stay away from the relationships that drain you. Even if your interactions have to occur virtually, you can choose to engage more fully in them by turning your camera on and focusing on who you’re speaking to.

7. Spiritual rest: defined by Dr Dalton-Smith as "the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose." To receive this, she recommends engaging in something greater than yourself and add prayer, meditation or community involvement to your daily routine. Shifting focus towards others and putting our time and strengths in service of someone else or something can provide a strong sense of purpose.

To learn more about Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith and her work, visit her website. This post was adapted from her TEDxAtlanta Talk and blog post. For more insights and techniques on self-care, visit our dedicated CB magazine section.


Patricia is a director at social ventures CB and Planty, and a Leadership & Personal Development Coach accredited at Practitioner level by the European Mentoring & Coaching Council. She helps individuals and business leaders achieve their personal and professional goals – and get greater life satisfaction – thanks to her tailored coaching programmes. Find out how she can support you here.


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