For a long time, our default answer to the question “How are you?” has been “fine,” or some variation of it. But over the past few years—and especially during the pandemic—another response is becoming increasingly common: Telling the person who asked that you’re “tired,” or even “exhausted.”
There’s a lot to unpack there, but it’s safe to assume that, for a variety of reasons, a lot of us really are exhausted all or most of the time. Can you even remember the last time you felt fully rested? Yeah, I can’t either.
Well, according to Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, a physician, researcher, and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, that might be because we’re not getting the specific types of rest that we really need. Here’s what to know about the seven types of rest, and why getting the right kind can be a game-changer.
Rest is about more than sleep
Chances are, if you’ve told someone you’re tired all the time, they probably made some comment about how you have to get more sleep, or improve your sleep hygiene. And sure, that can’t hurt, but as Dalton Smith explained in an interview with Stylist, rest is about more than just sleep.
“We like the thought of it being simple—that if we go to sleep that should solve all of our restorative needs—but unfortunately, there are types of rest that sleep cannot solve,” she told the magazine.
What are the 7 types of rest?
In her own research, Dalton Smith has identified seven distinct types of rest that the human body and mind require. So even if you had what you considered to be a good night’s sleep, you may still wake up feeling exhausted because you’re deficient in a different type of rest. And those types are:
- Mental rest: Giving your brain a break
- Sensory rest: Taking time to unplug and reduce our external stimuli
- Creative rest: Doing something you find inspiring to take a break from churning out new ideas
- Emotional rest: Processing your emotions so you don’t have to hold them in, and you’re able to be your authentic self
- Social rest: Spending time alone when other people have drained you
- Spiritual rest: Connecting with something beyond the physical and mental (even if it’s not religious)
- Physical rest: Sleeping and allowing your body to slow down or pause to relax
How to get the type of rest you need
According to Dalton Smith, the key to getting the kind of rest you need is first identifying the type(s) you’re lacking, and going from there. The process starts with some self-reflection, she says, because you typically use each of the seven areas throughout the day, and you have to figure out where you’re expending the most energy.
“What does your day to day look like?,” Dalton Smith asks. “Is your day spent brainstorming and coming up with new ideas? Or is your day spent face-to-face with people discussing hard emotional stuff like a counsellor or a therapist?”
Once you determine where you’re pouring out the most energy, she says that “it’s going to have a huge effect on the area that you’re most likely to have a deficit in, especially if you haven’t already thought through what recovery looks like for that position or job.”