The world might feel ridiculously divisive right now, but if there’s one thing I think we can all agree on, it’s this: We’re all freaking exhausted. Not just exhausted either; we’re all-caps EXHAUSTED.
Seriously, some days, I feel so overwhelmed and drained that it takes everything in my power not to curl up in a ball and cry. Actually, crying takes too much energy. I’m in the sighing stage. All I have the energy to do is sigh.
Turns out my exhaustion might not just be caused by insomnia or late night Netflix binges. It’s because we aren’t getting enough actual rest. Not just sleep, but rest.
According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of “Sacred Rest,” “If you’re not purposefully resting you are not building resilience in your life.”
Well, shit. That explains a lot.
Here’s the thing, I’m barely able to manage one kind of rest (i.e. sleep), how the hell am I supposed to manage to get the six other kinds? I’m guessing you feel the same. Even once the “work day” is done, then it’s onto our second or maybe even third jobs. There’s that volunteer committee we signed up for, emails to send, bills to pay, then there’s laundry and dinner and groceries to buy online. Shit, we’re out of Uncrustables. Again.
This is why rest is so damn hard.
Here’s how these 7 types of rest are supposed to look – and how they actually look.
1. Physical rest
The good news here is that physical rest isn’t just sleep (thank god, or we’d be screwed), but also active rest doing things like yoga or getting a massage. Bad news is we aren’t getting any sleep and we don’t have the time or money to get a massage. Oh, and anytime I try to sneak in a down dog, my actual dog decides it’s time to climb on my back.
2. Mental rest
This one is pretty self-explanatory – our minds need to get off the hamster wheel. It’s also pretty obvious why we’re not getting enough mental rest. We’re living through a global pandemic, FFS. There is absolutely NO END to the mental work our brains are doing. A trip to the grocery store is stressful and mentally taxing, not to mention making actual life-or-death decisions like whether to send our kids to school in person.
Dalton-Smith’s advice on how to get mental rest? “Schedule short breaks to occur every two hours throughout your workday; these breaks can remind you to slow down.” It’s good advice, but I’ll admit, I’m so overwhelmed right not that just thinking about scheduling a mental break is kinda stressing me out.
3. Sensory rest
“Bright lights, computer screens, background noise and multiple conversations — whether they’re in an office or on Zoom calls — can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed,” Dalton-Smith says. Maybe that’s why my eyes are twitchy and listening to my kids fight about who finished the bag of potato chips while I try to pay attention to a Zoom call makes my ears bleed. I spend at least 12 hours a day staring at a computer, so by the time the weekend rolls around, I can’t bear to look at my phone or computer. All I can muster is some solid Netflix bingeing – but that probably defeats the purpose, huh?
4. Emotional rest
At first I thought that this one would be a joke. Given that I’m on the verge of tears at some point nearly every day, I figured there was no way in hell I was getting emotional rest. But according to Dalton-Smith, “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.”
If that’s the case, I might actually be pretty emotionally rested since I’ve started responding with a “<<heavy sigh>> I’m languishing.” So maybe I actually am getting some emotional rest. Or maybe I’ve just reached my breaking point. Anyone’s guess.
5. Social rest
This one doesn’t necessarily mean an open social calendar (like many of us have had for the past year); instead, it means spending time with the people who fill you up and taking a break from those folks who zap your energy. This can be hard when you’re in a toxic relationship with Zoom, but Dalton-Smith says it’s perfectly fine to turn the camera off. Thank goodness.
6. Spiritual rest
This one includes traditional spiritual practices like prayer and meditation, but it also includes community involvement and volunteer service. Time for me to reactivate my Chopra app.
7. Creative rest
I starting knitting about a year or so ago and it has been life-changing. I’m terrible at it, but gotta say I might be killing it when it comes to creative rest. Creative rest also includes spending time in nature so start planning that trip to the closest national park ASAP.
In all seriousness though, Dalton-Smith is really on to something here. For the longest time, I haven’t been able to figure out why I’m so damn exhausted even when I get 7-8 hours of sleep at night. Turns out, it’s because I’m not getting enough rest.
The other brutal truth is that I’m partly to cause for my lack of rest. Sure, there’s a ton that’s out of our control, but I’ll be the first to admit that I need to be better about saying “no” and moving on. I need to set limits and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere. I need to practice turning my brain off and taking a deep breath now and then. Maybe you do too.
So give yourself permission to cancel plans with those lukewarm friends you don’t really miss and schedule a spa day (after you’re vaccinated, of course!) with your bestie. Consider it doctor’s orders.