5 Ways to Achieve the Different Types of Rest

Featuring the Dusty Plum Sheet Set in French Linen. Image c/o @annaalexia.

What kind of tired are you? If you’re still exhausted after regularly clocking in 7-9 hours of sleep a day, perhaps it’s time to look at how you rest in your waking hours. While sleeping well is a key component of rest, rest as a whole is a broader, more holistic condition that brings together different areas of our lives.

Based on her experience as a medical practitioner, Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith identifies 7 different kinds of rest we need in order to flourish: physical rest, mental rest, sensory rest, emotional rest, social rest, creative rest and spiritual rest.

Dr Dalton-Smith encourages us to start small by incorporating restful activities into each day. We’ve made it easy for you to get started with a primer on the 7 different types of rest and 5 ideas that incorporate multiple types of rest at the same time.

The 7 types of rest

1. Physical rest

Rest that relieves us of physical aches and stresses. Physical rest can be passive, like sleeping, or active, like restoring our body with exercise, stretching, or yoga, or therapeutic treatments including massage work.

2. Mental rest

Rest that calms our minds by giving us a break from processing information or data. You may need this if you’re having trouble focusing or quieting your mind, taking longer to complete tasks, being forgetful, or having brain fog.

3. Sensory rest

Rest that gives us time and space away from harsh or overwhelming sensory stimuli, including bright lights, traffic, construction, chatter, ongoing movement, strong smells and uncomfortable clothing.

4. Emotional rest

Rest that allows us to express our emotions freely. If you’re feeling more irritable, easy to anger, reacting negatively to small or neutral situations, you need emotional rest.

5. Social rest

Rest that engages us in nourishing social relationships. This can be spending time alone, but another important aspect of social rest is spending time with people who understand us and uplift us — especially if you’ve been working in solo mode.

6. Creative rest

Rest that lets us appreciate beauty. You don’t need to be an artist, poet or musician to feel the effects of being creatively drained, which includes being unable to brainstorm or develop ideas. Beauty, whether in nature or in art, can replenish our creative energy and inspiration.

7. Spritual rest

Rest that gives you a sense of purpose and belonging to something bigger than ourselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean turning to religion — merely finding community and connection with the world around us.

Getting enough of each type of rest doesn’t only raise our mood and energy levels — by calming down other areas of life, it also helps us have deeper, better quality sleep. Want to tackle rest more holistically? Here are some ideas of what you can do during the day:

Take short breaks from your tasks throughout the day

Helps with: mental rest, physical rest, sensory rest

This gives us our minds space to think and process information in the background. Aside from resting our minds, these short moments can also offer us physical and sensory rest. Take a short walk, stretch, or grab a snack. If your main workspace feels busy, step out to a quieter area.

You don't have to write to journal. Artist Ly Yeow draws as a form of healing and self-care.

Write it down

Helps with: emotional rest, mental rest, spiritual rest

Let your thoughts and feelings loose on paper — from emotional weights you’ve been carrying to any small tasks, reminders, and pieces of information that are occupying your mind, like your grocery list! If you’re feeling unmoored or lacking purpose, journaling can also help navigate how you feel about your goals, passions, and direction in life.

Take a walk in nature

Helps with: physical rest, mental rest, sensory rest, creative rest

The soft and dispersed patterns, colours, and sounds in nature are a great antidote to information overload and sensory overwhelm. Plus, the fresh environment and natural beauty can spark new ideas and refresh our creative juices. Just remember to leave your phone on silent and resist the urge to check it!

Being in nature is one of the most nourishing things we can do for ourselves. Image c/o @charissakwok.

The right people and the right settings energise us, like cousins Hafi and Madi, who look forward to seeing each other at the end of a long day.

Set boundaries

Helps with: emotional rest, social rest

Setting and maintaining boundaries is critical for emotional rest, especially if you find yourself having to hold in a lot of emotions during the day — such as in professions like medicine and nursing, or in relationships where you’re a caregiver or parent.

When it comes to social rest, face your fear of missing out and turn down social events with large groups of people, or with people with whom you need to exert more energy.

Volunteer for a cause that’s meaningful to you

Helps with: spiritual rest, social rest

Volunteering is one way you can feel more engaged with a wider community or something you find purpose in. If you’re feeling socially drained and have few people to turn to for nourishing social interaction, this can also be a space to connect with others who relate to you and your values.

You could also take a class in something you've been meaning to try. It could even lead you to a new passion, like it did for ceramicist Jeanette Adrienne Wee.

You may also find these resources useful: