top of page
  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

R is for Rest

“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” Alan Cohen

What is rest?

Rest means giving yourself a break from work-related activities, physical exertion or emotional stress so that you are at ease; feel tranquil or at peace.

Rest is vital for better mental health, increased concentration and memory, a healthier immune system, reduced stress, improved mood and can even improve your general metabolism.

When you achieve a relaxed state, it can result in positive changes to your autonomic nervous system which controls your heart rate and breathing rate and it lowers your blood pressure. Rest effectively helps your body activate inner healing and return to a state of homeostasis so that your body can repair and recover.

How do we get more rest?

When we think of rest we often think that this equates to getting more sleep, but have you ever tried to fix perpetual tiredness or an ongoing lack of energy by getting more sleep and, if you are lucky enough to be able to get some more hours sleep under your belt, still feel exhausted? The reason for this is that we often incorrectly think that rest and sleep are synonymous, but they are not the same thing. Just because we may have got the requisite amount of sleep we require it doesn’t mean that we have been sufficiently rested or quenched all facets of our exhaustion – e.g. mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually etc.

Often, to compound the problem we are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep anyway, as we ‘burn the candle at both ends’ or toss and turn at night because we don’t have good sleep routines or have a lot on our mind.

“It's very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Our days are filled with countless activities so much so that we often forget about nurturing ourselves, and prioritising rest, which has a negative effect on our well-being (often causing chronic tiredness, or burn out) and on our relationships with others. We suffer from a ‘rest deficit’ because we don’t understand the importance of rest in our lives. Everything we experience or do either gives us energy or drains us. Getting the balance between ‘work, rest and play’ is essential for functioning at an optimum level.

“Real rest feels like every cell is thanking you for taking care of you. It’s calm, not full of checklists and chores. It’s simple: not multitasking; not fixing broken things.”

Jennifer Williamson

Whilst looking into the subject of rest, I listened to an informative TED Talk by Saundra Dalton-Smith who explained the real reason why we are chronically tired despite getting a sufficient amount of sleep and the 6 other types of rest available to us.

If we want to feel fully rested, we need to focus on getting the right rest that we need because sleep alone can’t restore us to the point we feel fully rested. There’s only really one way to get sleep –by sleeping, but rest can be found in many different activities while we’re awake.

Physical rest -

This can be passive (sleeping or napping) or active ( yoga, stretching and massage therapy that help improve the body’s circulation and flexibility.)

Rest is essential to reduce stress. People who’re overwhelmed by stress tend to sleep less and this can lead to a long list of potential health problems, e.g. hypertension and stroke, mood disorders, memory lapses, trouble focusing, impaired judgment, workplace injuries or falling asleep at the wheel, obesity, and some forms of cancer plus when we are tired and can't think straight, it can make tasks that might normally be a piece of cake become much more difficult so getting quality sleep is essential.

Practical Ideas:

Set aside eight hours for sleep.

Try and sleep at the same time each

Pay attention to what you eat and drink before you go to bed e.g. kiwis have been linked to better sleep.

Create a restful cool, dark and quiet environment

Don’t use screens immediately before you want to sleep

Keep a notepad/pen near your bed to jot down any persistent thoughts

Limit daytime naps.

Include physical activity in your daily routine.

Sensory rest -

We live in an over-stimulating world with bright lights, computer screens, near constant background noise, multiple conversations etc which can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. I know, for one, that even if I can’t get outside into nature to ‘calm my senses’ then I need periods of quiet in the house. In fact for the most part I prefer having a place quiet perhaps because there are already enough things going on in my head and it gives me time to mull different thoughts without any further external distractions.

I find it difficult when visiting friends and family who have the radio or television on continuously in the background. Not only is it a distraction, I have to listen to conversations with other voices going on in the background but it is perhaps something that my brain is subconsciously processing and trying to eliminate so I can often feel quickly exhausted.

Intentional moments of sensory deprivation or immersing yourself in nature can help undo the damage inflicted by the over-stimulating world.

Practical Ideas:

Spend time in nature

Spend time sitting quietly

Mindfulness practices

Breathing exercises

Mental rest –

“Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges.” Bryant McGill

It can be helpful to schedule short breaks e.g every two hours throughout your workday to remind yourself to pause and slow down. If you struggle sleeping at night; it can be useful to have a notepad by your bed to jot down any nagging thoughts that might keep you awake or thoughts you are worried about forgetting.

When we don’t give our brains “down-time” not only does it not have the space to assimilate and accommodate new information, but it also doesn’t have the space to be creative or process and gain new perspectives on our environment, ourselves and others.

Practical Ideas:

Sit and do nothing

Spend time alone

Programme short breaks throughout your day

Notepad by bed

Spend time in nature

Creative rest –

“Rest until you feel like playing, then play until you feel like resting, period. Never do anything else.” Martha Beck

This type of rest It is especially important for those who must problem solve or brainstorm new ideas. It allows us to reconnect with the sense of curiosity and awe and wonder inside of us by connecting to not only nature but different forms of expression through creative arts. You can’t expect to come up with creative solutions if you don’t regularly feed your mind with new or awe-inspiring things or engage with art forms that you like, find interesting or are passionate about

Practical Ideas:

Listen to relaxing music that you like

Explore different forms of art – art, music, dance, theatre

Spend time in nature

Set aside time to read, to watch documentaries etc Join new groups or clubs to learn a new skill

Emotional rest –

Emotional rest is particularly important for those people who find it difficult to set boundaries. These are the people who are always ready to help, but do so to their own detriment; they stretch themselves too thin (their physical, mental and emotional resources) and take on the concerns and worries of others as if they were their own and don’t feel that they can say no or not offer to help without feeling guilty.

Emotional rest requires the courage to be authentic and to be honest with yourselves and others about what you can and can’t do and to know where your boundaries and responsibilities lie.

Practical Ideas:

Choose your friends carefully

Spend time reflecting on your values and boundaries

Social rest -

The relationships that you have act as a battery or a vacuum. ‘Batteries’ charge you up and increase your energy whereas ‘vacuum’s’ drain you mentally and physically. We need to differentiate between those relationships that revive us from those relationships that exhaust us.

Our energy levels improve when we move towards people, groups and activities that make us feel good and remind us to be grateful about the good things in life. By spending increased time with those who leave us feeling energized it makes it that much easier to protect ourselves from the influences of those who don't.

Practical Ideas:

Choose your friends carefully

Spend time with people that energise you

Spiritual rest -

Spiritual rest focuses on our ability to feel comfortable and happy in our own skin and to connect and feel a deep sense of belonging and purpose. It is about looking past our immediate surroundings and situation and spending some time looking at the bigger picture, consciously contributing to our wider community, i.e. something bigger than ourselves and our own needs and reflecting through activities like prayer, meditation or community involvement.

Practical Ideas:

Spend time in nature


Community involvement

We live in a world where busyness (not necessarily productivity) is seen as essential and if we slack, or rest, then often we have a nagging feeling of guilt and the feeling that we should be ‘doing something’ and we don’t ‘deserve’ to rest. This constant being ‘on the go’ and not resting causes stress and other well documented negative consequences on health and well-being. Rest, in its various forms is essential to live a healthy life.

“When you rest, you catch your breath and it holds you up, like water wings…” Anne Lamott

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page