7 Types of Rest You've Been Missing

Have you noticed that you get enough sleep, but you're still not feeling rested? Sleep and rest are not the same thing, and sleep doesn't provide all of the different kinds of rest we need. Dr. Monica Johnson, the Savvy Pyschologist, looks at 7 different types of rest and what you can do to feel rested.

Dr. Monica Johnson
7-minute read
Episode #364
The Quick And Dirty

Feeling tired may have nothing to do with not getting enough sleep. There are 7 different kinds of rest that you need: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, sensory, and creative. Each one requires unique activities to help reduce the rest deficit. 

Are you tired?

I know I have moments where a spontaneous 2-week vacation sounds amazing! You may be looking around and thinking, “I get 8 hours of sleep every night, what’s wrong?!”

Well, first—I am so happy that you’re getting adequate sleep. 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended for adults; if you’ve struggled with sleep, then you know that you can sleep 8 hours and not feel rested. While rest is supposed to be the product of sleep, that isn’t always how it works when we are impaired by stress or mental illness. Also, sleep is most closely linked to physical rest and we often need more than that. For instance, I’m an introvert, so if I have too much contact with other people, I need social rest or I'll feel off no matter how much I sleep.

Today I am going to be outlining the 7 different types of rest as proposed by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, and how to get that rest if you're feeling tired.

Physical Rest

There are both passive and active forms of physical rest.

Sleeping and napping are the two most common forms of passive rest. To maximize the likelihood of getting restful sleep, make sure that you follow a sound sleep protocol (e.g. consistent bedtime, control temperature, not drinking caffeine late in the day, wind-down routine).

Active physical rest includes activities like stretching or yoga, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, hot baths, and massages.

The type of physical rest you require will depend on where and how much strain you carry in your body. For instance, I spend a lot of my day sitting, so I can have a build-up of tension in my back, shoulders, neck, and hips. I find it really helpful to do Yin Yoga in the evenings to stretch everything out and provide relief.

Watch out for signs that you need physical rest, such as lacking the energy to make it through the day, feeling tired but having difficulty falling asleep, weakened immune system, frequent muscle pain and soreness, reliance on substances to give you energy (e.g. energy drinks, coffee, sugar), and depending on substances to give you more rest (e.g. alcohol or drugs).

Mental Rest

Next up is mental rest—who doesn’t need some of that with all of the stress we have in our lives and with the pandemic! Mental fatigue can result from a variety of things including negative self-talk, rumination, anxious what-if thinking, being stuck in the past, and judgements.

Signs that you may need mental rest include irritability or decreased frustration tolerance, avoiding activities, feeling like you’re in a mental fog throughout the day, and feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks.

One way to ease the mental load is through use of good time management skills. When I teach my patients about time management, I encourage them to not only take into account the amount of time the task takes, but the emotional load of the task as well. There are things that we do that may not take that much time, but we will need time before or after the event due to the strain on our minds or emotions.

I think we can all agree that spending 1 hour folding clothes is different than spending 1 hour caring for an ill family member. The effective time for the latter activity might be 3 hours because you may feel sad after caring for the family member or you might feel anxious beforehand wondering if it will be a good day or a bad day for them.

Another thing you can do to help get mental rest is meditate. Giving yourself little meditation breaks throughout the day is a great way to improve your mental stamina.

Emotional Rest

Where are you spending your emotional energy? Did you get road rage today? Were you anxious while watching the news? Did you have a conflict with a co-worker? Was the recent death of your pet on your mind? When you were parenting your rambunctious toddler or contrarian teenager did you feel the annoyance brewing? Are you finding yourself feeling increasingly inadequate?

Some signs that you may be experiencing an emotional rest deficit include beating ourselves up for small mistakes, excessive worry or anxiety, feelings of self doubt, and over-apologizing.

The first step in getting more emotional rest is being mindful of your environment. Emotions are contagious! Are you around people who complain all the time or are judgmental? As best you can, modify these environments by removing unnecessary negativity and coping ahead for when you have to be in stressful situations.

Emotional awareness is key for identifying emotional drains and emotional restorers. For instance, when I spend time with my cat, I notice that I feel more emotionally restored, and when I’m around judgmental people, I notice that I feel drained. To counteract this, I use interpersonal and emotional coping skills as a buffer to the emotional contagion.

For instance, I may make sure that I establish and maintain boundaries and that I don’t remain in these environments for any longer than is required. Another thing that is helpful in reducing the amount of social comparisons that you do. You probably wouldn’t be surprised that many of us engage in emotionally draining comparisons several times a day. Are you scrolling through social media, comparing your looks, your parenting skills, and your furniture choices to those you see on Facebook? Stop it, it’s creating more of a deficit for you.

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Additionally, look for more opportunities to be your authentic self and express yourself openly, and increase your contact with things that you find emotionally restoring.

Spiritual Rest

Spirituality is broad. It can include organized religious practices if you are a person of a faith. However, spiritual rest can simply be about connecting with something greater than yourself. For instance, those in AA programs speak about a higher power.

For those who have a faith-based spiritual belief, spiritual rest can include prayer or other religious practices. For people who don’t belong to a particular faith, spiritual rest can include feeling a sense of belonging, which you can obtain by becoming involved in your community, meditation, and other activities that appear to give you a sense of purpose and feel connected.

Social Rest

A social rest deficit occurs when we fail to differentiate between relationships that restore us and relationships that drain us. It can also occur when we are engaging in too much or too little social interaction.

Signs that you have a social rest deficit include feeling alone, feeling detached, finding it hard to maintain close relationships, isolating from others, or finding that you are attracted to those that mistreat you.

The first step that I suggest here is to identify your social needs. This will vary from person to person. For example, I am introverted and I have a job where I am actively present with others throughout the day. Therefore, I usually need alone time at the end of my day. Without it I will start to feel shut down or disconnected from others because I haven’t had enough time to recharge.

It may sound counterintuitive, but that’s why you have to listen to your social needs and not compare yourself to others. I know people who are extremely extroverted that routinely plan social events after work, and that kind of schedule would leave me downright exhausted. For them, however, these are rejuvenating activities.

Be present and show up in your social networks. This will aid in deepening relationships and feeling more connected. People are dynamic and it’s important to embrace all of your social needs. Are you religious? Then you may want to make sure that you find the right place of worship. Are you really into board games? Join a board game meetup so you can play with like-minded individuals. Whatever you’re into, there is a group of people who like the same thing—you just have to look.

Sensory Rest

Sensory rest is about giving your senses a break. People need sensory rest when they overwhelm their senses with constant stimuli.

You want to think in terms of each of your 5 senses. I live in a major city that can be brutally loud, assault you with a myriad of smells from delicious to disgusting, cram you in like sardines in a can during transport, and always have something to look at between the people, cars, buildings, and randomness on every corner. Needless to say, sensory overload can occur!

How to cope with this? Unplug. Spend some time away from your electronics. (I am forever disappointed when my iPhone tells me that my screen time has increased.) Read a physical book instead. Turn off the lights with nothing but gentle white noise in the background. If you notice you’ve eaten nothing but bread all day, throw in a vegetable. Listen to your senses—give the one(s) that appear agitated a break.

Creative Rest

If you’ve ever felt like you’re just out of good ideas, you’ve experienced being creatively drained. Most people experience it as being uninspired or feeling blocked from your creative juices. And if you’ve been there, you know that pushing through doesn’t always work.

For many, when we hear creative rest we may think, "I’m not creative," or "I’m not an artist, musician, or actor." I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen Moms and teachers get pretty creative; you want to think about creativity more broadly here.

Creativity is our ability to be innovative, think outside the box, or be inventive. People require creative rest when they feel stuck, uninspired, and unable to generate new ideas or solutions to problems. The key here is to remove the requirement to produce and get involved with activities that inspire you.

Try to build sabbaticals into your life. The length depends on what your needs are during that time. It could be thirty minutes, a few hours, days, or an entire 2-week vacation. The key here is to make time for the things that you don’t normally make time for that can refill your creative cup. Go into nature, decorate your environment so that it’s aesthetically pleasing, or visit a museum.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Dr. Monica Johnson

Dr. Monica Johnson is a clinical psychologist and owner of Kind Mind Psychology, a private practice in NYC that specializes in evidenced based approaches to treating a wide range of mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety, trauma, and personality disorders). Additionally, she has a focus on working with marginalized groups of people including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and alternative lifestyles to manage minority stress. She is also dedicated to contributing to her field professionally through speaking, training, supervision, and writing. She routinely speaks at conferences, provides training and workshops at organizations, supervises mental health trainees, and co-authored a book for professionals on addressing race-based stress in therapy.

Dr. Johnson earned her bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina, completed her Psy.D. at the Arizona School of Professional Psychology, and completed her postdoctoral training year at Cherokee Health Systems in Knoxville, TN. She currently lives in Manhattan where she indulges in horror movies, sarcasm, and intentional introversion. You can find her on Instagram and online at kindmindpsych.com

Got a question that you'd like Dr. Johnson to answer on Savvy Psychologist? You can send her an email at psychologist@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a voicemail for the Savvy Psychologist listener line by calling (929) 256-2191‬.