The word “rest” can sound like a dirty word. For some, the word conjures up thoughts of all that will NOT happen if they rested. But what if instead we focus on what we gain from rest and what we will lose if we do not rest?
Let’s first define rest. Rest is not just getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep. According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, award winning author and internal medicine physician, rest should NOT be synonymous with sleep. We can get a full night of sleep yet feel tired, stressed and burnt-out. If this is true, then what is rest?
Dalton-Smith defines rest as to engage in an activity that leaves you feeling refreshed mentally, physically and/or emotionally. She goes even further to say rest is one of the most underused alternative therapies when it comes to improving our health. Rest is a critical but neglected component of our wellness.
She breaks down rest into 7 key areas of life (Dalton and Gore):
Meaningful rest requires you to be attuned to your whole self, not just your physical self. Our car’s have gauges to indicate its various components, for example, fuel, temperature, pressure etc. All these are necessary for a fully functioning car but when taken apart can reveal areas needing specific attention. Imagine if we could see various dashboards indicating our health in each key area of rest. These dashboards would indicate where our energy levels are in a spectrum from full to depleted. If your job requires you to be seated at a computer all day in your home office your social and physical dashboards will be low. You are more likely to move your arrows back to full with a long walk or a face to face conversation with a friend over falling into your couch at the end of the day to watch TV. It’s important not only to get rest but to get the right kind of rest!
When we forego rest we begin to run on fumes rather than stored energy. Signs showing we are in this stage can be overlooked such as gaining a few extra pounds, sudden aches in our back or unexplained mood swings. These seemingly minor problems over time compound and lead to complete burn out. During rest we allow our body to relax by releasing tension and bringing calm to our body. We spend too much of our day in the fight/flight stage battling not immediate physical dangers but looming deadlines, social obligations, and over packed schedules. The consequences of our bodies remaining in this state are numerous. It negatively impacts our mood and behavior, disturbs our sleep, and creates chaos within our metabolic and cardiovascular systems. (“Understanding the stress response”)
We can intentionally place new energy giving routines and habits to replenish the areas of our lives we overuse. Schedule those moments into your life - a long warm bath, a walk outdoors, a massage, quality time with family and friends, learning a new instrument. The word rest has roots from the Germanic noun rasta meaning "league of miles." In other words it describes the distance after rest. (“rest | Etymology, origin and meaning of rest by etymonline”). The focus of the word rest is not lack of action but the distance you are able to go because of it. Rest does not indicate something not getting done. It is the energy you are regaining and storing for what is yet to come.
Dalton, Saundra, and Al Gore. “The 7 types of rest that every person needs |.” TED Ideas, 6 January 2021, https://ideas.ted.com/the-7-types-of-rest-that-every-person-needs/. Accessed 20 January 2022.
“rest | Etymology, origin and meaning of rest by etymonline.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/rest. Accessed 20 January 2022.
“Understanding the stress response.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response. Accessed 20 January 2022.