In life we seek a lot of things. We seek purpose, we seek community, we seek growth and learning. In the constant pursuit of all of these things (and attempting to balance them), we use a lot of our energy. At times, this can lead us to feel chronically overrun, and no matter how much we catch up on sleep, or cancel plans to spend a weekend in our pajamas, we struggle with a rest deficit.
Of course, we know the power of good rest. It is the source of the energy we require to do, be, say, and live how we intend to. But there is a misunderstanding, or oversimplification of rest…
Some may think of our energy cycle as a battery. We decrease activity and catch up on sleep in order to "charge" up to 100%, and then can depend on that full battery to provide us energy, slowly chipping away at the charge. We try our hardest not to let it get to 0%, but sometimes we end up burnt out and have to fully recharge a depleted battery. We opt to “get some rest”, which we simplify to mean more hours of sleep or general inactivity.
Energy and rest don't work quite like a battery though…
For example: Going grocery shopping requires pouring from multiple buckets. You’re walking around burning physical energy, You’re surrounded by other people and speaking to the cashier. You’re trying to plan out my meals and what ingredients you need to buy. A good night's rest might help with some of this, but you can be more intentional with the way you rest to refill these buckets.
So how do we define these buckets? Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D describes it best in her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Renew Your Sanity. Let’s take a deeper look at each bucket..
This is the type of rest we are all the most familiar with. The overall "kick your feet up" type of physical inactivity. Some signs you are experiencing a physical rest deficit include:
struggling through a workout
waking up tired
nodding off at 3pm
Physical rest can be achieved through both passive and active methods.
Passive Methods for Phsyical Rest:
putting your feet up
changing into comfortable clothes
taking a bath
Active Methods for Physical Rest:
The most important bucket for problem solvers is the one we reach into for creative energy.
Creative rest re-inspires the right side of the brain and brings back passion for the things we do, and give our energy to. Some signs you are experiencing a creative rest deficit include:
overwhelm trying to plan something
reluctancy to take on new opportunities
Creative rest can be achieved by:
immersing yourself in music
arts & crafts
strolling through nature
Sensory rest deficit is so easy to fall into, especially if you are busy and trying to multitask or are naturally surrounded by ALOT going on. Some signs you are experiencing a sensory rest deficit include:
Sensory rest can be achieved through sensory deprivation, some examples include:
unplugging from devices
turning off the ceiling lights and using low lights
taking some quiet time or listening to white noise
taking a float
I'm sure upon reading social rest, you're thinking about those days you might want to go extra-hermit following a family dinner, or going to a public event, or talking all day at work. Those situations exhibit the first type of social rest deficit, which can feel like your body and mind are BEGGING for some peace and quiet (even if you are in good company).
In that case, examples of achieving social rest look like:
putting your phone on DND
setting aside intentional ME time
asking for a "camera off" day
But if we dig a little deeper into social rest deficit, you'll find that WHO you spend your time and energy on also has an impact on how fast your social bucket empties.
We have a type of brain cell, called mirror neurons, that play into how we socialize. These brain cells observe and "mirror" the state of others around us. Not only can we imitate their actions, but this brings some science to back up the statement "your laugh is contagious" as mirror neurons enable us to mirror intentions and emotions as well.
So yes, that family member who innocently spends an hour venting to you everyday... that is ACTUALLY exhausting you (and your social rest bucket).
In this scenario, social rest can be achieved by surrounding yourself with the right people, seeking out people who can naturally uplift you, and setting boundaries when necessary
Emotional rest and social rest go hand in hand. Because how you're feeling (annoyed) can quickly become influence your emotions (angry). Some signs you are experiencing an emotional rest deficit include:
chronic "I'm fine" respond
Emotional rest is having the time and space to freely express your feelings and cut back on people pleasing.
Emotional rest also requires the courage to be authentic. This can take place in safe/comfortable relationships (friends, family, partners) as well as seeking out counseling from a therapist
If you are someone whose mind is always going a million miles per hour, here’s your reminder to hit the brakes. If you've gotten to the place of "running on E", it is probably because you're not making time for mental rest. Some signs you are experiencing a mental rest deficit include:
Mental rest can be achieved by:
creating work/life boundaries
short breaks every 2 hours
brain dumping thoughts before bed
Spiritual rest is the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental levels, and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. Some signs you are experiencing a spiritual rest deficit include:
Spiritual rest can be achieved by engaging in something greater than yourself. Some examples include:
prayer or meditation
engaging with a religious or spiritual community
giving back to the community
realigning with your purpose and moral code
The next time you feel yourself running low, and are thinking you might need to set aside time to “recharge”, make sure you inventory your buckets.