From The Straits Times    |


Life can be stressful. That’s why we try to get some balance in our lives by having me-time or doing things that relax us. We might also think that getting a good night’s sleep is what we need to feel better to face the next day. Although sleep is definitely important for our overall physical and mental health, what we actually need is rest – which explains why you could still feel exhausted despite sleeping well or going on a relaxing holiday. And you might be surprised that there is more than one type of rest. 

Credit: Getty

Wellness expert Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith developed the concept of the seven rests our body and mind need, which she outlined in her book, Sacred Rest. They are – physical, mental, emotional, sensory, creative, social and spiritual. Each type of rest has a unique purpose and all of them work together to recharge, renew and restore our energy levels.

But how does this help us in the long-run, to lead a more balanced and fulfilled life? Grace Loh, psychotherapist, counsellor and coach at Counselling Perspective, says that understanding the nuanced facets of rest is crucial for our holistic well-being.

“Rest isn’t a uniform concept but an intricate tapestry of physical, emotional and mental reprieve that our bodies and minds require for rejuvenation from the stresses of daily life,” she explains. “Similar to how different exercises target distinct muscles, each type of rest targets specific aspects of our being, aiding in our recovery and revitalisation.”

Here’s all you need to know about the seven types of rest and how you can practice them. 

Credit: Getty

1. Physical Rest

This is probably the easiest facet to understand but it’s more than just taking a break from the daily grind and relaxing for a while. Grace points out that, beyond mere cessation of movement, physical rest encompasses activities like intentional stretching, power naps, massages or brief interludes amid daily tasks. This reprieve allows our muscles to heal, fortifying against exhaustion and potential injury. 

How to get physical rest:

  • Prioritise sleep, ensuring adequate and quality sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Incorporate short breaks or stretches into your work routine every hour to prevent muscle strain.
  • Fuel your body with proper hydration and balanced nutrition to support physical recovery.
  • Engage in light exercises or activities like yoga that promote muscle relaxation and healing.
  • Be mindful of your posture throughout the day and take breaks to readjust or stretch to alleviate tension.

2. Mental Rest

We are constantly mentally stimulated these days, bombarded with screens of various sizes wherever we go and lists of chores to get through. Also, it’s not uncommon to have your mind racing with thoughts when you’re trying to fall asleep, thus affecting your physical rest too. 

In our hyper-stimulated world, mental rest entails disconnecting from constant mental stimuli, be it through digital detoxes, meditation practices or fostering moments of serene contemplation, says Grace. By allowing our minds a hiatus, we enhance focus, productivity and cognitive acuity. 

How to get physical rest: 

  • Dedicate time daily to mindfulness or meditation practices to quiet the mind and enhance mental clarity.
  • Set boundaries for screen use, incorporating tech-free periods to reduce mental stimulation.
  • Allocate time for journaling or reflection to process thoughts and emotions, fostering mental decluttering.
  • Engage in hobbies or creative activities that provide an outlet for expression and relaxation.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to calm the mind and body.
Credit: Getty

3. Emotional Rest

People around us tend to make emotional demands on us – it’s normal, we do the same to them too. It could be your partner wanting you to open up more, your best friend unloading her problems onto you or your boss telling you things about your colleagues you don’t need to know. Taking on other people’s emotions or hiding your own feelings can get exhausting. 

Grace says that navigating emotional demands necessitates occasional withdrawal for restoration. This involves embracing solitude, avoiding stressors, confiding in trusted confidants, nurturing self-care rituals or immersing ourselves in nature’s tranquil embrace. This repose nurtures emotional equilibrium, preventing burnout and fostering resilience. 

How to get emotional rest:

  • Develop self-care routines that prioritise your emotional well-being, such as baths, reading or listening to soothing music.
  • Spend time in nature regularly to unwind and reconnect with a sense of peace and tranquillity.
  • Learn to set boundaries and say no when commitments overwhelm your emotional capacity.
  • Consider activities like art therapy, journaling or talking to a therapist to process emotions.
  • Carve out moments of solitude for personal reflection, rejuvenation and emotional recharge.

4. Sensory Rest

It’s something that is said often these days – because it’s true – but technology has added an extra stress to our lives. The sensory overload of screens in both our work and personal lives necessitates some time away from them every now and then. So, amidst a sensory barrage from our environment, sensory rest advocates for moments of quietude: switching off screens, embracing darkness, immersing in silence or indulging in soothing sounds. These pauses allow our senses to recuperate, shielding us from overwhelming stimuli and mitigating stress, says Grace.

How to get sensory rest:

  • Designate areas in your home or workplace for quietude and relaxation, free from excessive stimuli.
  • Use noise-cancelling headphones or seek quiet environments to minimise auditory overload.
  • Practice mindful eating to appreciate and savour meals, reducing sensory distractions during meals.
  • Opt for softer, dimmer lighting in the evening to signal relaxation and prepare the body for rest.
  • Listen to calming music or sounds, like nature sounds or white noise, to create a peaceful atmosphere.
Credit: Getty

5. Creative Rest

It doesn’t matter what kind of job we’re doing, there always seems to be creative elements in our professional lives, even if it’s simply brainstorming ideas in meetings. In our private lives, creative skills are also needed for everyday things like organising parties or booking a holiday. To combat this, creative rest involves liberating ourselves from the pressure of constant output. 

Grace lists ideas such as sabbaticals from work, engaging in hobbies or revelling in creative pursuits purely for enjoyment. This reprieve fosters fresh perspectives, fuelling inspiration and preventing creative fatigue, she adds. 

How to get creative rest: 

  • Engage in creative activities purely for enjoyment without the pressure of achieving a specific outcome or goal. Allow yourself to explore artistic hobbies or activities simply for the pleasure they bring.
  • Experiment with various forms of creativity beyond your usual pursuits. Try painting, writing, cooking, gardening or any other activity that sparks your interest and provides a sense of relaxation.
  • Integrate scheduled breaks throughout your day specifically dedicated to creative endeavours. This could involve setting aside time to doodle, craft or play a musical instrument to break the monotony of work or routine tasks.
  • Cultivate a sense of playfulness in your creative pursuits. Approach these activities with curiosity and an open mind, allowing yourself to explore without judgment or self-criticism.
  • Spend time in nature or surroundings that inspire you creatively. Nature walks, visiting art galleries or observing beautiful landscapes can stimulate fresh ideas and provide a mental reset conducive to creative rest.

6. Social Rest

It’s really fun to mingle and spend time with people. But, social interactions could also drain your energy – especially if you’re an introvert. Grace reveals that social rest advocates for brief respites: moments of solitude, minimising social engagements or cherishing quality time with intimate circles. These intervals recharge emotional boundaries, averting social exhaustion while nurturing connections. 

How to get social rest: 

  • Be selective with social commitments, prioritising quality over quantity in social interactions.
  • Schedule moments of solitude to recharge after social engagements or busy periods.
  • Invest time in nurturing close relationships that offer support and emotional replenishment.
  • Take breaks from social media or networking to reduce social comparison and pressure.
  • Learn to gracefully decline social invitations when feeling drained or in need of personal time.

7. Spiritual Rest

Connecting with yourself is important and this is where spiritual rest helps. This involves activities like meditation, prayer, nature immersion or engaging in practices that resonate personally. This interlude fosters a connection with our inner selves, instilling purpose and grounding us amidst life’s chaos, says Grace. 

How to get spiritual rest: 

  • Dedicate consistent time for spiritual activities that resonate with you, whether it’s meditation, prayer, mindfulness or other contemplative practices. Making it a routine fosters a deeper connection with your spiritual self.
  • Spend time in natural settings to reconnect with the profound tranquillity found in nature. Walking in a forest, sitting by the ocean, or gazing at the stars can offer a sense of spiritual renewal and grounding.
  • Infuse mindfulness into everyday tasks, bringing a sense of sacredness to each moment. Whether it’s mindful eating, mindful walking or being present in routine chores, it helps to centre yourself spiritually.
  • Engage in reflective practices, such as journaling, to explore your thoughts, emotions and spiritual experiences. Reflecting on your inner journey can deepen spiritual understanding and provide insights.
  • Connect with like-minded individuals or spiritual communities that support your spiritual growth. Sharing experiences, discussions or attending gatherings can foster a sense of belonging and spiritual fulfilment.
Credit: Getty

The seven rests in your daily routine 

While it’s good to know all about the seven types of rest, practicing all of them might be trickier. Grace acknowledges that incorporating these seven forms of rest into daily life necessitates deliberate action. She has the following tips: 

  • Allocate dedicated time for each type of rest in your routine, mirroring the commitment given to work or exercise.
  • Tailor rest activities according to your body and mind’s needs, aligning them with your intrinsic requirements. 
  • Integrate brief breaks within your day, engaging in walks, meditative pauses or deep-breathing exercises. 
  • Protect your energy by learning to decline when necessary and seeking assistance when overwhelmed. 
  • Regularly disconnect from technology to grant your mind respite from perpetual stimulation. 
  • Experiment with diverse rest forms to discern what brings tranquillity and incorporate these into your routine. 
  • Make rest an inherent part of daily life, integrating it into your self-care regimen for sustained well-being.