“You are such a mover and a shaker,” a friend and ministry leader recently wrote to me in an email. That’s been my MO over four decades now: I plunge in headfirst, hit the ground running; I get things done. I’m the reliable one, the closer, the one who often carries the brunt of the load. As the founder of this ministry, those are valuable leadership qualities. They enable me to drive outcomes and lead others to accomplish our mission. But personally, it often comes at a great cost: the cost of my energy, time, focus, and sometimes even well-being. It can lead to exhaustion. And exhaustion can lead to burn out.
I am a very social person but have found myself most often a homebody over the past few years. Most days, I just don’t have the energy or desire to try and make social plans after planning everything and following up with everyone in my daily work. In ministry, we pour out our cup so much, it can be hard at times to find the people and the ways through which we can be poured back into.
So, when I came home a few weeks ago from a wonderful 24-day road trip north for a family reunion, fully poured into from time with family, friends, and new adventures, I was ready to plunge into our next big endeavors. Onward! But I was greeted by my editor sharing that a need for rest had arisen amongst others. And seeing how overtaxed some had become, it felt like the prudent thing to do to pivot, step back, and allow for time and space for less.
On my own restoration journey, I’ve learned the value of stillness, silence, and slowing down. While it feels counterintuitive at first to do these things, they are necessary. Pushing through is often what we think we must do, and at times we just have to push through. But the wise ones know that is not always the best course. Action becomes more powerful and effective when it is ordered, aligned, and calculated. We must be willing to slow down in order to progress, to become still in order to allow God to order our steps, and become silent in order to speak with more certainty.
While action is good, rest is necessary to keep that action going. And while we often equate rest with sleeping, that is only one of the many types of rest that we need in order to be balanced and healthy. There are actually (at least) seven kinds of rest.
So, we decided to take a month-long break from blogging to enable a time of rest. And we worked on trying to design and preschedule our social media in advance to share about these seven kinds of rest across our Instagram and Facebook. And some of us got to take a break. But friends, I’ll be honest, I did not. But I didn’t plan for it, either because I was coming off of a restful time. I provided it for my team, the majority at least—a couple of us kept working. I have several endeavors that I’m running, clients I’m working with on projects I’m managing, a book I’m writing, planning initiatives, etc… Yet it was weird to be writing about rest, running constantly behind on my social media posts and other tasks, while not really doing it.
Still, I’m sharing with you what I’ve learned about these things that I need to do, and things I need to encourage within my team. The primary source for all of it is Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D. and the commentary on her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity (which I really want to get now). I’m on the journey too, and I know that I will grow from learning more about how to be to make my “doing” more effective. And I pray that it will help you too.
Types of Rest #1: Physical Rest
What is physical rest?
- Not overexerting your body
- Restores your body
- Listening to your body’s needs
- Allowing your muscles to unwind and relax
Lack of physical rest results from failure to know your own limits/ lack of listening to what your body says.
Some signs of physical exhaustion:
- Chronic tiredness, exhaustion, lack of energy
- Weak muscles
- Slowed reflexes and responses
- Impaired decision-making and judgment
Examples of physical rest: Can be broken down into two components—passive and active
- High-quality sleep
Types of Rest #2: Mental Rest
What is mental rest?
- Not pushing the brain to continuously work hard
- Allows time for your brain to repair
- Brain can process info, make connections, and cement memories
- Essential to learning and processing
Lack of mental rest results from overtaxed thinking.
Some signs of mental exhaustion:
- Feeling stressed or anxious
- Irritability with others
- Low motivation
- Low emotional resilience
Examples of mental rest:
- Pray a Rosary
- Write your to-do’s on a list
- Turn off your screens
Types of Rest #3: Spiritual Rest
What is spiritual rest?
- “When we experience intimacy with God” -Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D.
- Taking time to just be with Him, no prayer list agenda
- Not to being human doings, but instead be human beings
- To quieting ourselves before God, let Him revive us
Lack of spiritual rest results from feeling a lack of purpose, peace, comfort, and trust.
Some signs of spiritual exhaustion:
- Feeling helpless and defeated
- Isolating from others
- Feelings of failure and self-doubt
- Loss of motivation
Examples of Spiritual rest:
- Learning to just be with God- meditations, silent prayer time
- Going on retreats (can be a plug opportunity for the LWGL retreat)
- Seeking out your sense of purpose
- Acts of charity
Types of Rest #4: Emotional Rest
What is emotional rest?
- Being intentional about recharging and restoring emotional energy
- A break from people-pleasing, caretaking, emotional stuffing
Lack of emotional rest results from being unable to express your emotions authentically.
Some signs of emotional exhaustion:
- Trouble sleeping
- Irrational anger
- Physical fatigue
Examples of emotional rest:
- Tell a loved one how you really feel
- Give Christ your emotional burdens (Mt 11:28)
- Get a/meet with your Therapist
Types of Rest #5: Sensory Rest
What is sensory rest?
- Reducing or minimizing sensory stimulation, so the body/mind can recover from bombardment of sensory information
- Not watching an action-packed movie/ show before bed
- Helping your brain slow down by taking away stimuli
Lack of Sensory rest results when your brain takes in more information than your brain can process.
Some signs of Sensory exhaustion/overload:
- Urge to cover your ears and eyes to block out the source of input
- Stress, fear, or panic
- High levels of excitement or feeling “wound up”
- Anxiety and inability to relax
Examples of Sensory rest:
- Going outside for fresh air
- Dimming the lights or using candlelight
- Taking time away from screens
- Making a schedule for when you work and let your mind rest
Types of Rest #6: Social Rest
What is social rest?
- Quality time with relationships that revive you
- Cutting off toxic relationships
- Finding clarity on the friendships you desire
Lack of social rest results from having unhealthy boundaries, overextending yourself.
Some signs of social exhaustion:
- Skipping social events
- Overly tired
Examples of social rest:
- Implement a self-care regimen
- Extroverts spend time with life-giving relationships / Introverts spend time alone
- Visit Jesus in Adoration
Types of Rest #7: Creative Rest
What is creative rest?
- “When we allow ourselves to appreciate beauty- natural and manmade”
- When you give your brain time to work subconsciously on creative problems
- Helps us feel inspired and motivated
Lack of creative rest results from perfectionism, external pressure, high expectations, or hypersensitivity.
Some signs of creative exhaustion:
- Lack of interest and motivation
- Not knowing who to ask for help
Examples of creative rest:
- Going for walk (being in nature)
- surrounding yourself with things that inspire you
- Taking on small and light side projects (projects that will not cause more exhaustion/burnout)
5 Tips for Resting:
- Take the Rest Quiz by Dr. Dalton-Smith at restquiz.com.
- Start by addressing your biggest rest deficit first.
- Work on making healthy habits in the next areas of rest deficit.
- Create daily, weekly, monthly habits to maintain rest across the seven types.
- Become intentional: Recognize your triggers, pay attention to your deficit signs, and don’t allow yourself to become too depleted.
After all that I’ve learned, the greatest thing I can do is ask for the help I need to do what is necessary for rest. And that is to pray, “Lord, teach me to rest.” And then be attentive to what He does. Because even Jesus needed time away from ministering to the crowds to rest, pray, and just be.