It is no secret that our modern lives can be pretty hectic; 7.00am HIIT classes, bright and early Zoom meetings, school runs, a full working day plus all the daily duties that make up our routines.
It's not uncommon for many of us to find ourselves sitting down at the end of the day wondering where the day has gone, with little time for exploration of the things we truly enjoy - that make us whole and who we are, let alone any time for adequate rest.
One of the most obvious and natural pathways to resting is through sleep. Now we probably all know that for the biological processes of health and healing to occur, and for our bodies to recover energetically from our days, it's recommended that human beings get around 8 hours sleep per night. I'm sure there are some sleep deprived parents and busy professionals scoffing “yeah right” at this statement!
To add to that, it's not only the amount of time that we sleep that matters but the quality of our sleep. There are all sorts of fancy gadgets one can purchase that helps to track the quality of your sleep; determined by the amount of REM and deep sleep we get per night.
But we all intuitively know that feeling of rising in the morning feeling fresh and fully charged for the day ahead, and I'm sure that we've all experienced the opposite many times too! Healthy sleep habits are a whole other topic in themselves, but some general tips for improving sleep include:
Reducing artificial/blue light from screens for at least a few hours before bedtime. You can purchase some fancy blue blocking goggles to don in the evenings, some more “fashionably designed” than others! There's also some research that suggests turning off your Wi-Fi can improve your sleep, particularly if you are sensitive to non-native EMFS!
Rest is more than just sleep
Clearly, sleep is crucially important. However, there are also different types of rest that can be effectively applied to the different areas in your life when you are feeling drained.
I'd argue that there are 6 types of rest: physical, mental, emotional, social, creative/sensory, and spiritual.
For instance have you ever felt flat, had a midday nap and woken up feeling worse? Now there is nothing wrong with a nap, and I am a big fan of naps! However, if you are feeling drained after a long morning of meetings and work sitting at your laptop, a nap (physical rest) may not be what you need.
Instead, you may be craving sensory or creative rest.
Understanding the different types of rest is transformational for our growth and selfcare, allowing us to manage our mood and energy better and ultimately allowing us to bring the best of ourselves forward into our personal and professional life.
Let's take a look at the 6 types of rest:
The first and most obvious type of rest. Physical rest does not have to mean cessation from activity, in fact restoration can be found in many physical forms such as Yin yoga or a gentle Vinyasa. Body work practices such as massage, foam rolling, sauna (hot and cold exposure), and really anything that gently moves the circulatory and lymph systems can be beneficial. These practices can stimulate the feeling of energy around of bodies, without exerting us.
In Eastern Philosophy, this energy is referred to as Qi (chi) or Prana. The ancient practice of Qi Gong is argued by some to date back to Neolithic times, and is a meditative movement practice in which the practitioner witnesses and harnesses the infinite source of Qi (energy) we all have inside us in order to find stillness, focus and optimal physical, mental and spiritual health. Whether you are into the philosophy or not, the scientific benefits of Qi Gong are clear!
Particularly important for those of us whose daily activities require a lot of our mental focus and brain power. Examples of mental rest are anything where your brain can switch off from your daily tasks, either partially or completely. A beautiful example of partially switching off is reading. Have you ever been so engrossed in a book that you forget all else apart from the mysterious and enchanting realms of dragons and wood elves?
This temporary escape from reality gives our brains and nervous system a break from the pressures we find in everyday life and induces a para-sympathetic nervous state. Complete mental rest can involve activities where little to no brain activity is required, like the repetitive action of chopping wood. Yoga Nidra or “sleep yoga” is a beautiful way to consciously completely rest your brain.
This is arguably one of the most important types of rest with regards to our mental health. It's no secret that being able to talk out our feelings with people we trust, without judgement, is completely transformative and imperative to managing our emotions and mental hygiene.
Modern living can be mentally bludgeoning - especially if we consider the last year we have had! It is so wonderful to see how in recent years so much work has been done to remove the stigma around mental health and remind us all that we are all one human community who often feel similar woes and heartaches, and how opening up to and looking out for each other can bring us peace and solace. If you feel you are limited in those you can talk with, remember there are support groups online and professionals who can help.
It is so important for us to have people who we can truly be our weird and wonderful selves with. Modern life demands a certain level of professionality and rightly so, but those of us with super corporate jobs may find they are lacking the space in their lives to let their freak flag fly. Spending quality time with the people who know the real you, with all your kooks and kinks is the perfect buffer to the seriousness!
Creative and sensory rest
I find that this is the type of rest people feel they are often most lacking in, but it does not have to mean sitting at an easel transcribing your Mum’s favourite vase and a few tangerines in oil paint. Creative rest encapsulates anything that inspires that flow of inspired energy through you! Music, dancing, being in nature.
Anything that evokes the feeling of magnificence and beauty, that feeling you get when you see an orange and pink sunset stretching out across the last of the days powder blue sky. Creative rest can particularly benefit those whose creative energy is consumed by their work. If I am struggling to write I know that I'm probably requiring some sensory rest - sitting staring at my screen typing and deleting words over and over is never going to help, but taking a walk in the woods with my dogs will “unblock” the damn and my inspiration flows.
It's worth noting here that by spiritual, I don't mean religious. Maybe you believe in God or in the divinity of nature, or perhaps worship aliens in a far-off galaxy. Maybe you're just not that interested!
Either way, I believe that spiritual rest can be found in the sacredness of the human community. To be able to rest in the sanctity of community and act out of nothing but love is truly transcending for our humble human vessels.
Spiritual or not, practices such as meditation are a beautiful path towards connection to the divine - whatever divinity looks like for you. Divinity for you might just involve being at one with yourself.
Having faith in something greater than our everyday problems encourages us to show up to be the best versions we can be for our family, friends, the human community and ourselves. After the year we have just had, there has never been a better time to prioritise our spiritual wellbeing. As without, so within. A better world starts with healing ourselves.
Our modern lives are great at jacking up our sympathetic nervous systems over and over throughout our days, and this repeated over the years can sometimes eventually lead to “burn out", or adrenal fatigue.
Even little things that add up can cause miniature daily burnouts, by distracting us and “wasting” our focused energy. A great way to limit distractions is to turn off all notifications that are not absolutely necessary. If your phone pings because someone we went to high school with and haven’t seen in 15 years posts a picture of their dinner on social media, our attention is diverted and that focused energy is essentially wasted.
Limiting time on our phones (and social media) in general I would argue is life changing. Limit your work notifications to work time and not having them on our phones is a powerful way to set boundaries with your time and ensure that when you are working your focus and attention is fully on work. This will improve your productivity, but even when you are not working, your focus and attention will be on yourself, your friends and your family who deserve to have you fully present and showing up for them.
Make rest a priority
Taking time to prioritize true restorative restfulness in a world where we wrongly value ourselves according to how much we can cram in a day, is a truly revolutionary act of self-sovereignty.
By giving ourselves the permission to truly rest we are ensuring we can show up to all aspects of our lives to the fullest capacity, without compromising our peace and happiness.
I hope there is something in this that helps bring some restoration - now, time for a nap!