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What is “rest”?

When we’re feeling tired or worn down, we often assume we need more sleep. But while sleep is a critical function for health, rest is so much more – and something we didn’t do much of while trying to survive a pandemic.

Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD, gave an eye-opening TED talk where she asks a critical question:

“Have you ever tried to fix an ongoing lack of energy by getting more sleep — only to do so and still feel exhausted?”

REST (n) rĕst a period of inactivity, relaxation, or sleep during which the body restores itself; sleep or the refreshment resulting from inactivity or sleep; mental or emotional calm

She goes on to explain the types of rest we all need, and how rest does differ from sleep:

  • Physical rest from sleeping or napping (passive), or activities like yoga or massage (passive)
  • Mental rest where a lack thereof can lead to racing thoughts that disrupt our lives
  • Sensory rest like breaks from computer screens or noisy environments
  • Creative rest where we take a break from non-stop problem solving to appreciate nature or enjoy craft hobby
  • Emotional rest by cutting back on people-pleasing type of behaviors and allowing ourselves to feel & express our emotions
  • Social rest that is prioritizing relationships that uplift instead of drain us
  • Spiritual rest to disengage from the rat race and feel a higher purpose and sense of belonging

So while we may think we need more sleep, it’s often rest that we really need. Here are some ways to start adding more rest to your life today:

  • Practice easy stretching.
  • Take short walking breaks.
  • Turn off electronics.
  • Appreciate something beautiful.
  • Speak your truth.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Donate or volunteer time to charity.

Sleep on its own can do wonders for our health, but often it’s rest that truly improves our quality of life.