How to get the rest you need to thrive in challenging times

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

If that’s you, here’s the secret: Sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two.

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We go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep — but in reality we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need. The result is a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired and chronically burned-out individuals. We’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest.

Rest should equal restoration in seven key areas of your life.

Did you know there are 7 different types of rest every person needs?

What a game-changer when I discovered what they were.

While on vacation to visit my family this month I had a bike accident on the final weekend. I briefly lost my balance on a trail, my foot slipped off the pedal and it came swinging around full speed and whacked my left shin slicing the skin open to the bone. I will spare you the details. Full Stop. No more activity. Tend to the wound, rest, ice and let the healing begin.

I sit here almost two weeks later writing this blog with my leg up on my desk icing. On my shin is a bag of frozen cranberries to ease the pain that still plagues me. Why cranberries? It is what I had in my freezer, the bag molds well to my leg, it hurts less than ice cubes and I didn’t have frozen peas or a soft enough ice pack. For someone who loves to move daily and relies on her body to teach and work, this setback was a challenging one. Physical rest was needed.

I consulted a variety of medical professionals who advised me on the best care.  One of the most helpful tips was to keep icing since even once the wound has healed, a bone bruise could take up to 3 months to heal fully. Numbing the area with ice (and frozen cranberries) has provided relief for sure.

Going slower physically meant the voice in my head got louder. We all have one. This “voice” or mental chatter can be referred to as our ego or personality or self (small s versus capital S = higher Self). A friend of mine also reminded me not so gently to just STOP DOING, to get out of my ego and tune more deeply into my heart. We are all being called to move inward this year and come home to our true selves. In the research I share here, this is also considered “Mental Rest”.

The practice of Yoga teaches the concept of mental rest beautifully by way of asana, pranayama, and meditation. Yoga philosophy’s second sutra “chitta vritti nirodha” which translates to “yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind” or simply – calm the fluctuations of the mind, is a practice that is needed now more than ever if you find yourself getting caught up in any form of “busyness”.  One of the primary intentions of practice is to restore balance, well-being, and a more meaningful connection to our true nature.

My leg injury allowed me to come back into my practice more deeply and move inward (since I couldn't move very well outwardly). Tuning into each breath and feeling the currents of thought, emotion and energy circulate through me was an intense experience at times. Yet I witnessed the inner and outer discomfort as best as I could. The beauty of having a spiritual practice and/or authentic yoga practice is that we are welcomed exactly how we are without judgment or a need to be anything different than what we are in the moment.


Feeling fragmented? Do yoga. Feeling overwhelmed? Do yoga. Feeling grief? Do yoga. Feeling energized or happy? Do yoga. I have learned there is a way to practice for every existing condition. Our yoga evolves as we do.

Yes, sometimes vegging out in front of a Netflix film or scrolling through an Instagram feed may offer temporary relief and is certainly enjoyable in doses, yet done too often, it can become a form of avoidance behavior like anything else we do to avoid our inner triggers.


Avoidance behaviors such as these along with turning to alcohol to numb a feeling or take drugs, drive recklessly, over eat, over exercise, compulsive shopping and other external behaviors done mindlessly inhibit us from hearing what our spirit is trying to tell us. Hence the need for Spiritual Rest.

Each morning I roll out my mat and turn off all tech. Turning off the lights, notifications, and refraining from conversation is what is known as Sensory Rest to undo over-stimulation and evacuate accumulated tension and stress.  

I step onto my mat, take time to get still, tune into my breath and drop into my heart before engaging in any kind of movement. This kind of spiritual rest helps us tune in to what is real and true in the moment. Unless you have tried it, you will never know how deeply enriching and freeing it actually is. Be intentional about getting in touch with your Self and sense the multitude of energy currents, emotions and memories that surface when you do a deep dive into your heart and soul, you will tap into another dimension of your Being.

With patience, all the noise, inner chatter (voice in your head), and emotions quieten. New sensory awareness begins to present itself within your field of awareness. This kind of (spiritual and emotional) rest is where we tap into our inner GPS thus informing and guiding our life trajectory.

Creative Rest is another form of rest just like engaging in an art form (music, pottery, painting, dancing etc.). This type of rest is especially important for anyone who must solve problems or brainstorm new ideas.  I know for sure doing these types of practices help me write my blogs, articles and routines for my classes. When we tap into the creative parts of our brain we begin to experience the state of flow where timelessness sets in and inspiration takes over. Being in nature is also highly nourishing and helps me tap into my creativity in a similar way.

So this is what the past 2 weeks have been about. Tending to my healing, taking more breaks while I work and exploring the various forms of rest: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, and spiritual.

I am a work in progress, as we all are...

Rest and relaxation is one of the essential elements included on our School of Happiness wheel. For some it comes easily and for others who like to be in action it can be a challenge.  


If you haven’t already downloaded your copy you can get it here to evaluate your own life balance. In last month's blog we explored how to live with greater purpose leading towards enhanced life fulfillment and happiness. You can find it here.
 
Relaxation relieves stress, anxiety, and fluctuating emotions. Take good care of yourself. Learn stress-releasing strategies to stimulate the body’s relaxation response. In turn, your mood will improve, your focus will sharpen and new found natural energy will emerge. A more balanced life will allow you to be happier, healthier, more productive, and at peace.

Be well.

If you are curious to learn more about the The 7 types of rest that every person needs, check out this article and TED talk by Saundra Dalton-Smith MD.

Laura Warf is the co-founder and Chief Happiness & Wellbeing Officer of the School of Happiness, an online fitness and wellness platform that guides people to cultivate a resilient body, a clear mind, and a happy heart leading to optimal health, happiness, and fulfillment at home and at work.

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