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What Are The Seven Stages of Rest and Why Do They Matter?

Are you getting plenty of sleep, but still feeling fatigued? Does your career keep you motivated, yet you still feel burned out? 

It could be that you’re getting the wrong kind of rest, according to Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD. Her book, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, introduces the concept of the Seven Stages of Rest. And, understanding where you could use more rest and relaxation could be the key to feeling reenergized and refreshed at the start of every day. 

What are the seven stages of rest?

Dr. Dalton-Smith has identified seven types of rest: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual. Her argument is that throughout the day, the body uses energy not only for movement but also for thinking, feeling, creating, and even relationships. That means we need to recharge according to how we’re spending our energy. 

And, spoiler alert: sleep and rest are not the same thing. 

So how do you rest in seven different ways? Well, here are a few ideas from Dr. Dalton-Smith that you could try. 

Physical rest

Of course, quality sleep (get those 8 hours!) and napping are key to physical rest. Dr. Dalton-Smith also recommends stretching, yoga, and pilates to help your muscles relax and unwind any tension in the body. 

Mental rest

Relax your mind by keeping a journal and regularly writing down your thoughts to clear your mind. You might also want to try meditation or breathwork. 

Sensory rest

In this case, sensory rest refers to disconnecting from your screens. Power down your laptop, put your phone on silent, and disengage from outside distractions. For Dr. Dalton-Smith, even closing your eyes for a few minutes during the middle of the day can count toward sensory rest

Creative rest

Creative rest is all about appreciating the beauty around you — which too often, we forget to do while running from thing to thing. “Watch a film, go to a museum, admire a sunset, or listen to some music. Appreciating nature and art will stimulate your inspiration, and ultimately put you in a good, restful mood,” wrote Vogue

Emotional rest

This type of rest focuses on meeting your own needs. It encourages taking a break from meeting the needs of other people, people-pleasing, and saying yes to social events that you don’t really want to go to. Dr. Dalton-Smith says it also encourages honesty. “An emotionally rested person can answer the question ‘How are you today?’ with a truthful ‘I’m not okay’ — and then go on to share some hard things that otherwise go unsaid,” she shared with TED

Social rest

Social rest is closely tied to emotional rest examine your interactions and prioritize those that feel rejuvenating rather than draining. “To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Even if your interactions have to occur virtually, you can choose to engage more fully in them by turning on your camera and focusing on who you’re speaking to,” said Dr. Dalton-Smith

Spiritual rest

Last but not least, spiritual rest requires a commitment to something bigger than yourself, such as meditation, civic engagement, or community work. These activities can feel restorative and help bring perspective into your daily routine. 

Now that you know the seven stages of rest, you can start to implement different practices into your life and deprioritize things that could be draining you — without your realization.

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