We are a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired and chronically burned-out individuals. We often think a sleep in or two will allow us to catch up and thrive. Getting more sleep however is often not enough to cure an ongoing lack of energy or stop us feeling exhausted.
Our body actually needs 7 types of rest to be fully restored.
This can be active or passive. Passive rest refers to sleeping and napping. Active physical rest includes restorative activities such as yoga, stretching and massage therapy. You could also use a foam roller performing frog stretches, starfish stretches and thoracic mobilisations. All of these are activities that help improve the body’s circulation and flexibility.
Are you someone who lies down at night to sleep and frequently struggles to turn off your brain? Conversations from the day fill your thoughts, or a mental to-do list for tomorrow is being already being formed in your head. Despite ‘sleeping’ seven to eight hours, you toss and turn, waking up feeling as if you never went to bed. You have a mental rest deficit.
Now it would be fabulous to be able to go on holidays any time you need to ‘rest” your brain. The reality is that you have a job and responsibilities so what you can do is schedule short breaks to occur every two hours or so throughout your workday; these breaks can remind you to slow down and breathe. You might also keep a notepad by the bed to jot down any nagging thoughts before you go to sleep so that your thoughts don’t keep you awake.
Background noise. multiple conversations, mobile phones, computer screens, bright lights, — whether they’re in an office or on Zoom calls — can cause our senses to feel overwhelmed. Counter this over stimulation by doing something as simple as closing your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day or heading out into nature.
You could also unplug from electronics at the end of every day. Intentional moments of sensory deprivation can begin to undo the damage inflicted by the over-stimulating world.
This type of rest is especially important for those people that need to brainstorm ideas or problem solve. Creative rest reawakens the awe and wonder inside each of us. Think of the last time that you saw a beautiful waterfall or stood at the top of a cliff admiring the view out to sea or of the headland below. Allowing yourself time in the beauty of the great outdoors or even admiring the beauty in a great artwork indoors allows you to feel energised and helps to ignite your innovation and passion.
As a Physio, it is my job to listen and sympathise when you tell me about your pain and ‘issues’. What you may not realise is that I have to listen to another 25-30+ people most days all requiring the same level of support and understanding. And don’t get me wrong, that is entirely okay! I do need to allow myself time and space outside of work to focus on my own emotional rest because such a large part of my job involves reassuring others.
Similarly if you are the friend or family member that everyone depends on, the person everyone calls if they need a favour because even if you don’t want to do it, they know you will give a reluctant “yes” rather than a truthful “no”. You need to ensure that you allow yourself time and space to cut back on the ‘people pleasing’.
This is where you need to be able to differentiate the relationships that revive you from those relationships that exhaust you. We all know a friend or relative who is needy, negative and saps your energy. To experience more social rest, surround yourself with positive and supportive people.
Spiritual rest refers to the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. To receive this, you need to engage in something greater than yourself. For some people this may mean praying, or you could try meditation or adding some community involvement to your daily routine.
So as we head into a new year I hope you have had a chance to get the right type of rest you need.
Please note that fatigue can also be associated with numerous health problems, so ensure you get checked out by your GP if rest does not help and your fatigue persists.