This time last year, I was interviewing Latham Thomas for Black Maternal Health Week when she mentioned the concept of seeking rest as a form of self-mothering. I was a new mom to a one-year-old and sleep most certainly was not on the menu. So I probed further. Disguised as an interview question, but mostly for myself, I asked her how a sleep-deprived parent should go about getting more sleep. I honestly can’t remember what was said in regard to the sleep issue. At this point in my motherhood journey, I realize that there’s no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all answer to that question. However, what stood out to me was the clear distinction that she made between sleep and rest. It was the first time that I’d heard anyone separate the two before.
According to Sleep.org, “rest is behavior aimed at increasing physical and mental well-being, which usually involves stopping activity. While sleep is certainly a restful state, most resting doesn’t involve the same level of disengagement as sleep.” Although my new life as a parent doesn’t afford me the luxury of much sleep, I can now reflect on the last two years, and my life in general, and say that rest is not something that I’ve allowed myself to indulge in either, but I’m working on getting better about that.
“Rest is not the same thing as sleep. Rest encompasses the restorative activities we do that help us refill our tanks, which become depleted throughout the day,” says Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, author of Sacred Rest told Shape. “It truly reenergizes us.”
Dr. Dalton-Smith has identified seven forms of rest required to be the best versions of ourselves.
Physical rest can include sleep, which is a more passive form of rest, but there are also active forms of rest such as massage therapy, yoga, and stretching. Active forms of physical rest help the body to relieve tension and can lead to improved sleep.
Mental rest may perhaps be one of the most important. It’s when you take quiet moments alone to give your mind a break.
With technology being such an essential part of our everyday lives, sensory rest is particularly important. Sensory rest is when you take a break from lights, sounds, screens, and conversations. This goes hand-in-hand with mental rest.
As. Dr. Dalton explains in an essay for TED, “this type of rest is especially important for anyone who must solve problems or brainstorm new ideas,” she goes on, “creative rest isn’t simply about appreciating nature; it also includes enjoying the arts. Turn your workspace into a place of inspiration by displaying images of places you love and works of art that speak to you.”
Spiritual rest can be achieved through prayer and getting in touch with your faith. It’s the reason we feel renewed after attending church religious services.
Social rest comes when you are able to spend quality time with the people you care about and invest in the relationships that mean the most to you. These are the people who make you feel good and help you to be a better person.
Emotional rest is when you are able to practice emotional honesty and express yourself freely without people-pleasing and without the temptation to censor yourself to ensure the comfort of others.
Watch Dr. Dalton-Smith’s TedTalk on rest below