Thanks to increasingly stressful daily routines and turbulent world events, globally speaking, we are becoming more and more burnt out. While we may not be able to change our immediate circumstances, there are ways in which we can alleviate the effects of stress and exhaustion on our physical and mental wellbeing. Think: cathartic sports classes, meditation, rejuvenating sophrology, and enlightened nutrition.
Another method that’s been gaining popularity is the “seven stages of rest” developed by American physician and author Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith. In her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, Dr Dalton-Smith discusses the many causes of exhaustion, arguing that the body draws energy not only for daily movement, but also for thinking, feeling, creating and even interacting with others. Which is why, in order to fully recharge its batteries, the body must experience seven types of rest: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social and spiritual. Only once you’ve completed these steps will you be able to mitigate the effects of burn out. Here’s everything you need to know about these key types of rest.
The most obvious step is physical rest, which is based on sleep and naps, and involves establishing a routine of at least eight hours rest, preferably going to bed by 11pm at the latest. In addition to this, Dr Dalton-Smith recommends stretching to loosen up the body. While it may sound counterintuitive, stretching the body is another component of physical rest. For this, Dalton-Smith recommends yoga and Pilates, or massages to make the body more flexible.
Once the body has been soothed, it’s time to relax the mind. To achieve this, the author recommends keeping a journal of your thoughts, and taking breaks during your working day to clear your head. Breathing exercises are also an excellent way of pausing the mind and giving it a rest.
The aim here is to disconnect from your environment, if only for a few minutes. This means putting your phone, laptop and any other screen down. You want to create your own bubble where you can disengage from outside distractions. Dalton-Smith also encourages intentional moments of sensory deprivation, where you simply close your eyes for a minute in the middle of the day, every day.
This involves marvelling at the beauty of the world. Watch a film, go to a museum, admire a sunset, listen to some music. Appreciating nature and art will stimulate your inspiration, and ultimately put you in a good, restful mood.
Making yourself a priority is one of the pillars of emotional rest. This step is all about self-care—putting other people’s opinions in second place and prioritising your own feelings helps to calm your heart. Turn down that invitation, express your feelings, do what you want to do and ignore external judgment… There are many ways to rest your emotions.
This type of rest is based on a deep awareness of our interactions. The aim? To be able to identify the relationships that nourish us, and those that exhaust us. It’s time to focus on the former and cut out the latter.
This final stage consists of committing oneself to something greater than oneself, whether it’s meditation, civic engagement or community work. In short, you need to seek out a few micro-moments of human connection, where altruism and benevolence can revive your self-esteem, and your smile…
This article first appeared in British Vogue.