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Rest is More Than Sleep: What You Need to Renew Your Energy

Rest is More Than Sleep: What You Need to Renew Your Energy

I am a firm believer in the power of sleep and do my best to get eight hours every night to maintain my health and wellness. I thought I was honoring my need to rest, but my mind was blown when I read a piece about Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith in Maria Shriver’s: The Sunday Paper that delved into the nuances of rest beyond sleep and why we need to change our perspective about how we recharge.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is a board-certified internal medicine physician, work-life integration researcher, and author of the best-selling book, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.

She shows high achievers how to optimize their time and effort without sacrificing their happiness and relationships, both personally and professionally. The good doctor had me hooked at high-achiever, since I struggle on the slippery slope of workaholism and the quest for work-life fit.

After devouring her book, I invited Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith to join me for an episode of my podcast, Your Working Life. She was a pleasure to speak with and I learned a lot from her that I am on a mission to share.

Rest is not just about sleep.

According to Dr. Dalton-Smith:

So many people count rest as a big bucket. A cessation of activity. Anything that is not their normal work, they call rest. You’ll hear from someone, 'I’m going on vacation to rest.' What they really mean is that they are going to go to a fun location and do fun work. They’re not effectively resting - they’re doing a lot of fun activities that usually don’t leave them feeling restored but rather leave them feeling more tired when they get home.

Let’s not forget that some people (I have been guilty of this!) have trouble severing the tether from work and are simply working from another location while on vacation, so rest is not truly happening.

So, can you really be productive while burning the candle at both ends? According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith:

The most productive people — people who produce at the highest mental, physical, creative, emotional level of capacity — rest. Those people cannot do that unless they are getting adequate rest. Otherwise, you are creating and producing out of emptiness.

There are a lot of people in the world who are producing work, but the work they’re producing is not their best. Whether you’re a creative, a writer, an actor, an entrepreneur, a schoolteacher, a student, whatever, if you’re trying to get to the next level, you won’t get there empty. You’re only going to get there when you feel at your best — fully empowered and fully energized.

[Related: The Final Quarter: Finish Strong With Strategies From Nature]

Buck the false rest deprivation badge of honor.

Many organizations and leaders perpetuate a false badge of honor for working around the clock and getting by on very little sleep. I once had a boss who told me, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Enough said.

Dr. Dalton-Smith believes we need to be courageous and defy the status quo. Approach your rest needs on an individual basis and honor your mind and body. This is not a competition or a comparison – you alone are in control of your wellness. Tap your inner rebel, and as Dr. Dalton-Smith says:

It takes courage because that [prioritizing rest] is not what most of the world is doing and that is why most of the world is burned out, tired, and fatigued.

She identifies seven types of rest we need to feel happy, productive, and fulfilled. She discovered these gaps when diagnosing common ailments in her patients. Helping them get the rest they needed often restored their health. Some of them may surprise you.

[Related: Derail Your Burnout Before It Derails You]

Seven types of rest.

1) Mental rest.

When your mind is tired, your memory lapses and you are prone to make mistakes. Your mental monkey chatter about self-criticism and thoughts about what you “would-a, could-a, should-a” wears out your brain. It’s important to schedule activities throughout the day that ground you and take little thought. Take a walk outside and breathe fresh air. Sit still and meditate for a few moments to give your brain a chance to reboot.

2) Spiritual rest.

Consider your life purpose and your connection to something bigger than yourself. Bask in the sunlight or the scent of flowers in bloom. Take a moment to listen to the rain or share your gratitude about something awesome.

3) Emotional rest.

The constant pressure to perform at work or at home can lead to overwhelm. Identify a circle of people you trust and create a space of psychological safety where you can let down your guard and be vulnerable to share your range of emotions from fear to joy to everything in between.

4) Social rest.

Loneliness has been a challenge during the pandemic with social distancing and isolation. In-person interaction is important, and you need to find your community of like-minded people to relax and enjoy spending time with. As more people become vaccinated, our ability to engage safely in-person will increase, providing more opportunities for social engagement.

5) Sensory rest.

From screen time to loud noises, your senses can easily become overwhelmed beyond your control. Take a break from your devices, play your favorite music, and consider how to stimulate your olfactory senses with aromas you enjoy. At work, Dr. Dalton-Smith recommends a singular Zoom background for all during meetings, so our brains don’t focus on the unique backdrop of each participant and create sensory overload.

6) Creative rest.

This one really resonated with me! Take the time to notice the details in things. Immerse yourself in something you enjoy – music, theatre, dance, comedy, sports – something that will reawaken your curiosity. Go back to a beginner’s mind and experience something with a fresh new perspective to tap your creative juices.

7) Physical rest.

Your body needs recovery time. Many working from home are seated in a chair for multiple hours a day. Even if you exercise regularly, honor your body by stretching and taking breaks to breathe deeply and reboot. This practice will calm your body and lift your mood.

Be brave and honor your rest needs holistically to help you recover your life and renew your energy. Many thanks to Dr. Sandra Dalton-Smith for teaching me the sacred nature of rest.

[Related: Harnessing Courage to Overcome Fear]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.