Updated: Apr 19
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” ~ Alan Cohen
Although it might seem counterintuitive, according to some researchers, if we rest properly we will be more productive. Rest should not be a leftover activity; work and rest are partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working, according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a Silicon Valley researcher and consultant.
In the footsteps of a natural rhythm
I see rest and productivity as an interplay between contraction and expansion. They interweave in a cycle - fully surrendering to resting (contraction), naturally leads to productivity (expansion). A similar rhythm can be seen in Nature (just think about the seasons!). Productivity and creativity follow naturally after an adequate period of rest.
Rest and sleep, what's the difference?
Rest is not just sleeping. We often use the terms “sleep” and “rest” in similar ways. Both have important influences on the mind and body and are crucial for maintaining one’s well-being. However, sleep and rest play different roles and have different purposes for our health. Sleep is a total disengagement of our mind and body, a form of passive rest.
Although essential, especially if we are sleep deprived, it doesn't necessary always restore us fully.
We've probably all been there, crashing on the sofa or heading to bed by dinnertime after a hard day, or hard week. You feel drained. Often that feeling is still there the next morning. You've slept, but you haven't recovered. You need still need rest.
According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D., sleep isn’t the only kind of rest we need. There are mental rest, physical, creative, emotional, social, sensory and spiritual. As she puts it,
“Rest is the most underused, chemical-free, safe and effective alternative therapy available to us.”
We’re all capable of pushing through exhaustion to meet an urgent deadline or finish a project, but it shouldn’t be a long-term strategy. Like the muscles in your body, your mind becomes fatigued after extreme effort. Your brain isn’t designed to be endlessly productive. Excessive focus exhausts your brain. It can drain your energy, make you lose self-control, impair your decision-making, and make you less collaborative.
The brain operates optimally when it toggles between focus and unfocus. That’ s because, during periods of rest, play, and relaxation, the brain is able to consolidate memories, crystallise learning, and work on problem-solving!
Feel inspired with these alternative 7 types of rest
Feeling distracted, overwhelmed, or brain fog? You likely need some mental rest.
Take short breaks throughout the day. Set a timer (I use the InsightTimer App) to remind yourself to step away and take a few deep breaths.
Create some space in your brain by writing down your thoughts on a notepad or in a journal.
Be mindful of your constant mental chattering and make a firm decision to not follow the same old thought pattern.
Physical rest can be either passive or active. Passive physical rest means time spent asleep, including napping. Active physical rest, on the other hand, is any activity that improves your physical well-being, like massage, exercise, stretching, or yoga.
Incorporate mild exercise into your routine at least three times a week.
Plan ahead time for professional self-care treatments
If you’ve ever felt like you’re just out of good ideas, you’ve experienced being creatively drained.
Get out into nature. Take a walk through a park, along the beach, or go for a hike.
Do something just for fun. What would you make if you didn’t have to sell or share it?
Immerse yourself in other people’s creativity. Visit a museum or get together with friends who inspire you
I have just started painting and I am feeling deeply nourished by it!
In times of extreme stress, it’s not uncommon to get irritable or overwhelmed. Our mood and emotional exhaustion can quickly spill over into other areas of our lives. We have a hard time staying focused and productive when we’re not at our emotional best.
Emotional rest tends to come down to setting effective boundaries. When you feel emotionally drained, it can be a sign that you said “yes” to something that should have been a “no.”
Take a “yes” break. Give yourself space to consider what you can handle by asking for time to consider requests before you agree to them.
Share how you are feeling in a safe space, with a friend, a journal or with a therapist.
Develop the ability to sit with difficult emotions by practicing meditation and mindfulness.
Craving some "me time?” You’re probably in need of social rest. Every person has a variety of relationships in their lives — family members, coworkers, friends, and acquaintances. Managing your energy is about finding the right balance between the relationships that drain you and the relationships that nourish and inspire you.
Say no. If you’re feeling depleted, turn down an invitation or two and recharge at home.
Change up your hangouts. If you usually go out for dinner and drinks, try meeting up for a workout class or a creative class.
You know the mild anxiety you feel when you get a notification on your phone? Then try this
Turn off the notifications on your phone or even try a digital detox. Even a few hours can help you feel more refreshed.
Meditation can help you learn to notice — and not be swept away by — external stimuli or internal chatter.
When we feel disconnected from the rest of the world, it can leave us feeling unmoored. Spiritual rest provides us with a sense of purpose and belonging. Feelings of love, acceptance, and understanding help ground us.
Join a spiritual community or group that aligns with your interests.
Volunteer for a cause that’s personally meaningful to you.
Work with a coach or mentor to reconnect your short-term goals to the bigger picture.
Bowen Therapy and the 'rest and repair' experience
I see many clients on the verge of exhaustion and burn out. Without proper rest the bodymind system becomes dehydrated, tight, inflamed and highly sensitised. Bowen Therapy is a form of manual therapy that can help restore the 'rest and repair' function of the nervous system by working on the fascia, an highly innervated system in the body; it promotes healing and restores fluidity. It's not uncommon for people to feel a surge in energy levels after treatments and increased wellbeing.
Bowen treatments can be introduced on a regular basis (every 6 week for example) as part of your physical rest activity. I can also help you with emotional rest by guiding you to find the answers within you to reconnect with your goals, motivation, boundaries and establish new more positive beliefs. For more info on Body-Mind Integration sessions get in touch.
Rest is the original transformative technology. Through rest we rebuild, rewire and renew ourselves - literally. - Matthew Edmumd
- Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, from his book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
- Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, M.D (https://ideas.ted.com/the-7-types-of-rest-that-every-person-needs/)
- Srini Pillay, Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind.
- Matthew Edmumd The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough. A 30-Day Plan to Reset Your Body