There is nothing more unsatisfying than waking up from a nap and still feeling unrested. As someone who took an unsavory nap today, I can say with all due passion and emphasis that it is one of the most aggravating experiences known to man. In fact, my experiences with these imposter naps have been so far and frequent within the past semester that I, in a fit of desperation, decided to conduct an examination on what it means to truly feel restful.
As it turned out, my findings were rather illuminating. I came across this framework proposed by internal medicine physician and motivational speaker, Saundra Dalton-Smith, known as the Seven Types of Rest. Dalton-Smith designed this construction as a means of defining rest in a way that addresses the multi-faceted nature of human needs. She emphasizes that sleep can only address rest on a physical level, but cannot aid in tackling the other areas in which we may be feeling burnt out. To provide some clarity on the full spectrum of rest, here are the seven types of rest described in detail:
As you can probably guess, this is the type of rest that sleep is designed to target. To be clear, though, finding rest in a particular area can mean more than one thing. If it is not sleep you need, perhaps it is physical activity, stretching, eating well, or staying hydrated. Regardless of what the activity is, rest in the area of physicality is aimed at bringing your attention back to your body. Of course, our lifestyle as college students may not be so accommodating to habits that require commitment, but even small things like dancing to your favorite song can bring you some physical comfort.
Mental rest is perhaps one of the most necessary types of rest for college students. As people who are constantly absorbing information and producing material, it is quite easy to feel mental burnout. Struggles with winding down at night, retaining information, and cerebral tension are all signs that you may be in need of mental rest. Taking breaks between or in the middle of assignments, doing a puzzle, or learning something spontaneous and random can allow your mind to untangle and free itself from the constraints of daily life.
Human beings are sensory creatures. When the sensory stimuli from our everyday environment (computer screens, loud background chatter, etc.) begin to pile up, we can become overwhelmed. Taking sensory rest can include going on walks, limiting screen time, and finding quiet places to simply be without external stimuli. Engaging in this type of rest can give us the chance to diffuse our overwhelm and start anew.
Creative rest can manifest itself in two different ways. If you have been doing a lot of creative work recently (brainstorming ideas, executing artistic vision, etc.), you may need to take a break from generating new concepts. Surrounding yourself with art of any kind or nature can reawaken the feelings of excitement, innovation, and originality needed to feel creatively replenished. Another way creative rest can be restorative is if you have not been creative in awhile. In this case, finding the spaces where you can output your particular brand of creativity is essential to feeling human.
Emotional rest opens up the space for you to get in touch with your heart space and become aware of how you are feeling. Sometimes the easiest way to engage in emotional rest is to set boundaries where you need to, in order to have the space to reflect and process. It is also helpful to be honest with the people who matter to you about how you are feeling, as this is a way of honoring your feelings and operating from your heart space. Most importantly, the goal with emotional rest is not necessarily to feel happy, but to feel grounded in what it is that you feel.
Social rest allows us to take stalk of the relationships in our lives and evaluate how we feel in them. If we are experiencing friendships in which we are giving too much and receiving too little, social rest gives us the opportunity to notice and take action to change these circumstances. On the other hand, if we have not had the time to engage in much social activity, social rest can mean that we make time to be with the people who remind us of our best selves and support our growth.
Spiritual rest looks different for everybody. If you are religious, spiritual rest aims at refreshing and replenishing your relationship with your religion. It is not, however, exclusive to religious people. It could also be a time of deep introspection, growth, and transformation. Spiritual rest opens up the opportunity for us to decide if our current life circumstances are aligned with who we are and what we want out of life. It is certainly more existential in nature, but it is meant to provide some big picture grounding that can make our daily tasks feel more supported.
The types of rest are meant to highlight how complex human beings truly are. Each of these areas of existence play a significant role in our general fulfillment. Of course, it must be said that it is incredibly difficult to engage in every type of rest at all times. This framework, however, is meant to fill some gaps in our mission of being fulfilled and purposeful. I sincerely hope that it provides some insight for you on how to approach rest and general wellbeing, both in college and beyond. If I am being completely honest, I wrote this piece to hold myself accountable to be intentional about how I refill my own cup, especially when rebounding from the inevitable college burnout.
I must sincerely entreat you to please take care of yourselves. The world is a fast-moving place and one where it is easy to lose sight of who we are and where we are headed. Yet to have ourselves is to have the world, and we should do well to remember it.
Featured Graphic by Liz Schwab/ Heights Editor