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  • Writer's pictureAnna Mould

Why are we so tired?

I don't know about you, but this time of year is exhausting. Apparently, its frowned upon for humans to actually hibernate, but I have been finding out more about the seven (yes, SEVEN!) types of rest that we need for us to reduce our level of fatigue*. Reading through the descriptors again, it occurs to me that this time of year can cause overwhelm in each domain - we physically have to keep going to make sure everything is done and ready; our brains are juggling a million and one thoughts and tasks; we are surrounded by noise and bright lights; the expectation is that we socialise and spend time with others, without making time for quiet time; we don’t have time to do what lights us up. So this is as much a reminder for me as it is for you - take time out from the hustle and bustle of the festive season. We are in the middle of winter, when nature is slowing down, so why shouldn’t you slow down too?

Photo credit Aurora Way; Liberty Photography

In her TEDxAtlanta talk, Dr Sandra Dalton-Smith describes the seven types of rest more fully, but here is an overview: 

Physical rest

Our body needs to rest in order for systems to reset, regeneration of some cells, digestion and growth. However, physical rest alone will not allow us to feel fully refreshed. We need the other types too.

  • Passive physical rest is taking naps and having a good night's sleep.

  • Active physical rest, such as stretching, yoga and massage therapy encourages increased flexibility and improved circulation.

Do you enjoy enough physical rest? What do you enjoy? 

Mental rest

Do you have difficulty concentrating? Find yourself forgetting little things, being easily irritable? Do you struggle to switch off at night when trying to get to sleep? Do you wake up and still feel exhausted? You need some mental rest, as your brain is over-activated.

  • Try taking short breaks throughout your day - schedule in ten minutes every couple of hours to step away from your work, giving your brain a chance to catch up!

  • Try having a quiet time (turn off devices) before bed - read a book for pleasure or listen to music or a podcast. By focusing on these, you'll be resting your "busy brain".

  • Keep a notepad and pen by your bed, so any thoughts that are nagging to keep you awake can be written down (therefore, not forgotten) - that's less tabs open in your brain!

Do you recognise yourself in this?

How do you get your mental rest?

Sensory rest

The world around us is soooo loud - lights, sounds, fragrances, we are surrounded! And it can feel like an assault on the senses. At home we have TVs, music, devices constantly pinging. In the work place, we have computer screens, phones ringing, multiple conversations, office lights. Shops have bright lights and music. Cars have sound systems. This all adds up to sensory overwhelm.

  • Close your eyes for a few minutes, regularly throughout the day. Just shutting out the lights can rest your mind.

  • Have a device break at the end of the day to let your system re-set. Light emitted from devices like phones and tablets have an impact on the brain, affecting our ability to switch off and sleep.

  • Spend time in the quiet, practice mindfulness, or an activity which you can focus on without excess stimulation.

How do you switch off from the "noise"? 

Creative rest

Our brains are constantly making sense of our surroundings, and we can spend a great amount of time problem-solving or brainstorming ideas. This busyness in our brains is very tiring. Creative rest gives our brains the opportunity to stop whirring and to simply take in the world around us. Taking notice and "reawakening the awe and wonder inside us" uses different parts of our brain and can give us a sense of calm.

  • Take a walk in the park, sit in your garden, or even just, walk around the block from your office, and notice what is around you.

  • Spend time in nature, take in its beauty and wonder, whether its a tiny butterfly or a giant oak.

  • Enjoy the arts, have them in your workspace (instead of staring at blank walls or jumbled noticeboards.

What awakens wonder in you?

Emotional & Social rest

For too long, I would say "yes" when deep down I really meant "no", because I didn't want to upset people or let anyone down. This led to me becoming exhausted and resentful. I would feel alone, and often felt I was being taken advantage of. Can you relate?

  • Emotional rest requires having the space to cut back on people-pleasing, and to start expressing your true feelings.

  • It involves sharing hard truths, admitting when you're not OK, and having the courage to be authentic.

  • Social rest goes hand-in-hand with emotional rest. Relationships in which you feel you need to please others or meet expectations are exhausting.

  • Try to prioritise relationship that revive and nourish rather than drain you.

  • Surround yourself with positive, supportive people, and you will find you are able to engage more fully and be more truly yourself.

How do you engage in emotional and social rest?

Spiritual rest

Spiritual rest involves developing a connection beyond physical and mental. It leads to feeling a sense of purpose, belonging, acceptance and love. Developing this connection could involve meditation, prayer or community involvement as part of your daily routine.

What practices have you embraced to develop your sense of purpose and belonging?

This is not written as another stick to beat yourself with, but merely as a reminder that resting is needed, at this time of year more than any other. I would love to know how you practise different types of rest, whether you knew there were seven types (I know, right!) and what you want to work on.

With much love, as always,

Anna x x

*Persistent fatigue could be a sign of underlying medical conditions, so please see your G.P. if you are concerned.

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