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The Seven Types of Rest and their Experience

When I hear the words ‘I’ve been feeling so tired lately’ come up in a conversation (or my own thoughts), I often follow them up with a question: ‘When was the last time you (or I) took a break?’ 

Even without defining what ‘taking a break’ would involve (as such things can be relative), asking this is likely to prompt a person into gaining insight about where the sense of tiredness is coming from. Tiredness could result from the body, the mind, or both, and can be an indicator that one needs to slow down and take some form of rest. 

Now at times, resting would be the same as sleeping, or taking a nap. Sleeping is essentially a type of physical rest, but rest has been found to be related to more than just one state and type. A framework by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith actually talks about seven different types of rest:

  1. Physical Rest: While physical rest may be ‘passive’ (like laying down, sleeping or napping), it may also be ‘active’. Restorative activities such as stretching every now and then through a day full of meetings, doing yoga and taking a massage are examples of the latter. 
  2. Mental Rest: The feeling of being overwhelmed, brain fog or difficulty in concentration, or waking up exhausted despite a full night’s sleep can indicate a ‘mental rest deficit’. Scheduling short breaks within a busy day, and activities such as mindful meditation are known to help with this kind of a deficit.
  3. Sensory Rest: A period of rest for the senses might be a great way to relax for you. It is possible to get habituated to a routine of noise, leading your sense to feel overwhelmed without realising exactly what is behind this feeling. Becoming mindful of and unplugging from these sources of noise might help here.
  4. Creative Rest: Being creative can involve perspective shifts and thinking up new ways to solve a problem, and can be a consuming process. It can be even more so if your work requires you to be creative – making this type of rest important. Creative rest can be taken when one is being mindful of the sources of inspiration around them without necessarily thinking of ways to use them for a specific purpose. Like when one is taking a walk through a park, listening to music that they like etc. 
  5. Spiritual Rest: This type of rest relates actions that help a person reconnect to the meaning or purpose one holds in life. Giving back to your community in whatever way is comfortable or possible for you, praying or meditating, talking to a friend about the current state of the world are some ways to take spiritual rest.
  6. Emotional Rest: This type of rest emphasizes the need to reflect within and to communicate in a manner that is authentic to what you’re feeling. It may help to let people know that when you’re not feeling that great, to practise saying ‘no’ when you’re not up for something, to let your emotions be or to engage in some form of catharsis (like crying), or to talk to a friend or a mental health professional to help you through something.
  7. Social Rest: Taking social rest could involve taking your time to disconnect from certain relationships, or to spend more time within those that in that time feel more restful or restorative. 

It is said that at a given moment, you might need one or more of the above types of rest. Paying attention to your recent and current schedule, moods and various lifestyle factors should help build an understanding of what you need, and when; the following examples may be used as prompts to help your start:

  • Find yourself unable to focus enough to read or comprehend what you’ve been looking at for the last 15 minutes to help prepare for an exam tomorrow? You might need some mental rest (and maybe a nap, too).
  • Constantly feeling that you need a vacation or time away might indicate a need for rest on multiple fronts.
  • If you feel that you just cannot take another meeting on Zoom, you might need to unplug and take some rest for your senses and body. 
  • Feeling creatively drained or experiencing writer’s block might let you know that you are in need of creative rest.
  • Caregivers of individuals living with chronic health conditions might need to pay heed to their own needs of emotional, physical and other types of rest.
  • You might need social rest if you’re living in an environment wherein your boundaries aren’t respected in some way, or if you’re experiencing or witness to violence, abuse or any kind of trauma within a relationship

We can surmise that the state and experience of rest can be subjective – that is, what is restful for one person at a given time may not be restful for another, or for the same person at another time. 

And while rest is also known to be natural and restorative, you may find that it is at times associated with a sense of discomfort; for instance, when taking rest elicits feelings like guilt, anxiety, unworthiness etc. While it is known that such feelings are generally related to the experience of living in a culture of capitalism and ‘hustling’ to getting someplace better that delineate very specific ideas of productivity and success, understanding how this experience affects you specifically might be important if you wish to resolve them. If left as is, they might just contribute to disruptions within achievements of long-term plans and the very productivity one wishes for, along with unhealthy patterns in behaviour and emotion.


This article includes opinions expressed by a mental health expert. But we were humans long before we trained as professionals, so are always looking to learn better! If you found that any of the above is inaccurate, irrelevant or unhelpful, or would like to suggest ways to make this article more helpful in any way, please let us know in the comments below.

Read the article, and wondering what’s next ? 
  • You may wish to reach out to our team of professionals to schedule a session with us: our professionals’ work is based on a ‘recovery-oriented’ model, which believes in providing a space where each individual feels in charge of their own meaning of recovery from mental health concerns/illness
  • Want to know more about rest and various terms? Here’s a freebie to help get you started
  • If you wish to know more about Therapy, please go through these FAQs; you could also look up articles on our blog 
  • You can also learn more about how to broach the topic of my mental health with a friend/loved one as/before you book a session, or to provide mental health first aid for all mental health concerns

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