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The Importance of Rest

What does the word “rest” mean to you? What do you think of yourself doing when you are resting? 

In today's fast-paced world, where productivity and hustle are celebrated, we often overlook the importance of rest. But did you know that rest is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle? 

Sleep is a vital component of rest, and while it deserves special attention, that's a whole blog post on its own. In this blog, I want to talk more about the types of rest other than sleep. We'll delve into the significance of rest in all its forms, shed light on the remarkable health benefits it offers and look at some strategies we can use to implement this into our busy lives. 

The word “rest” can be defined as a noun: a rest is a refreshing quiet, ease or inactivity after exertion. Or as a verb: to rest is to refresh oneself or to relieve weariness

I think that links quite well with how often we view the different ways we can rest. Some of us may lean towards active rest engaging in activities that promote relaxation and rejuvenation, such as yoga, meditation, walking and other forms of exercise. Whilst others may be drawn to more passive rest with activities that involve a lack of stimulation, like taking a nap or enjoying downtime activities such as reading or listening to music.

Rest can also be categorised in terms of the components of our wellbeing that are being rested:

Physical rest refers to giving your body a break from physical exertion and allowing it to recover. This can involve activities like lying down, sitting, or reclining in a comfortable position. Physical rest helps relieve muscle tension, reduces fatigue, and promotes overall physical relaxation.

Mental rest involves giving your mind a break from continuous cognitive activity and mental stimulation. It's about allowing your mind to relax and recharge. This can be achieved through activities like daydreaming, taking a break from work-related tasks, or engaging in hobbies or leisure activities that don't require intense mental focus. Mental rest helps reduce mental fatigue, improves focus and creativity, and enhances cognitive functioning.

Emotional rest involves taking a break from emotional stressors and allowing yourself to emotionally recharge. It's about creating space for emotional well-being and finding ways to relax and rejuvenate your emotions. Emotional rest can be achieved through practices like journaling, spending time in nature, engaging in activities that bring you joy, or seeking emotional support from loved ones. Emotional rest helps manage stress, improve mood, and enhance emotional resilience.

Sensory rest involves reducing or eliminating excessive sensory input to provide relief from sensory stimulation. In today's world filled with constant noise, bright lights, and digital screens, sensory rest can be crucial. It can be achieved by spending time in a quiet and peaceful environment, turning off electronic devices, dimming lights, or practicing sensory-focused relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Sensory rest helps calm the nervous system, reduce sensory overload, and promote a sense of calm and well-being.

I’m sure we can all relate to situations in our lives where we have needed those different types of rest. But were you able to recognise it at the time? Building our awareness for what our body and mind needs is a key part of making changes. I’d encourage you to think about these different forms  of rest the next time you’re feeling low in energy, overwhelmed or struggling to focus. It may help you decide what course of action you need to take to get the best rest you can in the time you have. 

Overall, rest is a crucial part of maintaining our health and wellbeing. By allowing our bodies time to recover, rest helps prevent injuries and improve overall performance. It also aids in muscle repair, reduces inflammation, and supports a healthy immune system. Additionally, rest helps manage stress levels and lowers blood pressure, contributing to a healthier heart.  The impact of rest on mental and emotional well-being should not be underestimated. Taking regular breaks and engaging in activities like meditation or simply unplugging from technology can enhance focus, concentration, and cognitive function. Rest also promotes stress reduction, anxiety management, and mood regulation. Furthermore, it allows the brain to process information, fostering creativity and problem-solving abilities.

By now you might be starting to see that these different forms of rest are interconnected, and it's important to address them holistically to achieve overall well-being.Incorporating a variety of restorative practices that target physical, mental, emotional, and sensory rest can help maintain a healthy balance and support optimal health in our modern lives. So how do we do that? 

Let’s take a look at some of the options we could use within our day to achieve periods of rest. While individual preferences and work demands may vary, there are a few commonly recommended rest cycles that can help promote better performance and prevent burnout. Here are a few popular techniques:

  • The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that suggests working in focused, uninterrupted blocks of time, typically 25 minutes, followed by a short break of around 5 minutes. After completing four Pomodoro cycles, take a more extended break of around 15-30 minutes. This technique helps maintain concentration and prevents mental fatigue. There are a number of good web and mobile based apps that you can use to keep you on track with this technique. 
  • The Ultradian Rhythm suggests that our bodies naturally operate in cycles of approximately 90-120 minutes, during which we experience peak productivity followed by a decline. To align with this rhythm, work for a concentrated period, such as 90 minutes, and then take a short break of 15-20 minutes to recharge and allow your mind to rest.
  • The 52-17 rule, popularized by productivity app DeskTime, proposes working for 52 minutes and taking a break for 17 minutes. This approach allows for focused work and provides regular intervals for rest and rejuvenation. During the break, it's advisable to engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as stretching, going for a short walk, or meditating.
  • Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) is an umbrella term for practices that people use to direct their minds into a state of calm and focus. It is a state of restfulness where the body and mind experience a deep sense of calm and restoration, similar to the restorative effects of sleep but without actually sleeping. NSDR has become more well known through the work of Dr Andrew Hubermann and there are many NSDR guided meditations available online. 

Remember, the key is to find a balance that works for you and aligns with your energy levels and focus. Pay attention to your natural rhythms and adjust your rest cycles accordingly. It's also important to note that rest doesn't necessarily mean mindless scrolling through social media or engaging in activities that can be mentally draining. Optimal rest involves activities that promote relaxation, recharge your energy, and help you disconnect from work momentarily. The activities you choose to use will be individual to you so be curious and experiment with what gives you the best results. 

In conclusion, rest is not a luxury but a necessity for optimal health and well-being in the modern world. By recognizing the importance of rest in all its forms, including prioritising quality sleep—we can unlock the remarkable benefits it offers. Let's embrace the opportunity to find a balance between productivity and self-care, for without it we can’t sustain the levels of performance we want for ourselves in the various aspects of our lives. 

If you’d like some guidance and support to improve your health and wellbeing then book in for a complimentary health coaching call so we can work out the best strategy for you.

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