The seven types of rest (that every A-type professional woman needs reminding of)
Sometimes you can wake up from a long weekend and still not feel rested. Exhausted, unmotivated, lack lustre. If you’re an A-type personality like me, it’s probably because you haven’t rested properly. Despite all I know as a somatic psychotherapist, I have to remind myself that having a rest is essential. It’s not just about getting 8 hours of sleep a night and a nanna nap on Sunday arvo. A brilliant TED article I read the other day explains we need seven types of rest. So if you’ve come back from a break but still feel unrested, exhausted, or unmotivated this might be why.
Do you ever have those days when you come home from work/uni but you still can’t switch your mind off? Perhaps you’re going over and over something hurtful that your boss said. Or worrying about your presentation tomorrow. Unfortunately worrying is one of the most unproductive ways to spend your time, especially at 3am. There’s a useful technique that we use in psychotherapy called ‘containment’.
How to ‘contain’ a worry
Say there’s a particular worry that’s not letting you sleep at night. Rumininating/worrying about it is not going to help solve it. There’s nothing you can do about it at 3am. To contain the thought, you could write it down on a piece of paper and leave it beside your bed, entrusting the piece of paper to hold your worry until the next day (when you can actually do something about it).
Or perhaps you simply imagine writing it down on a pad of paper. Or imagine putting it under a rock. Or visualise putting the note into an imaginary filing cabinet, ready to pick up again the next morning.
The idea is that you’re setting the worrisome thought aside and ‘pending’ it until you have time the next day. Or whenever you have capacity to deal with it.
It could be that maybe you’re not getting the right amount of sleep, of you’re being sedated by alcohol/drugs which results in a lack of deep sleep. (Read about how a lack of deep sleep increases anxiety and how alcohol doesn’t help).
Maybe a bit of gentle movement could increase the sense of ease in your body. We know that most of us live a sedentary life. And this may have gotten worse as a lot of us now work from home. But our bodies are meant to move all day. So just incorporating a few micromovements, like a wiggle of your shoulders, might bring a sense of ease to your body. (Let’s take a mini dance break with Groove Armada)
But for some of you, maybe you’re pushing your body too hard by getting too much exercise. Your body might be crying out for a break. Why not pause your normal gym routine for a week to let your muscles recuperate a little bit. Or do you need more of an active physical rest? Like stretching, yoga?
Or if you are like me, do you need passive physical rest? Like having an afternoon nap on the weekend.
I find I have my most creative ideas when I’m out for a walk. I’m usually listening to music and totally zoning out from the stresses of my daily life. I’m on autopilot walking around familiar streets and part of my brain is off daydreaming.
In order to solve problems or come up with amazing ideas or concepts your brain need to have space, time and energy to generate it.
You can’t say “Well, I’m going to be creative between the hours of 12 and 2pm precisely”. The creative process doesn’t work like that. Your brain might need a break from the relentless pressure of daily life in order to generate those fabulous ideas.
Maybe you just go for a walk in nature, play with pets or stare up at the stars… Zone-out and give those thoughts time just to pop into your brain.
Your brain may also need novelty to stimulate new ideas. So invite fresh, new things into your routine: take a different route on your walk, listen to new playlists, try different foods and allow inspiration to strike.
If you were born in the era before smartphones and high tech TVs, your brain would have enjoyed more sensory rest then. But now our senses are overstimulated on a daily basis.
In Denmark they have this wonderful term ‘Hygge’ (pronounced ‘hooga’) which is all about sensory comfort and cosiness in those long winter nights. They use a lot of candles, comforting foods, people gather together and play board games. They use blankets and fires to keep warm. They snuggle up and read books. This sense of sensory rest feels so appealing to me.
What can you do to rest your eyes? Maybe you could turn off bright overhead lights and instead use lower lumen lamps, or candles.
Perhaps the scent of a beautiful candle or essential oil could bring a bit of calm to your olfactory system.
Maybe a soothing playlist at a gentle volume could bathe your ears.
And of course… chocolate could warm the cockles of your heart and your tastebuds.
When you’re asked “How’s it going?” How often do you respond truthfully? “Actually, I’ve had a really tough week and I felt like leaving my job. I could really do with a hug and someone to talk it through with.” But what we actually say is “yeah I’m good”, stuffing down our need for emotional soothing.
How often do we share our inner emotional world with friends and get our emotional needs met? It takes great courage and vulnerability to say “I’m not doing so well actually. I don’t expect you to do anything. I just need you to know that I’m not OK.”
Who could you reach out to for emotional rest?
I think this is probably the most challenging one for women. Because so much of our time is spent looking after other people, doing things for others, checking in with people to make sure they’re okay. But like that old saying goes “fit your own oxygen mask first”.
Whilst social isolation is known to be a killer. Too much social contact can be an energy drain, particularly if you’re an introvert. There’ll be relationships that fill you up and some that drain you a little bit.
Perhaps there is somebody in your friendship circle who think “you know what … not today. I need to fill myself up first before I can deal with that person.”
I would encourage you to choose when you have the energy to respond to that phone call. Choose when to respond to their messages. Not because you don’t love/respect them, but because you’re making a discerning choice about the right time for you.
What does your soul need? I don’t mean in the religious context. Personally, I like to separate the word ‘spiritual’ from religion, although that might be different for you.
I like to think of ‘soul’ as the space between. The space where there are no words, just a sense of knowing.
Does your soul need tranquillity or does it feed on the energy of hustle and bustle? Does it want silence, meditation, stillness or does it feed on vibrancy?
Scheduling time for rest
So my invitation to you, is to go through these seven different types of rest and come up with a recipe for the types of rest that you need to fill up your cup. We’re trying to find a balance. It is absolutely NOT selfish. If you do not fill up your own cup, how on earth are you going to be able to look after others? So take the time.
And then put it in your diary, prioritise it and actually do it lady!
Women especially need to put in their to do list and prioritize it. This is your time for you. So that you can then help others. It’s not selfish. It’s self-care.