What image comes to mind when you think of the word “rest”?
I picture being swallowed up by a cozy bed with piles of soft blankets and fluffy pillows.
“You need to get more rest!” I can’t tell you how many times I heard that during 2021. A lot!
And, over the last nearly 2 months that same message arrived like a heavy weight strapped to my body. Even though I rarely get sick…I got sick. Getting really sick is unheard of for me…and I was really sick. When my doctor said, with a very firm tone, ”You must rest! The horses can take care of themselves,” I knew it was bad. (And, no, this was not COVID but nearly identical symptoms)
During the worst of it, rest came easy because all I could do was sleep. But when I wasn’t sleeping I recognized that some things made me feel rested while others made me feel depleted. For instance, I needed quiet—no music, no TV, and even my beloved podcasts were often times too much noise. I needed to be around my 4-legged family members and I loved being in the barn at night listening to the horses breath and munch hay. The hardest thing for me to do was to cancel appointments and to say “no”…I had to say "no" to everything. And then, just when I thought I was on the other side of all of this, I injured my ribs from coughing so hard and so my phase of rest had been extended.
All of this got me thinking about “rest”. What does it really mean? What is effective? I know it’s important and especially so in the Water Phase of the year—winter (see my blog post specifically about this time of year) but I’ve also learned that rest is a lot more than a long slumber.
In fact, according to Saundra Dalton-Smith MD we all need seven different types of rest*: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social and spiritual. She emphasizes the fact that sleep and rest are not the same and that is why even though we might be sleeping just fine, we still feel fatigued. We live in a time and a culture that does not encourage rest. And Dr. Dalton-Smith states that it is rest that restores us.
Physical Rest: can be passive like a nap or sleep but it can also be active like receiving a massage, acupuncture or doing gentle qigong or yoga.
Mental Rest: is the relief from internal overstimulation like over thinking, analyzing, worrying, anticipating, strategizing, etc. We need to give our brains a break.
Sensory Rest: is the relief from external overstimulation from all the screens (computer, TV, mobile devices), Zoom meetings, and constant noise from daily life in a city or our family.
Creative Rest: burnout from being overly productive requires rejuvenation. The demands for more and better can rapidly cause depletion and our creativity takes a beating. Reawakening your curiosity, wonder and awe is a type of rest.
Emotional Rest: burnout from being overly helpful, overly giving, overly caring. So for the care-takers and healers of the world this might be saying “no” to always being the helper or actually accepting care/help from others
Social Rest: FOMO (fear of missing out) can lead to anxious exhaustion or spending time with people who deplete us. Instead, actively engage with people who inspire us, or we just feel good to be around.
Spiritual Rest: Is about connecting with a greater aspect of ourselves and our life. This might be the deep abiding love and connection with a special someone (2 legged or 4 legged) or re-engaging with our higher purpose.
Ensuring adequate rest that is enriching across all seven types is important. When rest (any one of them) is lacking we can assume that the stress of it and depletion in that area will make itself known. So what type of rest are you missing? What type of rest do you need this week? What combination of different rests would support you as we move deeper into the Water phase of the year?
Ultimately, what does this have to do with horses (and dogs and cats and…)? It’s analogous to the flight attendant announcement prior to departure: place your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. How are we able to support and be fully present with our horses (or dogs or cats or…) if we are depleted or deficient of energy and resources? I know for me that I dismissed hints of depletion much earlier in the year…foregoing rest for more productivity, too many “yes”s and not enough “no”s until ultimately my body needed to call a time-out. Don’t wait for your body to do that!
I wish for you a winter of deep rest with cozy blankets and pillows, relaxing around a warm fire and if you need it, I give you permission to say “no” and to not always be helpful. Please let me know how your horses (or other animals) notice a difference as you engage in more restorative rest.
*You can read all about the different types of rest in Dr. Dalton-Smith’s brief article: https://ideas.ted.com/the-7-types-of-rest-that-every-person-needs/