Rest isn’t just a nap

My teenaged son and I had a slightly heated argument  discussion last week. You see, he has been very busy this summer–Driver’s Ed and the pressures of driving, first job, second job (he rides his bike several miles each way to this one), his first rock concert (Greta Van Fleet), mowing a neighbor’s lawn, hanging with friends, too. I can see that he is tired. Not only is his 6’3″ body reaching the limits of exhaustion, but his not-so-neurotypical brain is at max capacity. He did not like when I set boundaries requiring rest for him–no friends, no internet, no chores. He wanted to go, go, go (he is MY kid, after all) and being forced to stay home did not make him happy. It was rough.

Lucky for him, I have a fully developed prefrontal cortex (check out this awesome graphic with the super killer, real skull).prefrontal-cortex-3-728 I know limits. I know that I can handle his push back and that tomorrow he will thank me.

I knew that a simple nap wouldn’t cure his crankiness or his general discontent. He needed true rest–to do nothing and let himself be nourished in more ways that just physical.

Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith ( is a physician, mother, speaker and author. In her book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity she explores how we are often exhausted in more ways that just physical and how dangerous pushing ourselves to those limits can be.

She breaks down rest into 7 different types:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Sensory
  • Creative

We need more than just sleep. Sometimes we can get a solid 8 hours and still wake up feeling like we need 8 more. That is a prime indicator that you need rest in one of the other areas.

Consider that you may be sleeping well, and coping with your environment, but you may be lacking a creative space in your world. Perhaps you are overloaded with social activities and need some quiet. Or maybe your soul feels clouded with doubt and you could use some space to connect with God and get your soul clear. Or maybe you can’t remember the last time you laughed.

Rest begins within us, with knowing ourselves. When we know our body, our mind, our soul, our heart, our personality, etc.–everything that makes us tick–we can stay in touch with where in our lives we need to rest. We very well may need a nap…but we may just need some quiet or some art and music or a night out with a good friend or a podcast that provides spiritual direction.

I knew my son was feeling weary from working so much. He wakes early to prepare food before the deli opens and he rides his bike there, too. He naps on work days, giving up his usual music time (playing electric guitar and drums AND listening to both new and favorite bands). I knew he needed to just lay around with his Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones (purchased with funds earned from his job) listening to David Bowie, Rush, Nirvana, and Twenty-One Pilots. I knew he needed to be able to spend time playing his guitar, creating new runs and solos. His rest needs were physical, yes, but they were also creative, mental, and sensory.

I am happy to report that he was so grateful for the forced hiatus from busy, distraction and the inevitable comparison-fest that permeates teenaged hang-out time. He was so engaged after a full day of true rest. The grumpy giant was gone and my mostly pleasant giant man-child was back!

What ways do you feel weary? What areas of rest are calling to you? How do you think you can honor those needs today or this week? Dr. Dalton-Smith created a quiz to help with understanding which areas of rest might benefit you the most. 

Here are some ways that I nurture myself in each of the 7 areas Dr. Dalton-Smith teaches:

  • Physical: walking, hiking, SUP, kayak, regular sleep schedule (that is a hard one as I am a night owl), also laughing
  • Mental: I write…a lot. I also read a ton of books. I also like to attend various subject specific seminars and I’m going to try out attending a social issue focused conversation at a local art house soon!
  • Spiritual: pray, meditate, connect with other Christians, go to the woods
  • Emotional: journaling, praying, crying when I need to, mindfulness, counseling
  • Social: early morning coffee dates with girlfriends, sexting my husband, text chains with my mom and brothers, traveling to visit my family across the country
  • Sensory: going to the woods–occasionally I get overwhelmed by the noise of my large family and need to escape to the woods where silence is only interrupted by my own foot steps; ear plugs–I use them for more than sleeping; also, I LOVE going to the movies by myself. It is weird, I know, but it is so refreshing to me.
  • Creative: pottery, writing, painting–I’m currently working on a mural in my mudroom.

Allowing rest in your world can take a significant amount of bravery. It may mean saying no to new commitments or ending old ones. It may mean setting better boundaries with a spouse, your children, or your employer. Then, you actually have to TAKE the rest. You have to allow yourself to be still or away from the work that is wearing on you. You have be okay with some things in your life not being done.

Be gentle with yourself. Take small steps. Be brave–trying and failing is okay. What are some ways you can rest this week? What sounds the best to you? What ways are you needing rest? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Rest isn’t just a nap

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