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What sort of rest do you lack?

01 April 2022

After a burn-out, Saundra Dalton-Smith explored what resting properly really means


Physical rest has both active and passive forms

Physical rest has both active and passive forms

HURRY is not God’s best. Many are living under the influence of their stressed and overwhelmed schedules. We struggle and strive to experience joy and fulfilment, all the while withering daily under the pressure of family demands, careers, and personal obligations.

Work should never be the place from which we live. Our society has cultivated a mindset of resting after completing work. The problem is that the work never gets done. There will always be more on the to-do list. There will always be more work needing attention. If you rest only when the work is done, you will never feel you have permission to rest.

This is not God’s plan for rest. In Genesis, God created man on the sixth day, and on the seventh day God rested. Man’s first full day began as a day of rest. Rest was the foundation, not the reward. Rest was the place from which all work would start. God’s rhythm of living for our lives is one of living from a place of rest. It begins in communion with him, and from that time we leave empowered to do the work we are called to do.

Boundaries are a must for anyone seeking rest. Setting boundaries can be difficult when your presence is in high demand. Every emergency is worthy of attention. Every request from others is important. In setting healthy personal boundaries, you are not judging the validity of the situation but being a wise steward of the body, mind, and spirit that God has given you. It is how you prevent burning out.

TEN years ago I burned out. God then took me through an extensive time of restoration. As a board-certified internal medicine physician and researcher, God used my natural curiosity to dive deep into what it means to rest, from both a biblical and a scientific standpoint. This research is presented in my book Sacred Rest: Recover your life, renew your energy, restore your sanity. In it, I list seven different types of rest that are needed for people to feel restored.

Physical rest has both passive and active forms. Passive forms include sleeping and napping. Active forms include restorative activities such as stretching, leisure walks, and massage therapy to help improve circulation and lymphatic drainage in the body. Someone with a physical-rest deficit may experience tense painful muscles, leg swelling, back pain, or headaches.

Mental rest consists of quieting your thought process and clearing your mind for better focus and clarity. One way to calm racing thoughts is to meditate on a specific word. When prone to worry, instead redirect your thoughts to the word you have selected. I often choose a word or phrase that reminds me of God’s character, such as “peace”, or “The Lord is my shepherd”.


Spiritual rest focuses on building an intimate relationship with God through ritualistic religious routines. It includes time spent reading the Bible and praying. It goes one step beyond these activities, however, to encourage two-way communication. Allow God to speak to your heart directly.

Emotional rest involves practising authenticity and vulnerability by expressing your feelings with people you trust. It requires the courage to say “no” when someone asks you to do something that does not align with your current priorities. Evaluate any people-pleasing tendencies you may have which leave you saying a reluctant “yes”. Any “yes” given for reasons of guilt, fear, or shame should be a “no”.

Social rest is experienced when you spend time with people who do not put any demands on you, and simply enjoy being with you. The majority of the people you spend the most time with are negatively pulling from your social energy. Determine who are the positive life-giving people who edify and encourage you.

Sensory rest requires downgrading the external sensory input from your electronics, as well as the lights and sounds in your environment. Eliminate unnecessary noise and light when possible. Consider spending some time each day observing moments of silence.

Creative Rest is experienced when you allow yourself opportunities to appreciate natural beauty, such as the beach, flowers, or manmade beauty like an artwork or music, and letting it inspire creativity inside you.

A KEY part of the equation is identifying which of the seven types of rest you need most, and that can be done with my free assessment on the website RestQuiz.com. You can then focus your attention on doing more restorative activities to pour back into the areas of greatest deficit.

This is what we see within the Jewish culture when they practise their day of sabbath. They avoid normal work and spend the day doing restorative activities, such as spending time in God’s presence (spiritual rest), enjoying quality time with family (social rest), and spending time in nature (creative rest). They are not lying in bed all day: they understand that rest is not simply the cessation of activity. Rest is an active process of being filled.

WHAT does it look like to live from a place of rest?

1. Embrace sabbath as the beginning of your working week. Sabbath is not how you end your week; it is how you prepare for your week. Purposely slow down and make room for God to begin the work of restoring those areas of your life that stress has broken down.

2. Learn the value of sleep, and develop a relaxing bedtime regime. Rest is the bridge that allows you to transition from your busy day to a peaceful night’s sleep. Turn off the electronics, release your anxious thoughts through journaling, or renew your mind in scripture. Determine a relaxing sequence of events.

3. See joy as the compass pointing you in the direction of God’s best. God’s desire is for you to prosper and be in good health. Joy is how he strengthens you to thrive during difficult situations. Work without the benefit of rest becomes void of pleasure. Rest allows an opportunity for joy to show the way back to God’s best for your life.

4. Treasure and seek out time with uplifting life-giving individuals. The people you are around during the day have a direct effect on how you feel. Seek out those individuals who have a positive, restorative effect on you, and spend time gleaning from those social interactions.

5. Make room for the things you enjoy. Every activity does not need to fit into a specific business or ministry checkbox. There should be enough margin in your life to allow time for those activities and hobbies that you love, for no other reason than you enjoy them.

6. Appreciate the small beginning, and trust God for the increase. When we choose striving over trusting, we are saying we are not content with God’s timing. Do not strive for results; instead, seek to please God. Honour his ways and trust his timing. In due season, you will see the fruit of your labour and your rest.

7. Stay attentive to how God is leading you. Communication is one of the gifts of learning to live from a place of rest. Separate out your emotional ties from what God is calling you to do at this time in your life. Find the freedom to be still and silent in his presence, knowing you will leave these moments of rest better prepared.

IF YOU are someone who seeks to use your gifts and talents to be a blessing to others, it is critical that you learn how to rest well. It necessary to move from a place of overwhelm to a place of overflow: where you no longer pour into the lives of others from your place of emptiness but from a place of fullness.

It is the ability to step away from your personal and professional duties for a time, while you focus not on the work to be done but on the one who is inviting you: “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Sacred Rest: Recover your life, renew your energy, restore your sanity by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith is published by FaithWords at £12.99 (CT Bookshop £11.69); 978-1-47892-168-4.

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