Full text of physician and award-winning author Saundra Dalton-Smith’s talk: The real reason why we are tired and what to do about it at TEDxAtlanta conference. In this informative talk, she reveals the real reason why we are chronically tired despite getting the requisite amount of sleep. She also reveals 6 other types of rest available to us. Her book, “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity,” offers groundbreaking insight on these seven types of rest.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here:
Saundra Dalton-Smith – Physician and award-winning author
Have you ever tried to fix your chronic lack of energy by getting more sleep, only to wake up still feeling exhausted?
If that’s you, here’s the secret: sleep and rest are not the same thing. We have incorrectly combined the concepts of sleep and rest, and in doing so, we have dumbed down rest to the point it appears ineffective.
You see, sleep is only one part of the big picture. It’s only one of the seven types of rest. Many of us are going through life thinking we have rested because we have slept. But in reality, we are missing out on the other types of rest that we need.
The result is a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired burned-out individuals. Many of us are suffering from a rest deficit, because we do not understand the power of rest.
Rest is the most underused chemical-free space and effective alternative therapy available to us. Every activity you do requires energy, and most of that energy is not merely physical.
When your boss calls you into the office to discuss a problem, you steel yourself for the potential conflict, and in doing so, you draw from yours… emotional and social energy.
When you’re stuck in traffic, you’re using mental and sensory energy to process your surroundings. And when your teen asks for your car keys, you draw from your creative and spiritual energy as you pray for a great excuse to say NO.
The first step to conquering your rest deficit requires you to identify where you are using the most energy in your day. Then you can focus your attention on getting the type of rest needed to restore those specific areas.
Rest should equal restoration in one of the seven areas. If your definition of rest is comprised of sleeping or lying on the couch, bench watching an entire season of a TV series, you leave yourself open to chronic exhaustion. It is no surprise that the workplace is a major source of stress.
In a recent study led by Deloitte, it indicated that a majority of workers have no passion for their jobs. In one report, over half of those surveyed believed their jobs to be the reason for their insomnia.
According to a Stanford study, the workplace is estimated to be the fifth biggest cause of death in the United States. I believe our lack of passion, our sleepless nights, and our overwhelming fatigue are all the results of our uncorrected rest deficits.
So once you identify that you have a rest deficit, the next step is to learn about the seven types of rest and how to get more of each of them.
Do you know that co-worker who comes to work every day with a huge cup of coffee? He’s often irritable, easily distracted, and has a difficult time concentrating on his work. He struggles to brainstorm new ideas and is constantly forgetting things. He seems like he’s just going through the motions to get a paycheck.
When he goes home at night to go to sleep, he has a hard time turning off his brain as conversations from the day fill his thoughts. Eventually he does fall asleep, but despite sleeping seven to eight hours, he wakes up feeling as if he never went to bed.
This person has a mental rest deficit. What is needed is some downtime for him to quiet his mind. But the good news is he doesn’t have to quit his job or go on vacation to accomplish this.
Mental rest can be achieved by putting technology to work for you. He can schedule short breaks to occur throughout his workday every two hours. These pre-planned breaks will remind him to stop and slow down long enough to calm his mind.
MENTAL REST techniques can also include keeping a notepad by the bed to jot down those nagging thoughts that keep a person awake at night.
Our burned-out co-worker is also in need of more SENSORY REST. The bright lights, computer screens, the background noise of phones ringing and multiple conversations going on in the office can all cause our senses to be overwhelmed. If left unchecked, this can lead to sensory overload syndrome. But this can easily be avoided by something as simple as closing your eyes for a few moments in the middle of your busy day.
Next, turn off the radio on your drive home from work, and intentionally unplug from your electronics at the end of each day. These intentional moments of sensory deprivation can begin to undo the damage inflicted by our over-stimulating world.
The third type of rest is CREATIVE REST. This type of rest reawakens the child like awe and wonder inside of each of us. Do you recall the first time you saw the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, the beach or Niagara Falls? Allowing yourself to take in the beauty of these settings are all moments of creative rest.
But creative rest isn’t simply about appreciating the beauty of nature; it also includes time spent enjoying the arts. You can transform your workspace into a place of inspiration with images of places you love and works of art that speak to you.
You can’t spend 40 hours a week staring at beige walls and expect to feel passionate about anything… much less come up with innovative out-of-the-box ideas. Creative professionals understand this and that’s why their office space tends to look like this, and not like this.
Now let’s take a look at another individual. This is that friend everyone thinks is the nicest person they have ever met. It’s the person everyone depends on, the one you would call if you need a favor, because even if they don’t want to do it, you know they would give you a reluctant yes, rather than a truthful no. They hate confrontation and would do anything to avoid it.
But when they are alone, they often feel unappreciated and as if others are taking advantage of them. This person is in need of more emotional rest, so she can freely express her feelings and eliminate exhausting people-pleasing behavior.
Emotional rest would require her to have the courage to lean into the uncertainty of authenticity. An emotionally rested person answers the question how are you today with the truthful: I’m not okay and then shares the hard things that often go unsaid.
An emotional rest deficit and a social rest deficit often coexist. This occurs when we fail to differentiate between those relationships that revive us from those that exhaust us.
Research suggests we have mirror neurons that allow us to receive the emotional information of others. So if you surround yourself with negative depressed people, you will soon start feeling like them.
To experience more SOCIAL REST, surround yourself with positive supportive people. Make time for friends who want nothing more than to be in your presence and eliminate those relationships that are just virtual from being your priority and prioritize face-to-face relationships.
The final type of rest is SPIRITUAL REST which isthe ability to connect beyond the mental and physical, to have a deep sense of longing, belonging, love, acceptance in person and purpose. Engage in something greater than yourself in your day-to-day routine, such as prayer, community.
So you see, sleep alone could never restore us to the point where we feel rested. For the past five years we have been discussing a sleep revolution, and we are just as tired as when that conversation first began.
Now that I’ve shared the seven types of rest, it’s time we begin to focus on getting the right type of rest. It’s time for a REST REVOLUTION.
Resources for Further Reading:
- Athletes and Mental Health: The Hidden Opponent – Victoria Garrick (Transcript)
- #OCD: Starving The Monster – Tauscha Johanson (Transcript)
- My Brain Works Differently: Autism And Addiction – Dylan Dailor (Transcript)
- The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment: Mark Tyndall (Transcript)
- The Past, Present And Future of Nicotine Addiction: Mitch Zeller (Transcript)