The 7 types of rest you need and how to get them

May 30, 2023
2023-05-30 Intentional Productivity blog image - 7 types of rest

For the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the topic—and practice—of rest.

Avoiding rest can lead to chronic stress, fatigue, dissatisfaction, and burnout. Even if we know rest is important, we don't always know how to slow down, disconnect, and fully engage in the practice of rest. (I’m speaking from my own experience too, not from a soapbox. I also see this in online spaces and from coaching ambitious and overwhelmed working adults—parents, executives, employees, and business owners alike.)

In my exploration, I recently came across something new, and it’s already begun to shift how I think about rest and what I do to slow down, check in, and tend to myself.

If rest is something you struggle with or want to learn more about, let’s talk about what it looks like and where you can begin.



1 thing to apply


According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, physician, researcher, and author of Sacred Rest, there are 7 types of rest:

  1.  Physical Rest
  2.  Mental Rest
  3.  Emotional Rest
  4.  Social Rest
  5.  Sensory Rest
  6.  Creative Rest
  7.  Spiritual Rest


3 main benefits

  • Understanding the 7 types of rest helps you integrate healthy, relevant practices into your routines.
  • Practicing intentional rest leads to feeling more calm, grounded, and connected to yourself and others.
  • Actively resting also gives you more clarity, focus, and creative energy for your work and/or other pursuits.


5 minutes or less


Step 1: Identify the area where you feel you most need rest.

When Dr. Dalton-Smith started this journey, she recognized a need for all 7 types of rest. Maybe you feel the same. In her words, “You can’t eat the whole elephant at one time. You have to start with one area.” And she recommends starting with the area with the greatest deficit.

Take another look at the list above. Which area feels the most pressing? Which area do you feel furthest from? Start there (even if you have no clue what that will look like yet).


Step 2: Make a list of small things you can practice today.

Per (Dalton-Smith’s) doctor’s orders: “The restoration process has to be something you can do at almost any time without a lot of limitations. You don’t have to take a three-month sabbatical or some kind of big carved-out period of time. You need a strategy of small things you can do today to start feeling better.”

I’ve listed a few ideas to get you started, but this is by no means an exhaustive (or personalized) list. Give this some thought and come up with your own list of purposeful and personal practices.


   Physical Rest

  • Passive: sleeping 8 hours a night, taking a 20-minute nap, being still for five minutes while lying down
  • Active: yoga, massage, using a foam roller, regular stretch breaks, adjusting workspace ergonomics

   Mental Rest

  • Schedule a short break every 60-90 minutes throughout your workday
  • Keep a notepad by the bed to jot down any nagging thoughts keeping you awake 

   Emotional Rest

  • Confide in a supportive friend, attend a counselling session, or journal about your feelings
  • Set boundaries or step away from situations that create stress, drama, or emotional turmoil

   Social Rest

  • Schedule some time to be in your own company for a while
  • Spend time with supportive people who see and appreciate you

   Sensory Rest

  • Close your eyes and sit for 1-2 minutes in the middle of the day
  • Listen to a peaceful playlist or use noise-cancelling headphones to block out noise
  • Spend your evenings (or entire day) unplugged from social media, email, news, or all electronics

   Creative Rest

  • Immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors (or maybe in a gallery)
  • Surround your home or workspace with artwork or inspiring photos
  • Carve out a 30-minute break in your day to do something that refreshes you

   Spiritual Rest

  • Add prayer, meditation, or community involvement to your daily routine
  • Explore different mindfulness practices for peace and presence



To learn more about the 7 types of rest, check out Dr. Dalton-Smith’s TEDx Talk: The real reason why we are tired and what to do about it.

If you want more ideas of restful practices, there are over 100 in my book, Everyday Mindfulness. That said, I bet you have more insights and answers than you might think. Before delving into books, talks, and articles, start by asking yourself what you feel you need.


Two things to keep in mind as you go forward:

  1. Most types of rest are active. (Binge-watching a show or scrolling through social media is zoning out, not resting because it’s not restorative or rejuvenating.) Dalton-Smith says, “You should leave your time of rest feeling restored, feeling energized.”
  2. Intentional active rest is an ongoing practice. Integrate your strategy of small, practical activities into your daily lifestyle as a continually cultivated practice and resource.

Let me know what you think:

In writing this, I realized I have much more to share on the topic of rest as I continue to unpack it for myself, so this may be the first of a few writings on the topic. What do you think? Is this an area of interest for you? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts:

  • What questions do you have when it comes to rest?
  • Do you face doubts or guilt when you try to rest?
  • Which type(s) of rest do you struggle with?
  • And what do you usually do to rest?

Let me know on Twitter ↓



Your time and energy are your most precious resources. As always, thank you for sharing some of yours with me today.

— Melissa



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