How to avoid burnout by getting 7 types of rest
Burnout has become increasingly common in today's fast-paced world. Chronic stress, long working hours, the feeling of imposter syndrome, and an inability to disconnect from technology can leave us feeling exhausted, both physically and mentally.
Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is a Board-Certified internal medicine physician and work-life integration researcher.
She is the founder of Restorasis, a professional development agency dedicated to restoring wellbeing in the workplace through its proprietary framework to help companies support their employees with work-life integration and burnout prevention strategies.
Dr. Dalton-Smith discovered that many of her patients were reporting a lack of seven different types of rest: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, and creative. She then published her findings in her book “Sacred Rest” in 2017.
Burnout is a prevalent issue amongst medical professionals, often brought on by long work hours, high levels of stress, and a constant demand for mental and emotional energy. To counteract this, sufficient rest is not merely desirable; it's essential.
According to Dr Dalton-Smith, an emotionally rested person is one who has a balanced sense of well-being and a stable emotional state. They understand their feelings, can manage their stress effectively, and have a sense of belonging. Rest is more than just having a good night's sleep; it encompasses a range of activities that foster relaxation and rejuvenation.
A 'rest quiz' could serve as a helpful tool in identifying the types of rest that might be most beneficial to an individual. It can facilitate an understanding of one's rest needs, whether physical, mental, or emotional, thus helping to curate a personalised rest regime.
A key component of rest is high-quality sleep. It's essential for healing, restoring energy, and boosting overall health. High-quality sleep is marked by uninterrupted sleep patterns, helping medical professionals wake up feeling refreshed and prepared for the day ahead.
In addition to sleep, there are other therapeutic activities such as yoga, stretching, and massage therapy that can significantly contribute to rest and relaxation. Yoga and stretching exercises can release muscle tension, increase flexibility, and promote a state of calmness. Massage therapy can help in reducing stress, alleviating aches, and promoting a sense of overall well-being.
Achieving an emotionally rested state is paramount in combating burnout amongst medical professionals. By recognising the importance of high-quality sleep and integrating restorative activities such as yoga and massage therapy into daily routines, medical professionals can manage stress effectively, renew their energy, and restore their sanity, which in turn can significantly improve their quality of life and patient care.
To maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid burnout, it's essential to understand and incorporate the seven types of rest into your routine: physical, mental, social, spiritual, sensory, emotional, and creative. Here is our take on Dr Dalton-Smith's findings and how to achieve them.
Physical rest is the most straightforward type of rest. It includes getting adequate sleep and giving your body the opportunity to recover from exercise or daily activities. Here's how to ensure you're getting enough physical rest:
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule. We know this can be tough when you are undertaking shift work so if you are unable to do this try some of the other tactics.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment by investing in a good mattress and pillows.
- Engage in light stretching or yoga before bed to relax your muscles.
- Avoid caffeine and heavy meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid screentime right before bed (instead, try reading a book)
- Don't get into bed until you are ready to sleep. This conditions your mind to see it as a sleeping space
- Try natural sleeping supplements like Magnesium or Melatonin
Mental rest involves giving your mind a break from constant stimulation and thought. Here are some ways to achieve mental rest:
- Set aside time each day to unplug from electronic devices.
- Practice mindfulness meditation to help calm your thoughts.
- Take short breaks throughout the day to focus on your breathing or engage in a relaxing activity.
- Prioritize leisure activities that allow your mind to wander, such as reading or taking a walk.
- If you are a creative person allow yourself time to be creative
Social rest refers to finding a balance between socialising and solitude. Here's how to achieve social rest:
- Cultivate relationships with people who uplift and support you.
- Set boundaries and communicate your needs in social situations.
- Schedule regular alone time to recharge.
- Don't be afraid to say no to social events if you're feeling overwhelmed.
Spiritual rest involves connecting with a higher power or purpose beyond yourself. This can be achieved through various practices:
- Engage in prayer, meditation, or reflection.
- Spend time in nature to feel connected to the world around you.
- Participate in a spiritual community or group.
- Practice gratitude by keeping a journal or sharing your thankfulness with others.
- Practice meditation
- Find a passion to work on outside of medicine
Sensory rest involves reducing the input from our senses to prevent sensory overload. Here's how to get sensory rest:
- Create a quiet space in your home free from distractions.
- Limit screen time and exposure to artificial light, especially before bedtime.
- Use noise-cancelling headphones in noisy environments.
- Practice deep breathing or mindfulness techniques to help center your focus.
Emotional rest involves giving yourself permission to feel and express your emotions without judgment. Here's how to achieve emotional rest:
- Share your feelings with a trusted friend or therapist.
- Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that it's okay to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
- Engage in activities that bring you joy and help release pent-up emotions, such as dancing or painting.
- Set boundaries with people who may be emotionally draining.
Creative rest is the process of recharging your creative energy and finding inspiration. Here's how to get creative rest:
- Expose yourself to new experiences, such as visiting museums or attending workshops.
- Engage in hobbies or activities that stimulate your creativity, like writing or painting.
- Surround yourself with inspiring people who encourage your creative pursuits.
- Set aside time for daydreaming or brainstorming new ideas.
- Read books, listen to music, or watch movies that inspire you.
How getting 7 types of rest can help combat burnout
Burnout among doctors is a growing concern in the medical profession, as the high demands and stressors of the job can lead to mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Combatting burnout requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the various rest deficits identified by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, MD.
Mental rest deficit refers to the constant mental stimulation and decision-making demands faced by doctors, which can contribute to burnout. To combat this, doctors should incorporate regular breaks into their work routine, allowing their minds to recharge and reduce the risk of mental exhaustion. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, can also help alleviate stress and improve mental clarity.
Sensory rest deficit arises from continuous exposure to sensory stimuli in a clinical environment, such as bright lights, alarms, and patient interactions. To address this, doctors should create a quiet, relaxing space at home or work where they can retreat for short periods to decompress and find peace away from overwhelming sensory input.
Social rest deficit refers to the lack of meaningful connections and supports systems in a doctor's personal and professional life. To overcome this, doctors should spend time with people who uplift and encourage them, while also cultivating a network of colleagues who understand the unique challenges they face. Engaging in activities outside of the medical profession can also help doctors form connections and find balance.
Active physical rest involves activities such as yoga, stretching, or light exercise, which promote relaxation and muscle recovery. These activities counteract the physical strain experienced by doctors during long hours of standing or performing repetitive tasks. Incorporating active physical rest into their routine can help doctors improve their overall well-being and reduce the risk of burnout.
Dalton-Smith explains that finding the right balance among these various types of rest is essential for doctors to maintain their mental and physical health. By addressing rest deficits, doctors can not only combat burnout but also enhance their ability to provide quality care to their patients.
Combatting burnout among doctors requires a holistic approach that addresses mental, sensory, social, and active physical rest deficits. By incorporating regular breaks, mindfulness practices, meaningful social interactions, and active physical rest activities into their lives, doctors can better manage the stressors of their profession, maintain their well-being, and continue to deliver high-quality patient care.
By understanding and incorporating the 7 types of rest into your life, you can effectively combat burnout and maintain a healthy balance. Remember that rest is not a luxury, but a necessity for overall wellbeing. Make a conscious effort to prioritise rest and listen to your body and mind's needs to lead a more fulfilling and resilient life.