It’s Time to Redefine Rest


The Merriam-Webster definition of rest is “to cease from action or motion; refrain from labor or exertion.” As a wife, mom, and full-time employee, life is continuously moving at a pace that I often find challenging to keep up with. Rest is necessary, but it isn’t always something that comes easy, or it doesn’t result in the outcome I desire. I often long for the next time I can “rest” only to be disappointed when I’m still tired and worn out. I’ve concluded that it’s time to redefine rest.

Last month, I attended an online conference hosted by Chrystal Evans Hurst, a writer and speaker I admire. The conference gathered women from across the world, online, for a day and a half – the content centered on faith, motherhood, cultivating dreams, and living with confidence. In the middle of this pandemic, the conference was just what I needed to refresh my soul and challenge me to pursue my best life, even in times of uncertainty.

Like many of you, I’m still reeling from the impact of this pandemic and now growing racial tension. My emotions have been all over the place—sadness, anger, pain, frustration, hope, joy, happiness. Like the ocean, they come in waves. Sometimes alone, sometimes several at once. It’s exhausting. Amid this storm, I crave rest like the chocolate mug cake mix sitting on my pantry shelf.

Rest can take on different forms depending on the day. Sometimes it’s a nap, and other times it’s going to bed early. It might be sitting on the couch, binging a Netflix series. When things get too overwhelming, rest could mean taking much needed PTO. No matter what rest looks like, the result has always been the same. While I am physically resting, on the inside, I never quite experience the peace that I long for.

During the online conference, I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith on the topic of rest. In this session, Dr. Dalton-Smith shared a definition of rest that was life-changing for me. She went beyond the dictionary definition and stated that rest equals restoration, implying that we should leave rest better than how we entered. Something should be restored as a result. Restoration is what was missing. It was time to redefine rest.

Dr. Dalton-Smith went on to describe seven areas of rest (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, and creative), and she explained that for rest to be effective it should be concentrated in the area where it is most needed. Her advice was to identify where you regularly feel depleted. Dr. Dalton-Smith offers a rest quiz to help do just that. If you need help determining which area you need rest in, I highly recommend you take the rest quiz.

Through the quiz, I was able to identify that emotional rest is the primary area I need to focus on. For me, my life is negatively impacted by a lack of emotional rest, meaning I need to concentrate on authentically expressing my feelings and eliminate people-pleasing behaviors. This empowered me to move forward with the appropriate action to experience true restoration. 

I am now focusing on experiencing emotional rest by leaning into the places I feel safest to express my feelings. I find safety in my faith, with my husband, with family and close friends, and in therapy. I am learning to be more intentional in my conversations and pushing myself to dig deeper into what I’m feeling. This Feeling Wheel developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox is an excellent resource if you’re like me and have trouble identifying and expressing your feelings. 

I am also learning to relax the unrealistic expectations I have and how to be my true, authentic self. I also find safety in writing. The act of putting pen to paper in my journal gives me the freedom to express my feelings without fear of judgment or critique from others. I can say exactly what is on my mind. I hope that as I continue to put these things into practice, I will experience true restoration.

What about you? Have you been struggling to find rest? Do you often feel rest never results in the outcome you hoped for? Maybe it’s time to do the deep soul work to identify the area you are most depleted in. Perhaps it’s time to redefine rest. Maybe it’s time to focus on restoration.