The Seven Dimensions of Rest

July 29, 2021 by Deborah Christensen MSN, APRN, AOCNS®

Sleep and rest are two different concepts. Society focuses on sleep, but rest is just as important, and not just for the physical body. Rest allows us to nurture our physical, mental, emotional, sensory, creative, social, and spiritual self. Each of those dimensions needs to be consciously rested for a person to truly feel restored.

What the Research Tells Us

Sleep typically moves through four distinct stages during the sleep cycle, whereas physical rest involves both the passive act of sleeping and active forms of rest like massage, stretching, and restorative yoga.

Mental rest is particularly important. Slowing down your mental activity engages your brain’s default mode. Wakeful resting strengthens neural connections, which in turn can improve memory.

Oncology nurses work in busy, stimulating environments involving problem solving and critical thinking. Taking periodic breaks from electronics and finding a quiet place to relax allow you to incorporate sensory and creative rest periods throughout your day. Sensory rest helps repair the damage of overstimulation. Creative rest excludes problem solving and makes room for appreciating the wonder in the world around us.

Emotional rest involves being your most authentic self. Letting go of people pleasing and answering questions honestly brings a sense of congruence to how we feel, act, and speak. Barriers to emotional rest are usually social, but surrounding ourselves with positive, enlivening relationships allows for social rest. Emotional and social rest promote feelings of well-being.

When we feel a sense of belonging, love, and purpose, we are experiencing spiritual rest. Spiritual rest may involve rituals, meditation, community, and genuine service.

How to Practice

Review the activity suggestions listed in the sidebar. Pick one or two to focus on for two weeks. Consciously connect with the type of rest you are cultivating. Share the activity with a coworker, partner, or friend to keep you accountable, and discuss any benefits you experience through your restful practice. The restoration you experience may inspire them to rest, too.


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