What Kind of Tired Are You?

There is a common axiom, “You cannot give what you do not have.” And, if we’re honest, most of us these days don’t have much, if anything, left to give. 

We’re tired and stressed. Worn out to the core. The demands remain but our ability to respond doesn’t. Emotionally, mentally, even spiritually we’ve been left hanging by a thread. 

More than ever, we need to take care of ourselves so we have something to give! 

Jesus is a fan of personal wellness and self-care. He practiced it himself. Jesus left the crowds behind. He surrounded himself with (and counted on) a small group of devoted friends. He prayed, and worshiped, and “retired to quiet places”. These were some of the ways he took care of himself. This is not news to followers of Jesus. 

What we sometimes forget, though, is that Jesus inherited physical, emotional, social, and even spiritual limitations when he took on human form. As a result, he purposefully took action for his own personal wellness and self care.  This was not merely a way to show the rest of us how to live, he needed it to restore Himself and continue His mission! 

Five keys for a right perspective.

So, before answering and responding to the question, “What kind of tired am I?”, there are five keys for a right perspective that, if left unaddressed, will undermine our best efforts to live a healthier, fuller life.

  1. Self-care is a requirement, not a reward. Jesus didn’t pursue self-care as some sort of “reward” because he had “earned it” or “deserved it.” Jesus took care of himself because living a healthy and full life was required in order to fulfill His mission. Self-care was a requirement for Jesus and, therefore, a requirement for us! Be like Jesus.

  2. Self-care is not a “luxury." Expensive products, tantalizing treats, spa treatments, and elaborate vacations are marketed to us as the way to “give back” to ourselves. Wrong! Not only can these things cause additional financial stress for many people, they also aren’t necessary for a good self-care plan. In fact, some of the best self-care is simple and free.

  3. Self-care is not selfish. It may help to say that out loud. Go ahead . . . actually say that out loud. “Self-care is not selfish.” Self-care is good and necessary stewardship of the one thing God has given you to offer the world – your whole self, your life, in His service. 

  4. Self-care must be holistic As holistic people, our self-care needs to be holistic as well – mental, physical, spiritual, emotional. A common error we make is focusing on just one area, or maybe ignoring an area or two . . . and in doing so our self-care can become stale, lop-sided, and ineffective.

  5. Self-care must be intentional. Self-care doesn’t just happen on its own. Intentionally choosing what allows you to remain healthy and strong and then doing it is a necessary component to self-care and moving from great intentions to practical application.

The Seven Types of Rest

Jesus practiced personal wellness and self-care. Check! You’re gaining the correct perspective. Check! When we’re tired it means we need rest. (Yeah, I know, not a revolutionary idea.) Check! All good so far. Take a nap, get a good night’s sleep, and, voilà, I’m rested and ready to go. 

Not quite.

Sleep is not the same as rest. Instead, it is better to think of rest as the “pursuit of restoration”.  With that in mind, sleep is only one of many ways to pursue restoration and, as you’ll discover below, only effective in response to one of the seven areas where we grow tired.

Yes, you read that right. There are seven areas in which to pursue restoration – where we need “rest”. 

We need 1) physical rest, 2) mental rest, 3) emotional rest, 4) spiritual rest, 5) social rest, 6) sensory rest, and 7) creative rest. 

Phew! You may be getting tired just thinking of all the work needed for rest! It’s OK. There are definitely some things to learn, but getting rest doesn’t need to wear you out! Read on my friend :)

Discovering which type of rest you need is the key to unlocking effective personal wellness. Do you wake up energized but find yourself dragging later? You need physical rest.  Lacking meaning and fulfillment? A spiritual or emotional rest deficit may be to blame. Spending your time staring at a screen? Sensory rest is what will leave you feeling renewed. 

We are often tired because we apply a remedy for one kind of deficit when what we really need is something totally different. If your job is mentally draining but not physically demanding then physical rest will fail to restore you. A nap may work as a temporary escape but it will not satisfy what you need. Mental rest is actually what will bring your deficit back to a healthy level. 

You see, for every depleting activity there is a counter “reviving” activity to balance you out and keep your buckets full. This is why it is so important in your pursuit of personal wellness to answer the question, “What kind of tired am I?”

Active versus Passive Rest

One more note before outlining some practical steps to take. Rest can be active or rest can be passive. It can mean engaging in activity for your restoration or it can mean withdrawing from activity.

For example, in the realm of physical rest, taking a walk, going to the gym, or enjoying a bike ride is a form of active physical rest. It could be exactly what is needed to restore you! Doing so releases endorphins that act to improve mood and reduce stress. However, a nap or good night’s sleep – a form of passive physical rest – could be what you need to feel restored. What’s for certain is engaging in only one or the other, always passive rest or always active rest, is not the answer. A balance of active and passive strategies, listening to what your body needs, is best. This balance is true for all the types of rest.

Remember, increasing the right kind of rest will help you take better care of yourself – to better take on the mission that God has called you to do. Here are examples for some of the other seven areas:

  • Mental Rest – Passive mental rest might take on the form of meditation to quiet the mental chatter in your mind. Fill your mental space with restorative thoughts. “Take your thoughts captive.” Active mental rest could mean choosing activities you find engaging, but that use a part of your mind you don’t regularly get to do during the day. Activities like working a puzzle, solving a crossword puzzle, reading light fiction, or reading the Bible to engage in the story (not as a source of study or personal devotion) are examples. I recently went back to reading the Gospels and did my best to read it like it was the first time! It was so refreshing and engaged my thoughts about Jesus and being his disciple in ways I hadn’t thought of before. Doing something similar can serve as a “two-fer” allowing for both mental rest and spiritual rest.

  • Spiritual Rest – A vibrant spiritual life connects us to wholeness, meaning and purpose.  It confirms inherent dignity and value. It nurtures our soul. When thinking of spiritual rest, praise and worship serve as both active and passive rest. Engaging in praise while at church, surrounded by others, should be an active form of rest. In singing the words and soaking in the community you actively focus your attention on the goodness of God. However, putting on your favorite worship music and letting the songs wash over you – a form of passive spiritual rest – can be just as effective in nurturing your soul! 

  • Sensory Rest – Think about your day. Its sensory overload! Fluorescent lights, phones and computer screens, smells, the noise of traffic or construction or kids. Our bodies and our minds need a break from sensory input! Passive sensory rest, for example, might mean turning off the radio when you’re driving from one place to another or a few quiet moments on the back deck instead of watching your favorite show. 

So many choices and so much new information. What is someone to do?  If I were to suggest just one way to engage in rest, it would be to take time to walk (or run) in nature – without your headphones! Nature and natural sounds like wind, water, or birds exponentially increase the effects of sensory rest. A walk or run in the woods while listening to nature combines active physical rest with passive sensory rest! Add to the mix a time of prayer or intentional meditation on Christ and you’ve added spiritual rest, too! Being in nature can lower the levels of cortisol in our bodies, improving our mood and leading to less anxiety, less anger, and less fear. 

And, just as importantly, being in nature “right-sizes” our place in the universe. Computers and phones and schedules give us the illusion that we are in control of the life around us. We come to believe we’re responsible for everything and can control the outcomes. Being in nature, though, reminds us – both consciously and unconsciously – that we are a small piece in a much bigger plan. Is it any wonder that Jesus regularly “retired to a quiet place” – often a quiet place in nature – to reconnect with His father, to remember his place in the world, and to nurture his soul. We’re smart to do the same.

Make a plan. Create margin. Start Small. Find a friend. Extend grace. Whether it’s a walk in nature or some other strategy, remember that personal wellness and self-care require intentionality. It’s time to put things into practice. Here are concrete steps to help make that happen.

  1. Make a plan – Zero in on one or two of the seven areas and make a plan to apply the right kind of rest for the kind of tired you’re feeling. 

  2. Create margin – Look ahead. Leave time between commitments. Block off time for yourself. Take a personal day for the sole purpose of trying a new type of rest. Practice saying no sometimes to people and opportunities so you can focus on long term benefits and stay in the game. 

  3. Start small – Maybe you’re like me. Full of hope for something better, I leap into action with vim, vigor, and optimism – only to run out of steam just a few weeks later. Instead, try this. Decide, on a scale of 1-10, how rested you’re feeling. Now, instead of trying to figure out how to go from where you are to 8 or 9 on the scale, think small and decide on just one or two things that will allow you to feel just 1 step better – maybe only a half step better! Ask, how can I go from 3 to 4 or 6 to 6.5. Small, steady progress is better than large, quick success that eventually fades over time.

  4. Find a friend – Connecting with even one other person who is committed to similar growth will increase the chances of long-term success exponentially. 

  5. Extend grace to yourself – Author and speaker Todd Henry says it well. “Remember, your systems exist to serve you, not the other way around. Cut yourself some slack if you miss a few days. Adapt your rhythms to fit your needs.” 

Arguably, there has never been a collectively more difficult time than what we’ve experienced together the last few years. Uncertainty, unrest, illness, death. Yet, we persevere. We choose to endure. We desperately want to respond to the call on our lives. We desire to remain light in a dark world. 

Alas, we can’t do that, my friends, without a plan to be restored. Gently and purposefully enter into rest in each of the seven areas so that he who began a good work in you can, in fact, complete it.

Rob HallRob Hall is the Executive Director of Trauma Free World, an organization committed to trauma-informed education and breaking the generational effects of trauma. A former Christian school leader, Rob's heart for children reaching their full potential has been a through-line of his life and career.  

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