What is ‘emotional rest’ – and why do we all need more of it?

Rest isn’t just important for the body – it’s essential for your mind and mental health, too.

If you make an effort to prioritise your rest as much as we do here at Stylist, you’ll likely already know that there are considered seven ‘types’ of rest that everyone needs to function in a healthy way. Theorised by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith, a physician, researcher, speaker and author of Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity, they include mental, emotional, creative, social and physical rest.

It’s important not to overlook the lesser-known types, including emotional rest. Because, let’s be honest: holding onto your emotions – either to please others or simply because you feel unable to express them – requires a lot of energy.

True emotional rest is all about processing those emotions and feeling like you can share them with those around you, ie being your truest self.

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“Emotional rest refers to taking intentional steps to recharge and rejuvenate our emotional energy,” Dr Rina Bajaj, a counselling psychologist tells Stylist. “It involves taking time to focus on ouremotional wellbeing and engaging in activities that help us to release stress and tension, and regain a sense of inner peace and balance.”

Because it is so individualised, emotional rest can take many forms. As Dr Bajaj explains, it may involve activities such as meditation,mindfulness or yoga, which can help to quiet the mind and reduce stress, as well as spending time in nature, engaging in creative pursuits or spending time with loved ones.

Ultimately, the key aspect of emotional rest is that it is intentional and focused on recharging our emotional batteries. “It’s about taking a break from the stresses and demands of daily life, and prioritising our emotional wellbeing,” Dr Bajaj says.

What is ‘emotional rest’ – and why do we need more of it?

But other than the obvious – that it’s no fun to be anxious, stressed and preoccupied all the time – why is emotional rest so important for our health? According to Dr Bajaj, it allows us to recharge and rejuvenate our emotional energy. Just as our bodies need rest and recovery after physical activity, our emotions also require downtime to recover from the stresses and challenges of daily life.

“When we experience emotional exhaustion, we may feel overwhelmed, irritable and have difficulty concentrating,” she explains. “This can lead to decreased productivity, difficulty in decision making and can also impact our relationships with others.” Emotional rest, however, helps to replenish our emotional energy, allowing us to feel more positive, refreshed, and resilient – which in a year like 2023, we all need.

In addition, emotional rest can help us to better manage our emotions and respond more effectively to challenging situations, Dr Bajaj suggests. It can also help us to gain a better understanding of our own emotional needs and developstrategies for coping with stress and adversity.

How can we get more emotional rest?

“One of the most important steps in getting more emotional rest is to set clear boundaries around your time and energy,” she advises. “This means learning to say no to commitments that drain your emotional energy and carving out time in your schedule for activities that replenish you.”

Indeed, equally important is engaging in activities that bring you joy. “Doing things that make you happy is an important part of emotional rest,” she explains. “Whether it’s spending time with friends, pursuing a hobby, or simply taking a relaxing bath, make time for activities that bring you joy and help you to recharge.”

For optimum emotional rest, you should also disconnect from technology and practice self-compassion. “Self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding and accepting yourself as you are,” says Dr Bajaj, and taking a digital detox or setting aside specific times each day can help you to unplug and focus on restorative activities.

Finally, it’s important to seek support when you need it. Talking to a friend, family member, or a professional, having someone to talk to can help you to process your emotions and get the support you need to maintain emotional wellbeing.

Images: Getty

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