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The Friday Five

5 Kinds of Rest: Avoiding Exhaustion Means More Than Getting Enough Sleep

By Jamie Spannhake

Feeling exhausted? There are many kinds of rest we need to feel well-rested. Of course, we all know sleep is important for both physical and mental stamina. In fact, lack of sleep has serious consequences, such as reducing our immune system’s effectiveness and increasing cravings for simple carbohydrates. But did you know there are at least four other kinds of rest we need to be healthy and at our best?

Five Kinds of Rest to Combat Fatigue

Here the five kinds of rest you need to feel energized, mentally and physically.

1. Physical Rest

As a fundamental requirement of good health, we must rest our bodies by sleeping. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep each night. We can also rest our bodies through restorative actions such as yoga and meditation. Try to get sufficient sleep, and on those days when you don’t, rely on meditation to get some of the physical rest you missed during the night.

2. Mental Rest

When we are continually faced with stress from our daily activities, especially our stressful practice of law, we become mentally exhausted. This kind of exhaustion is what we often refer to as “burnout.” Mental exhaustion can manifest as not being able to fall asleep because our mind is running through our to-do lists, or all the things that went wrong during the day, or all the responsibilities we will face tomorrow. Such mental exhaustion can make us feel tired even when we have sufficient physical rest. One way to get needed mental rest and combat fatigue is to take a break. Whether it’s a week, a day or an hour, try to find downtime. Another effective tool is a daily meditation practice, which gives your brain the respite it needs from constant demands.

3. Social Rest

We can feel socially exhausted when we spend a lot of time with people who drain us of energy or when we don’t have meaningful connections with other people. Think of that colleague who is always pessimistic and difficult or that “frenemy” who takes great pleasure in making you feel bad about yourself. Or perhaps you are feeling isolated while you work from home and spend very little time with friends. To get the social rest you need, spend less time with people who drain you and more time with people who make you feel good. Schedule a time for a walk outside with a friend, or to connect with your spouse at home, or for a weekly Zoom call with friends.

4. Creative Rest

Many lawyers don’t think of themselves as creative, but I disagree. We spend a lot of time helping our clients avoid risks and finding solutions to problems, both of which require creative thinking and foresight. When we spend a lot of time analyzing and creating solutions, we may need a creative rest. The best way to get the needed rest is to enjoy nature, art, music and other things and activities you find aesthetically pleasing. Go for a hike. Play the piano. Take a virtual tour of an art museum. Listen to your favorite music. Read a book. Anything that allows your creative energy to rest and rejuvenate at the same time.

5. Sensory Rest

Our world is over-stimulating. We are surrounded by screens for work and personal use: phones, tablets, laptops, computers, video game consoles and more. There are lights, noises, notifications and conversations during most of our waking hours. All this stimulation creates a need for sensory rest. Unplug at least two hours before bed. Keep your phone outside your bedroom during sleep. Choose one night a week to engage in activities that don’t involve a screen, such as card games or books. Try to spend some time each day in nature or in silence.

Being your best self in a demanding law practice requires mental stamina and focus. To combat fatigue, make sure to get the necessary rest in all five areas.

More From Attorney at Work:

Have You Read Jamie Spannhake’s Bestselling Book?

The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry Book CoverFind Your Calm in the Chaos

In “The Lawyer, the Lion, and the Laundry: Three Hours to Finding Your Calm in the Chaos,” lawyer and certified health coach Jamie Spannhake helps you learn how to CHOOSE, ACT and THINK in ways that will clarify your desires and set priorities so you can reclaim your time and enjoy your life.

Available in the Attorney at Work bookstore, here. 

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Jamie Spannhake

Jamie Spannhake is a lawyer, mediator and certified health coach, and author of “The Lawyer, the Lion, & the Laundry.” She is a partner at Berlandi Nussbaum & Reitzas LLP, serving clients in New York and Connecticut, practicing in the areas of commercial litigation, estate planning, residential and commercial real estate, and business transactions. She writes and speaks on issues of interest to lawyers, including time and stress management, health and wellness, work-life balance, and effective legal writing. Follow her on Twitter @IdealYear.

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