Radio Show

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith on ‘Sacred Rest’


Physician, researcher, and speaker Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith discusses her book, “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.” 

Dr. Saundra reflects on how the pandemic has affected our rest. “I think the unknown is really what’s adding some of that ‘fight or flight’ response that our bodies experience. Our stress levels are staying higher. That brings to the forefront that most of us have no idea how to rest. We’re natural workaholics. We live in a culture where work is really uplifted and promoted more than rest. It just creates this atmosphere where it’s very easy to become tactically involved with life …  Work or play both involve pouring out in some way. You’re using your energy. So even fun energy is not necessarily restful. I really think that’s probably the number one thing that people have to come to grips with when we talk about rest — we’re not talking about just cessation of activity, so it’s not stopping, it’s not quitting your job. It’s not a vacation. It’s really what are the restorative activities you’re doing to help revive those parts of your life that get depleted.”

RELATED: The Magis: An Ignatian Antidote for Burnout

“Burnout starts playing a role in relationships, not just in our physical bodies, but in other parts of life. It’s not healthy; it can start to make us feel even more drained, more lifeless, getting to the point of feeling depressed. I spent most of my career looking at how all three of these areas — mind, body, and spirit — work together so that when we talk about health and wellness, we’re looking at a very holistic approach to it.”

Dr. Saundra explains the seven types of rest, “We start off with the physical, the mental and the spiritual, and then the four that are lesser-known are the emotional, the sensory, the social, and the creative types of rest. I find many people have a deficiency in one of those latter four. And because they’re not even an area of their life that they think about putting effort into getting rest in those areas, thoseareas stay depleted. Because they stay depleted, when someone says they’re tired, they don’t really mean they’re physically tired. They’re tired in one of these other areas.”

RELATED: 4 Lessons Jesus Taught Me About Finding Balance

“Sensory rest is allowing your senses to be downgraded. There are so many sensory inputs. It can be from touch. It can be from smell, sounds, lights, our gadgets, the notifications on our phones. There are so many sensory inputs that we don’t even think about, but they keep us in a constant state of agitation. If you think about our cellphones; there were recently some studies that talked about how when the notifications go off, it’s almost like this jerking reaction to the body to quickly pick it up and answer it, even if it’s not something important. It keeps us in the sensory overload. It’s important to be very intentional about getting rest by spending some time in silence. By making sure that you do spend some time away from your electronics, you’re turning down the lights at night, even on your computer so that you’re not just having all of this bright blue light all the time constantly confronting you.”

Father Dave asks which kind of rest we ignore the most. Dr. Saundra responds, “Emotional rest across the board. Emotional rest boils down to the rest we receive when we allow ourselves to be very authentic and open about where we’re at. It’s taking off the mask. It’s letting yourself be very truthful in what’s going on in your life. I find a lot of times that people have difficulty with this if they’re in positions of power or leadership because they want to keep that professional persona and not let people know if they’re struggling with something or having difficulty with an area. The problem with that is when you feel like no one really knows all of you, you feel like something’s wrong with you, which then leads to more feelings of depression. It’s those situations when you start finding people who are extremely successful who have committed suicide, because what happens is when you feel like you’re pouring into the world, but the world doesn’t know you, but that’s not a good place to be.”

“In the Bible we see some really amazing examples of emotional rest patterns through the life of Jesus. Specifically, when you think about how his ministry was set up ministering to the masses and then you see this kind of closer-knit circle of 12. You see these times when he breaks away with just three, like at the mountain of transfiguration, where he kind of reveals the fullness of who he is in that setting. I think everybody’s life needs to have that level of segmentation where it’s not going to be like a room full of people you just pour your soul out to, but there should be some people who know you at the fullest level of who you are.”