Episode 59 – Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, Rest and Wellness Expert

Are you tired? Of course you are! We all are. That’s why today’s conversation between Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith and Jessica is so important.

As a board-certified internal medicine physician and the author of her new book, “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity,” Dr. Dalton-Smith has a lot to teach us about getting quality, lasting, and rejuvenating rest.


Jessica: Hey everyone, it’s Jessica Honegger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand Noonday Collection. And this is the Going Scared podcast where we cover all things social impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. If you guys follow me on Instagram … first, if you don’t follow me, hop on over there. It’s Jessica Honegger with an egg in the middle, two Gs. I have been traveling a lot the last few weeks. I’ve been to Nepal and Thailand and India and the Dominican Republic and spring breaking with my kids in Colorado and filming a photo shoot in Joshua Tree. It’s been a little bit back to back and I’m a little tired. And so, today’s podcast about rest came at such the good time for me. You are going to learn so much from our guest today Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith. She’s a board-certified internal medicine physician. She has an active medical practice in Alabama, and she’s also an author of the new book called, Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.

It was such a great conversation and before we give it a listen, I just wanted to thank you guys for giving Going Scared reviews on iTunes. I love what Ariyancey had to say. “Jessica Honegger is such a champion of courage and entrepreneurship. I’ve never considered myself to be an entrepreneur, but after listening to this podcast series, I’ve realized that the only thing limiting me from starting new things or following a passion or call is my own fears and worries, these totally artificial limits I place on myself. How am I going scared? We are pursuing adoption. Thanks for a healthy dose of courage, Jessica.” Thank you so much for that review.

So, the reason I’m asking for reviews and ratings is because we provide these conversations. We have these incredible guests on the show so that you can grow, so that you can be more courageous. You can learn more about social impact, become more aware of yourself, and don’t you want other people to find these conversations? So, head on over, leave a review. If you are a listener, then this is just a little way you can give back to the show so that more people can discover these conversations. All right. Without further ado, let’s listen in on what Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith has to say about rest.

All right. Well, welcome to the show Dr. Dalton-Smith. I’m excited to chat with you today.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Thanks for having me, Jessica.

Jessica: OK, so do you want me to call you Saundra or Dr. Dalton-Smith?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Please.

Jessica: OK.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: It’s kinda hard to be conversational and informal if you keep calling me doctor.

Jessica: I just like it. I like to place honor where honor is due, you know what I’m saying? You know.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: I appreciate it.

Jessica: There you go. OK. I’ll stick with Saundra. But listen, this is why I’m so excited to have you on the show because rest is a subject that’s near and dear to my heart and, well, there are so many things I love about your book first of all that you’re talking about sort of a daily rest not this like go on vacation, get massages, but also you are a doctor, you are a mother of two, you’re an author, you’re a speaker. And I have read books about rest by men who live in the desert. And I’m like, “OK.” Or people write about rest that don’t do a whole lot in their lives. But you’re coming from the perspective of a doer. So, before we dive into the topic of today, which is rest, could you give me the Dr. Dalton-Smith 101?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: You pretty much summed it up really well. I’m an internal medicine physician. I’ve been in practice for about 20 years now. I have two boys, we’re in the Birmingham, surrounding Birmingham area. Their ages are 13 and almost 15. He keeps reminding me. I’m married, been married for 17 years, and I did do a lot. I love writing. I love sharing with people how to make their life better. My platform and my website is I Choose My Best Life because I like to help people be able to do that. And I’ve found that writing and speaking are two of the ways that I can accomplish that.

Jessica: So, tell me a little bit more about you, how you arrived to this topic. I know that we teach what we need to learn. And so how did you begin to let rest be your teacher so that you could then teach us about it?


Depletion and Restoration


Dr. Dalton-Smith: Honestly, I burned out. I was at a point in my life when both of my boys were toddlers. I had, I think at the time, maybe a 2-year-old and one who had just been born. And on the surface my life looked very well put together. I had a lot going on. I was doing a lot of interaction with different major magazines as a health advisor and giving information to them. So, I had all these accolades, but I was so unhappy. I couldn’t find any peace, any joy in the process. I’d become a doer without becoming one who actually enjoys what they do. And when I got to that point, you know, I look back at it like this, when I see sometimes in the media where very accomplished, successful people, you hear of them committing suicide or having a breakdown, and people think, “How can that be? They’re offering so much benefit to others and they’re blessing so many people’s lives, how can they get to that point where they don’t see value in their own life?” That’s where I got to.

“Honestly, I burned out…. I had all these accolades, but I was so unhappy. I couldn’t find any peace, any joy in the process. I’d become a doer without becoming one who actually enjoys what they do.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have this big suicidal pact that I was gonna do, but I just found no joy. I was at the end of myself. And I came to this place of just real desperation where one day I just laid out on the floor. I was like, “God, if this is all there is, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be in a life that I personally built and created. It’s the life I said I wanted, and I’d put all my effort and time into building.” And then when I was sitting in the middle of it at its peak, so to speak, and all the other areas, I didn’t wanna be there. So, something had to change.

Jessica: You say that sleep is the byproduct of rest. It’s not the foundation of rest. So, what is your definition of rest?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: To me, I make it very simple. Rest equals restoration. And so, when I look at rest, I’m constantly looking at the different aspects of my life where I’m pouring out. And so when I was doing my research on that, there are seven key areas that I saw that I personally—and when I started looking at my patients and kind of in general—that we all pour out of on a continuous basis, whether we think about it or not. And so, from those seven areas, I started to look at just my own life. And at that time actually I was very busy. I was active, I was doing a lot of different things. I was getting plenty of sleep. And that’s the problem because in medicine, that’s what we tell people. If you’re tired, you must need more sleep. Well, I was getting plenty of sleep, and I was still exhausted.

And so, when I started looking at these seven areas for myself at that time, what I found is that I was actually depleted in three key areas for me. And they were social rest, emotional rest, and creative rest. Those were areas I was pouring out without even realizing I needed to have restoration in, that I needed to pour something back in. As a physician, I’m constantly talking to people, constantly giving of my emotions with their situation and compassion that goes along with doing that job. And then as a writer and one that was working with the media, with coming up with stories, I was constantly pulling on my creative aspect. Well, I never thought of myself as a creative because I’m not a painter or a singer or an artist. So, it never dawned on me that brainstorming and coming up with outside-of-the-box ideas was a part of creativity.

“I was actually depleted in three key areas for me. And they were social rest, emotional rest, and creative rest. Those were areas I was pouring out without even realizing I needed to have restoration in, that I needed to pour something back in.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith


The Seven Types of Rest


Jessica: Oh yeah. Oh, yes. So, I wanted to get very tactical right now and I want everyone to get out their pens and papers and I would love for you to walk us through these seven types of rest. And what I’d love to hear as you name each type is what does that pouring out look like? What you just said, I think people hear the term creative and they are like, “Oh gosh, when’s the last time I pulled out paint and a brush,” you know? But actually creativity is just generating ideas and sort of getting other people to live in this realm of possibility. And if you could walk us through and say, here’s what an example is of pouring out and then an example of what restoration looks like in that area.


Physical Rest


Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So, I’ll start with physical rest. I think that’s the one most of us are most familiar with because we automatically start thinking about sleep. What I want you to start realizing is that physical rest in itself has two different components. You have the passive, which is sleeping and napping, and then you have the active physical rest, which is where you hear people talk about things like yoga or a leisure walk. So, pouring out physically can be something as basic as a mom lifting up a toddler all day long and exhausting her arms from the repetitive weight of picking up a 20-pound child. And then the restoration of that would be the things that restore body fluidity in that area that helps the circulation in the lymphatics and the muscles to go back to their relaxed state. So that could be stretches, that could be neck rolls, it could be a self-massage where you’re just doing it to your own arms. If you’re someone who stands all day, you’re walking back and forth, maybe at offices or you’re traveling a lot, so your legs are kind of staying in a static position on planes, the restoration of that could look like doing a leisure walk, not where you’re actually trying to burn calories, where that’s the main goal. But the goal is to restore circulation and to improve the lymphatic. So that’s just a very basic one with physical.

And then the pouring out could be—let’s say for instance, if you’re working on the computer and you’re constantly having to do some type of activity where you’re on the computer, and you’re processing information, if you work with numbers and you’re processing information, anything where you’re having to concentrate pulls on your mental rest. And then the restoration of that is allowing yourself that cerebral quiet time so that your mind kind of can go back to that even ground where it’s not trying to process something. And for most of us that’s hard to do because we have so much of an information influx coming in from so many places, and something that’s just very basic that most people can do when your brain kind of keeps all this information just running around in it is to have a time where you do what we call a brain dump, which is basically having—you can journal, if that’s what you’re into. I’m not into journaling, so I just keep a notepad by the bed, so if there’s something that is rummaging around in my brain before I go to bed, and it won’t let go, when you jot it down on just a Post-it note or a piece of paper, you give your brain permission to release it because otherwise it thinks it needs to hold onto it because it doesn’t wanna let you down and forget that information. But when you release it, you still can go back and process that, if it’s something you need to work through or remember, but you allow yourself to go to that quiet place in your brain so you can at least get some high quality sleep.


Spiritual Rest


And then next would be spiritual rest. That’s different for different people. I speak to a lot of different groups, so that gets tricky depending on what groups you’re speaking to. But spiritual rest really is that ability to kind of recline in the knowledge of the holy. And so, someone who gets drained with spiritual rest is often… I see it a lot in ministry. So, you’re pouring out from that reservoir, you’re pouring out from that ability to help others see God in a different way. And so, most of the time when I see it in ministry, one of the ways that they can help to kind of get back to that place of spiritual rest is to focus more on the relationship rather than the theology of it all. The details and the religion of it all, but focusing more on that relationship and really sensing of being a part of something bigger, that sense of belonging and love, acceptance and purpose that really keeps us grounded.


Emotional Rest


Emotional rest, pouring out on that could … for a lot of women, this is a huge one, the emotional rest component. It has a lot to do with people-pleasing behaviors. So, the pouring out is the saying the yeses when you really should say no because you don’t really wanna do it. You’re giving a reluctant yes rather than a truthful no. And what happens with that is you start letting go of your personal boundaries and then you start feeling devalued because people are stepping in on your boundary. But you didn’t really erect them in a way that they even know that they’re doing something you’re not happy with. And so, reclaiming that emotional rest begins with taking ownership of your nos and feeling that level of comfort to just be authentic. When something isn’t a good fit for you, you have the freedom to say that without having to explain it to anyone.

“Reclaiming that emotional rest begins with taking ownership of your nos and feeling that level of comfort to just be authentic. When something isn’t a good fit for you, you have the freedom to say that without having to explain it to anyone.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith


Social Rest


With social rest, as I mentioned, this was a huge one for me. It starts with recognizing those relationships that revive you and differentiating them from those that exhaust you. Now that gets really tricky. One woman told me after a conference, she goes, “What if that person is your husband?” So yeah, sometimes the person that’s draining you is someone you live with. So, but I mean if you think about it, your kids are constantly pulling from you. They have to. That’s kind of their relationship with you is that they need stuff from you. So, it’s not that the people that need things from you are bad. It’s just the dynamics of that relationship.

And so, as adults, we have to realize that we also need those people who pour back into us. So, you wanna make sure you maintain those relationships where people don’t want something from you specifically. That’s where friendships are so important. Then it gets tricky when you start seeing adults who they spend all their time focusing on family and their kids, but then they let all their relationships just disintegrate. And you can’t do that because that’s when you lose that social rest, that ability to get rest in the presence of another. And I see people losing this as far as being drained in this area, particularly if they work around large groups.

Teachers, I have a lot of teachers who contact me about this being a big issue. They are always around students. And so, the students are always needing, pulling, pulling, pulling from the teacher, and the teacher needs someone to pour back into them. We see the same thing with people in ministry, we see the same thing with parents. One of the ways that I love that I’m finding that groups of women are restoring their social rest is by something as simple as doing like—you think the WhatsApp App or Skype or Zoom—and they’re doing these little mommy coffee dates without ever leaving their house. They set up a time that’s usually short, the ones that are … they’re sending me information but they’re usually short, like a 10 minute at 8:00. The kids might be in the background screaming or throwing peanut butter. I mean whatever is going on. No one’s trying to make it look pretty. It just is what it is. And so, they’re able to have that face-to-face contact, which is what most of the research is showing is the most beneficial part of that social rest. It’s the rest we get in the presence of others that get us. And so, having that time with your people where you can see the facial expressions, the body actions, and you can really kind of feel connected with them. And you can do it now without even having to leave your home.

“The most beneficial part of that social rest … it’s the rest we get in the presence of others that get us. And so, having that time with your people where you can see the facial expressions, the body actions, and you can really kind of feel connected with them. And you can do it now without even having to leave your home.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

Obviously we prefer it to be face to face, and for couples who start feeling like their relationship is getting pulled apart, that’s one of the things that’s recommended is for them to just spend five minutes a day where they’re face to face with each other, and they’re asking a very basic question, how was your day? But they’re not allowing each other to give one of those, “Oh, it’s good. It was fine.” I mean you have to give a real answer, a heartfelt answer where you actually let that other person into what’s going on with you. And I’m loving how couples are starting to kind of reconnect with that. Because if you think about it, when we fall in love, we don’t fall in love looking away from each other at our computer screen or at the TV, which is how most couples end their day, not looking into each other but looking away from each other. And so just that little bit of a shift in how we’re responding to the person we wanna stay connected to, it can make a huge difference.


Sensory Rest


The last two, the last two, the first one is sensory rest, which is one that you likely have drained in ways you haven’t even thought about. And so, if you work in an office space that has background noise, maybe you’re in a cubicle-type space with what I call background hum of people talking and phones ringing, or if you’re a homeschool mom and you’re having screaming kids in the background or the sounds of different Lego blocks, tap tapping in the background. If you work in a job area that’s just noisy in general, the bright lights that are in some office spaces, the fluorescent lights that are constantly bright. And then if you’re working on a computer screen, you also have the influx of that. So, there are so many ways that we get kind of sensory overloaded. Even with touch, if you’re working where people are constantly touching you, as a physician, I’m constantly touching people. And as a mom, if you’re a mom of small kids, you may be constantly being touched.

So, I’ve had an interesting story with one couple who we were doing some coaching and counseling, and she had made the comment, “I don’t like sex anymore. I used to love sex. I don’t like sex anymore.” So, and I thought to myself, “OK, well, you know, I’m not really that kind of doctor, but let’s discuss it and see where we go with this.” Well, she’s a homeschool mom with very small kids, I think the oldest was maybe 5, and then she had like 2 more under that. And if you think about it all day, she was touching or being touched and then at 6:00 he comes home and it’s just bigger hands but it’s still being touched. So obviously she was getting overloaded in this area. And so, something as simple as them coming up with a daddy bedtime routine where for 15, 20 minutes she could say her goodbyes. And then the last 15, 20 minutes as the kids were getting ready for bed, it was daddy time, his personal time with them where she can go and kind of decompress from the constant touching. So, she would be more receptive to grown up hand touching her.

And so, we need to do the same thing just within our day to day. So, if you’re working at a computer screen for long periods of time, doing something like flow break cycles, which is where every 90 to 120 minutes, you purposely break away from whatever you’re doing. That could be as simple as just standing up and going into another room. That could be closing your eyes while sitting at the desk and doing a little bit of kind of neck rolls and kind of decompressing there. It could be turning off your radio on the drive home from work. So, instead of listening to talk radio where they are firing you up and getting you more agitated about politics and whatever else might be going on, that you allow that time to be part of your sensory rest restoration to just have some quiet, and to kind of get back into that appreciation of silence and even spending some time in darkness. Very few of us actually spend time in total darkness and in total quiet. So, I’ve even had a few sessions at sensory deprivation tanks, which honestly are tremendously therapeutic if you have a tendency that you get to easily get sensory overloaded.

Jessica: Is that one of those places where you can float around in saltwater?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yes. Complete silence. Complete darkness.

Jessica: I’ve been wanting to try that.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: It’s amazing. I initially was questioning how most people would respond to it, and I’ve seen some interesting research. People who are highly sensory-deprived, who are toxic in their ability to defuse from the senses. They have to have noise all the time. TV is playing, radio is playing, everything, there’s always noise … They can’t just jump in a sensory deprivation tank. They will panic and freak out because it is so different than their norm. So, what I have them start with is just kind of a little bit of sensory grounding so to speak, by turning off the lights in their bedroom, and seeing if they can get that as dark as possible with no sound and just spending some time getting used to that. Because you’d be amazed how many people sleep with nightlights and all these different things going on, the background noise when they’re sleeping so they never get to silent. So, you have to really start getting there first. But then once you kind of get your body acclimated to that again, the tanks are fantastic because it is truly a weightless type experience, and you never get to that level of darkness and silence. Honestly, it’s almost like a religious experience. It was amazing. Do it and let me know of what you think about it.


Creative Rest


And then last is creative rest, which is really the allowing beauty to inspire and to liberate and wander inside of us. And so often we get away from that. We see the appreciation of beauty and allowing ourselves to be creatively awakened, to be kind of that extra thing on the side. If I have time, I’ll go do some of that. Or we think it has to be at a vacation, and it can be as simple as time spent outside if you have…you know, if there’s something that you just walked by. I found that just even doing a walk in my own yard, I discover things that I don’t pay attention to. Flowers that are popping up out of the blue. Just things that I’m not conscious of even though they’re right in front of me and just allowing myself to kind of reconnect to that.

“Creative rest … is really the allowing beauty to inspire and to liberate and wander inside of us. And so often we get away from that. We see the appreciation of beauty and allowing ourselves to be creatively awakened, to be kind of that extra thing on the side.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

And this research is just amazing because when they’ve done research, a large number of people say that they feel better at the ocean and at beaches. And what they’re finding is that when you do MRI imaging of the brain, when they’re looking at these type of scenes, large bodies of blue water, that there actually is a chemical response that happens that we actually are being changed on the inside from the beauty we appreciate on the outside. And so, that’s the same whether it’s natural beauty or it’s something like going to an art museum. And it’s not creating art because some people say, “well, I like to go to those” … what are those wine painting galleries? Or you can have a glass and paint at the same time. Well, that’s fun, and there’s nothing wrong with fun, but it’s not the same as creative rest. That’s actually creative work. You’re pulling on your creativity to produce something and we have to learn that rest is really about restoration. It’s about you being poured into.


Join the Sisterhood


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Sleep vs Rest


Jessica: I listened to this podcast by this guy, he has this brand called Bulletproof Coffee, and he … OK, so he considers himself this like life hacker, and he’ll tell you he’s a total geek. I mean he’s like trying to live to be 200 years old. And so, he has all of these like major specialists on his show. But recently, he said something that actually the healthy you are, the less actual sleep you actually need at night because you go into REM a little bit more. And that actually motivated me because I currently pretty much need eight or nine hours to feel really good. But I’m getting a little older now, and they say the older you get…

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Well, the sleep requirement is different for every person, blocked in times that start getting formatted fairly young. But what I do find is that most people, when they actually learn how to live a rested lifestyle, not just taking a momentary day on the weekend to try to get some rest, but they’re actively staying aware of which of these seven they’re depleted in, and they’re repleting it before trying to go to bed or trying to make sure that they’re on top of that, usually do go to sleep a lot faster. Their head hits the pillow, and they’re out because they’re not processing information. Their body’s not wound up. Their senses aren’t wound up. And they’re physically in a rested state. They do go into sleep faster.

“I do find is that most people, when they actually learn how to live a rested lifestyle, not just taking a momentary day on the weekend to try to get some rest, but they’re actively staying aware of which of these seven they’re depleted in, and they’re repleting it before trying to go to bed or trying to make sure that they’re on top of that, usually do go to sleep a lot faster.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

Because if you look at it, sleep has really five different cycles. You have the two big components, the non-REM and the REM, and with the non-REM you have stages one through four and then fifth being the REM sleep. Well, so many of us, we stay in stage one and two, which I like to call the mommy sleep. You fall asleep. But I mean if there’s like a beep in the house, you’re awake. You’re not deep enough to actually go into REM because you’re still kind of on alert waiting for something to happen. Stage three is that level of sleep where you are able to start getting body restoration, the neurons, the muscle fibers, all of that good stuff that happens in the body starts occurring. And stage four is that very deep level of sleep. If you have kids and you’ve ever had them fall asleep in the car and you have to pick them up and they’re like a ragdoll, they’re just floppy, I mean completely oblivious, that’s stage four.

Well, most adults hardly ever get to stage four. And when they do, then it’s very short-lived and they jump straight into the REM sleep. And so that’s the thing, you want to be able to quickly get to stage three, which is where a lot of that good restoration that occurs during sleep happens. And then when you get to stage three, you will quickly transition into the REM sleep because like I said, adults don’t stay in four for very long. Honestly, I think it’s more of a protective mechanism, but we go into that REM a lot faster.

Jessica: And how much REM sleep do you need to kind of feel healthy?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Well, that’s the thing. You really don’t have any control as far as the amount of the REM sleep. The thing is, when you’re waking up the next morning, if you wake up, and you don’t feel ready to go, you don’t feel energized, then the sleep that you received may or may not have been the problem if there was other areas … other types of rest that you’re deficient in. And I think that’s why sometimes the whole sleep and rest—we really have gotten in the habit of combining those as one big concept, like sleep and rest, as if they’re the same thing. But they’re completely different, completely different because sleep is a type of rest. So, you have to kind of see what … I like to say, what kind of tired are you? Is it a physical tired or is there another type of draining that’s happening in your life that’s keeping you feeling tired all the time?


What Isn’t Rest?


Jessica: So, let’s talk about what rest isn’t because I know some of us think, “Well, gosh, I mean I have my self-care, I get my massages, I just went on vacation a month ago with my husband for three nights, but I’m still just exhausted.” Where are some areas where we might be missing that we’re not getting rest? What is rest not?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Well, I think that’s a great point what you just described. I have no issue with vacations. I think vacations are needed, but vacations really are just work for most of us, but fun work, but work in a different location than our home. So, when we go on vacation, we’re not usually doing things that are restorative. We’re doing things that are fun, that keep us active. And so, a restful vacation is not something most of us are actually experiencing. The other thing is just that concept that I’m resting on the weekend when I’m laying on the couch, binge-watching an entire season of some show on Netflix. And then you hop up from the couch, and you’re like, “I’m still tired.” Because yes, you ceased your normal activities, but there’s no intentionality in what’s being restored. Because if you look at that same situation, if you have someone, let’s say who has a spiritual rest deficit, they’re not feeling motivated, they’re not feeling inspired, and that time on Netflix is spent watching something that is actually inspirational and motivational, then they have restored those qualities back into their life and back in to their thought processes. Then yes, that may be rest because you actually restored something. Or if that couple goes on a vacation and that vacation is focused and intentional and placed around, we’re going to spend time building our relationship up and spending time kind of focusing on that social rest component.

So, when you’re very intentional about “am I restoring what I feel like I’m missing?” then any of those situations could be changed into to rest. But if you just kind of show up and say, “OK, well, we’re going on vacation,” and that whole time is spent kind of running around doing activities and there’s no focusing on the restoration aspect of it, you’re likely to come out of it more tired than when you went in.

“When you’re very intentional about ‘am I restoring what I feel like I’m missing?’ then any of those situations could be changed into to rest. But if … that whole time is spent kind of running around doing activities and there’s no focusing on the restoration aspect of it, you’re likely to come out of it more tired than when you went in.” Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

Jessica: Yeah. It’s so interesting. My husband and I, we’ve been married 17 years, and we just did a little trip to celebrate our 17th, and after all these years, what I’ve learned that restores us relationally is doing physical activities together. Whether that’s going on a hike or we just went rock-climbing together for the first time. Or, like, otherwise if we just go to the beach, we’ll each veg out. We’ll read our own book. We hardly connect. And I do, I come home feeling, like, did we just go on vacation together? So, it’s interesting. I love how you’ve created these categories, and I think what’s sort of counterintuitive is that rest requires effort.

“I think what’s sort of counterintuitive is that rest requires effort.” Jessica Honegger

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yes, and I love what you just shared because that is probably the biggest hang up most people have is that when I say rest, they automatically are thinking of lounging around somewhere. You can lounge all day and not be restoring anything. It’s about restoration. That is the mindset shift. So, what you described, you’re physically active, you’re physically active, so you’re not getting physical rest, but that’s not what you’re needing in that situation where you’re working on restoring and building up a relationship. What you’re needing is that emotional, that social rest that goes along with communication and authenticity and feeling like someone gets you and having that closeness together.

And so physically, you’re active, but you’re getting rest in all these other areas because you’re able to connect in a way you probably don’t do regularly when you’re sitting at home. And so that’s awesome because I have some people who will send me an email and say, “I think I got mental rest, but I was chopping wood when I got it. Does that count?” It’s like, “Absolutely,” because that repetitive activity took your brain out of having to process and let it go to a quiet space. So physically when you got done, you might have felt physically spent, but if the main thing you needed was to clear your mind, then you have accomplished rest in that area.

Jessica: And it’s usually the primary thing I’m needing is to clear my mind and the only thing that can do that for me is usually some high vigorous physical activity.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yeah, runners. I’ve lots of runners that are like “I like to run like lots of running. Like I like to go for a six mile jog every day because I just feel like it just gets my head space back on track.” And it’s perfect because you’re being intentional about where you’re getting the rest. And if your job is very demanding mentally, then that is how you’re getting that mental rest. Now the trick is to make sure that you’re also getting physical rest, because if you lay down at night and your body’s all tight and your legs are cramping and so now we need to look at … OK, let’s do some stretches after the run to make sure that you’re getting the physical rest so that you’re not then feeling the negative effects of where you pour it out physically.

Jessica: I think it’s also important to recognize seasons because maybe what restored you in one season won’t restore you in another season, or if a job changes and suddenly your job demands a lot of creativity, maybe suddenly cooking, which used to be restorative and fun and creative for you, is now a drain because you’re drained. You don’t have to make yet another decision about what you’re gonna feed your family that night. And it’s just I think I’m sort of in a period, a season of transition right now where I’m thinking what is restorative to me today and right now? And sometimes, I don’t know. Because sometimes laying on the couch and watching a show with my family is fun, and we’re laughing. That’s restorative. But sometimes if I’m just like exhausted, and I just don’t wanna interact, and we binge on some Hallmark channel show. I’m like, “Oh did we really connect like I wanted to?” So, it’s just interesting, you have to be constantly sort of self-aware. But it sounds like the compass is this idea of restoration and we’ve got to be daily thinking about what is going to bring us restoration in all of these areas today. And it might look different from one day to the next.

“It’s also important to recognize seasons because maybe what restored you in one season won’t restore you in another season.” Jessica Honegger

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yeah. And really the way it’s in practice in my life because, honestly, I’m not every day thinking, “OK, which of the seven am I deficient in?”

Jessica: That sounds like a lot of work.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: I don’t do that. It is. So, what I do is, and I love how you put it, it’s kind of just a personal compass. What I do is every day I get up, I start going about my day. And if at some point during my day I have that, “Oh, you know, like I don’t wanna be here. You know, this is not fun. I don’t feel like in the mood, I’m tired, I wanna go home.” That’s when I start doing kind of a self-diagnosis. “What’s going on with me? Why am I not at my best?” Because I know for me personally, I’m only at my best when I am well rested in these areas.

And so, if I start feeling like something’s amiss, then that’s when I start looking at “OK, which one is it?” I need to quickly determine which one is the problem. And normally the thing that I do that kind of helps me be able to determine is I go through a real quick checklist … is the issue that I’m sitting here, and I’m processing 100 things when I’m trying to do this one activity. I haven’t had a chance to vent with anybody, and I feel like I’m holding all this stuff in, which is more the emotional and social part. Have I not had any time to do any type of spirituality, activities that are usually beneficial to me? I do a kind of quick assessment about what have I stopped doing, because usually that helps me to see what I’m needing to get more of. Because when you get busy sometimes, you’ll let up on some of those things. And so that run that you know clears your mind, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, I don’t have time to run today day, I’ll get to it tomorrow.” And then four days in, all of a sudden, your mind’s full of mind chatter, and you’re needing to get back to that level of restoration.

Jessica: So true. And then we’re all so individual. What brings my husband rest is completely different than what might bring me rest.

Dr. Dalton-Smith: That’s a great point. And most couples, we always kind of wanna have these similarities so we can do things together. But usually couples do not have the same main rest deficit. Their main rest deficits are using completely different because their roles within the home are completely different. And so, where they’re being pulled at is not the same. Where they’re pouring out is not the same place their spouse is pouring out.


Modern Rest: Health, Teens, and Social Media


Jessica: That’s so true. So, you have treated so many patients, and you are currently … you speak at conferences, you coach people. What is your biggest concern for sort of the macro current state of mental and physical health for today?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Really the biggest area of concern that I’m seeing has to do with teens, which is not an area that I have a lot of influence in at this time. But that is the biggest concern that I’ve been seeing, because when I do have the opportunity to speak to teen groups, what I’m hearing from them is extremely disturbing. But the way social media is, and with the expectation parents have on kids in this current generation, I find myself as an internist, confronted with teens in the emergency room who have just attempted to commit suicide, whose lives on the outside look very good, but who have gotten to a point of such desperation in their emotional and social rest deficits that they no longer can even see their way clearly.

And the thing that really I think disturbs me the most is when I go … I have two teens that are in junior, one is junior high one is high school. When I go into their setting or I’m around their friends, there’s a huge population of teens who have lost the ability to do eye-to-eye contact. So, you talk to them, and they’re talking like through to you. They’re like look beside like at your ear instead of at your eyes. Or they look down when they’re talking, and they’ve lost…

Jessica: This sounds funny because I just had a meeting at my kid’s school today, and the counselor we just went on and on, she said, “You know, your daughter just really looks me in the eye. She looks us in the eyes. And she really…” and I was like, “Huh? I mean, isn’t that basic … your teen, like, talking to…”

Dr. Dalton-Smith: It is not. It is not. Honestly, there is a generation that’s coming up that have lost the ability to truly feel valued in their authenticity. They always feel like they are under the pressure of performing and doing more and being more and showing up as more. And they cannot look people in the eye. And it’s very disturbing to see because this is the next generation of everything—everything that we’re needing. They’re the next generation of everything. And I truly believe that part of that has to do with social media because it allows them to feel connected without having to present themselves. They can hide behind the screen and share without having to be vulnerable. And it’s necessary—to grow up into a healthy mental and social environment—to still have that connection, because if you think about it on social media, we see it all the time. People say things that you’re like, “How can somebody say that to somebody?” And they wouldn’t if that person was right in front of them because they would see how that painful statement hit the person. Or they would see the reaction and the response that their words had. But when you’re doing it in an environment that takes out those dynamics is very easy to be harsh and unloving and unforgiving and uncompassionate. And it really is breeding a generation that is gonna need some additional attention to address these areas.

Jessica: So as a mom, how are you implementing rests with your teenagers?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: That’s a great question because I have two boys who love sports. And so, what I do with them is the same thing I do with myself, I teach them the process of self evaluation. So, when my son gets up in the morning for school, and he’s dragging, I let him kind of answer some of these questions for himself. And one of the big areas that they are having the biggest struggle in, particularly with the way their schoolwork and their sports is making sure they actually get enough physical rest. They’re both very athletic, you know, football and all these things. Every day we’re icing stuff, and they’re extremely physical, to help them understand the value of restoring that physical part of themselves.

The mental part … they don’t pay bills. They seem to be able to turn that off pretty quickly. They don’t have a lot of responsibilities so that they seem to turn off very quickly. The emotional part of it, I ask them that question that I was telling you, how is your day? How did things go today? And I refuse to let them give me that one-word answer. And I tell them to not let their friends give them that one-word answer because that one-word answer, I think, has gotten many of us in a situation where the people around us look like they’re OK, but inside they’re really hurting and they don’t feel like anyone understands them, but they’re not letting people in.

And so, I tell them, you know, when you ask your friends what’s going on, actually stop what you’re doing and listen to what they say. Give them your full body attention, turn towards them and give them a full body attention. And then it invites them to do the same back to you. But when we do it so casually, just kind of walking down the hall, and you kind of flip that term out there, it gives a sense that I don’t really wanna know your answer, I’m just saying these words. And so, to really, to be conscious of how we interact with the people we care about.

Jessica: I’m curious, my daughter, she just turned 13 and she does talk about being tired a lot, and she does get a lot of sleep at night, and we’re actually not living as super—it’s not even in extracurricular right now. Is there something about teenagers where their bodies are tired, where they’re tired?

Dr. Dalton-Smith: They need more sleep on average … we’re looking at the textbook so to speak. I know most of us don’t fit into any kind of textbook, but if we’re looking at the textbook, teens need quite a bit of sleep because there’s such a growth and hormonal change that’s happening with them. So, most teens do require, the last study I looked at, that’s somewhere between 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night. I mean, honestly, most teens aren’t getting anywhere close to that.


Being Intentional with Our Restorative Needs


Jessica: Wow. This is so good. I think it just brings so much clarity to our listeners today, and especially this idea that we have to be intentional about rest. You say in your book that our human default is to do what’s easy instead of what’s beneficial. And I think that when you’re already in a place of feeling tired and worn out, the easy thing is to scroll social media, pour the glass of wine, turn on the Netflix, and yet is that what will restore us and be most beneficial in the end? And so, if we can sort of decide ahead of time, “Here’s what is gonna restore me in this area of my life,” and we commit to doing that, we commit to walking outside and standing barefoot in the grass and listening to the birds chirp instead of scrolling our social media or whatever, then that’s when we begin to actually do those restful things that do restore us and get us better sleep in the end.

“If we can sort of decide ahead of time, ‘Here’s what is gonna restore me in this area of my life,’ and we commit to doing that … then that’s when we begin to actually do those restful things that do restore us and get us better sleep in the end.” Jessica Honegger

Dr. Dalton-Smith: Yeah, and absolutely. And it’s different for every person. And I think one of the main thing that I wanted to make sure that I shared before we conclude was that, I think what I’m finding is most people, when I first start discussing this, they automatically think that they have to kind of hit all seven of these at one time. It’s like, “Oh God, she’s giving me seven homework assignments to do?” And the reality of most of us are already exceeding at some of these. We’re doing it naturally, but we just don’t know that that’s what we’re doing. We’ve just kind of adopted it as a process of how we maintain ourselves. But there’s usually one or two of those seven areas that we either are not aware of or we have not fully identified it as the cause of why we’re feeling tired. So, I always have my patients when I first start working with them to do my free assessment at restquiz.com so that they can actually determine which of the seven types of rest that they’re most efficient in. That way they’re not wasting their energy fixing something they already excel at, but they’re focusing their attention on the specific type of rest they really need.

Jessica: You know, it’s counterintuitive that rest requires effort. I think we think of rest as tuning out, or leisure, or just sort of chilling out, but rest is actually restorative. So, I’m really having a mindset shift on this one, and I hope that you are too.

Thanks so much for tuning in to today’s show. Our wonderful music is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time. Let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.