Skip to main content

What Do You Do When Burnout Doesn’t End?

02-28-24 Kasey Bonifacio

Sparkbox Technical Director Kasey Bonifacio recounts her discovery of the seven types of rest as she learns to manage burnout in an ever stressful world.

My burnout started in the summer of 2020. That was just the beginning of a very stressful time for a lot of people and I don’t think I’m alone in still experiencing that same burnout almost 4 years later. I had been in a funk this whole time and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but nothing I did seemed to work. Deep down, I knew that rest was the answer for my overworked and overstressed self. The problem was I had the wrong idea about what “rest” is and how to do it.

My first instinct when combating burnout was to take some vacation time and relax on the couch playing video games. When I thought about rest I thought about stepping away from a situation, being still, and doing seemingly mindless things. That did kind of help the first few times, but the more I did it, the less it helped. That was because relaxing out wasn’t helping me achieve all of the types of rest. Oh, you didn’t know there were different kinds of rest? Me either and it was a lightbulb moment when I learned about the seven types of rest.

The seven types of rest is a concept coined by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith in the book Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity. To be perfectly transparent, I haven’t read her book but with a title like that I really want to. I heard about these different types of rest from watching a YouTube video (while sitting on the couch, of course). Watching that video was my aha moment. Sitting on the couch playing video games was only hitting two of the types of rest (physical and mental) but I wasn’t doing anything to tackle the other five types. It makes sense that I never felt rested.

What is Rest Anyways?

Before we jump into what the seven types of rest are, I want to highlight another aha moment I had. Previously, I had always equated rest with being still. We sleep at night to rest. If your feet hurt you sit to rest. If your head hurts you lay down to rest. But a better way to think about it is that rest is short for “restoration.” Sometimes, being still is restorative. But sometimes activity can also be restorative. When an art restoration expert restores a painting they don’t put it in a dark closet to “rest” and be safe. They will likely start by cleaning the surface and removing the grungy varnish. If there are tears in the canvas they will mend them. If the canvas wedges are missing they will find replacements. They will assess what the artwork needs and then go about making repairs. These repairs will be different for each painting. Sometimes a painting will need to go back for new repairs. When you think about rest for yourself, imagine yourself as a piece of valuable artwork that might need different kinds of restoration depending on what the world has been throwing at you. If you can’t tell, I watched a lot of Baumgartner Art Restoration videos while “resting.”

On to the Seven Types of Rest

That was a lot of words to get to the real meat and potatoes of this article, the types of rest. You as a person need restoration in physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual areas of your life.

Physical Rest

Physical rest is an interesting one because you might need rest in the form of stillness and you might also need rest in the form of movement. Back in college, when I worked in restaurants, I would leave work and need rest in the form of stillness. Now that I sit at a desk all day that kind of rest doesn’t work the same way, my body lacks movement. If you find that your physical activity leans towards one extreme you might need to find ways to incorporate rest in the form of the opposite extreme.

Mental Rest

While my job might not be physically demanding it certainly is mentally demanding. I need to have regular breaks included into my work day to step away and clear my head for a few minutes. If I’m having a hard time tackling a particularly difficult task I often find that taking a break from problem solving and coming back to it allows me to come at the problem from a different angle. I am usually able to find the solution more quickly.

Sensory Rest

If you are reading this you are also most likely a person who works in front of a screen all day. I’m going to also take a wild guess and assume you have a smartphone that you stare at for longer than you might want to admit. It’s ok, me too. All of that screen time is taxing.

Too much screen time isn’t the only thing that can impact sensory rest. I find myself very affected by my surroundings. Working in a cluttered space with the not so soothing sounds of traffic on a busy road can wear me down. Taking a moment to clear my desk, light a candle, and play some focus music can make the world of difference in improving my focus and I don’t end the work day as drained.

Creative Rest

Creative rest is a bit like physical rest. Either you need a (mental) break from having to be creative or you need more opportunities to be creative. I have heard people claim that they aren’t creative because they relate creativity to the arts or design, but that’s too limiting. Creativity is the act of creating things and humans like to create things, just look at the world around you if you need proof. Think about what kinds of hobbies you enjoy that involve creating something and invest time in that. 

Social Rest

As an introvert I love the idea of having my alone time to recharge. Also, as an introvert, I have to admit that I do in fact need people in my life. While I am the kind of person who recharges best when I have alone time, I still need some human interaction. Like some of the other kinds of rest, social rest is one that requires balance. That balance is going to look different for introverts versus extroverts. Some people really do find time with people energizing.

Emotional Rest

If you are reading this you are most likely human and as a human you have emotions that you need to process. I don’t know about you, but I like to bottle my emotions up because I don’t always feel like I have time to deal with them and it almost never ends well. Journaling can be a helpful way to get thoughts out of my head and onto paper where I can actually see them and work through them. Talking with a friend is an equally good way to work through things while also getting an outside perspective.

Spiritual Rest

Spiritual rest comes down to having a sense of belonging. For some, this could be attributed to religion and prayer or meditation could provide a sense of spiritual rest. Personally, I find my rest by being involved in my community. I look for opportunities to volunteer with local non-profits and at the end of those days I am physically exhausted but there is another part of me that is energized.

Finding Balance in Rest

You might have noticed a theme while I was going over the different types of rest. There often isn’t a single way to rest. There are often extremes where you are doing too much of a thing or not doing enough. The goal is to find a balance between those extremes where you’re doing a little bit of both things. In the case of physical rest, you need a balance of both movement and stillness. In the case of mental rest, you need to do things that both stimulate your mind as well as let it rest, and so on.

I don’t have the one answer for what to do when burnout doesn’t end, but I can suggest looking for imbalances in all seven areas of rest. You need to find the things that work best for you and make you feel restored. My examples above probably won’t work for everyone so it will take some trial and error while you discover what works for you. Maybe, once properly rested, you might start to see an end to burnout.

Related Content

User-Centered Thinking: 7 Things to Consider and a Free Guide

Want the benefits of UX but not sure where to start? Grab our guide to evaluate your needs, earn buy-in, and get hiring tips.

More Details

See Everything In

Want to talk about how we can work together?

Katie can help

A portrait of Vice President of Business Development, Katie Jennings.

Katie Jennings

Vice President of Business Development