149: A Fresh Look at How to Find Rest When You’re Tired of Being Tired with Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith

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How can we find more rest when rest seems to be just out of reach? I understand–you want to get more rest (especially mental rest), but you aren’t sure how to make it happen. If you feel exhausted and need practical ways to get rest in your busy life then you’ll love today’s episode with Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, internal medicine doctor and author of Sacred Rest. She shares her seven types of rest (this was a game-changer for me!) and what to do as Christian women when we’re tired of being tired. 

How can we find rest in our busy lives? Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith and I discuss practical ways to get rest when we are tired of being tired.

We not only talk about practical ways to get more rest but how longing for true soul rest can be an invitation to a more vulnerable, honest relationship with God. You’ll love Dr Sandra’s no-nonsense approach that makes everyday rest possible for busy women like you and me!


  • [3:36] Dr. Dalton-Smith’s background and work helping women find sacred rest
  • [4:57] Dr. Dalton-Smith’s seven types of rest
  • [8:22] Why getting more rest is a struggle for so many Christian women
  • [11:30] A new perspective on rest as restorative activities
  • [14:41] Feeling safe with God in order to let go and rest
  • [18:25] Changing boundaries in order to prioritize rest
  • [24:42] Resting in God allows us to find acceptance, identity, and security
  • [27:54] Learning to discover the gifts of rest
  • [33:43] Dr. Dalton-Smith’s advice on how to make rest a priority
  • [35:33] Surprising ways to find rest
  • [38:18] Other podcast episodes related to finding rest

[3:36] Dr. Dalton-Smith’s background and work helping women find sacred rest

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an internal medicine physician who has been in clinical practice for over 20 years. About 10 years or so into her practice as she juggled her career and family needs she experienced burnout. That’s when she started to look at why she felt so drained, and how to get more rest

Dr. Dalton-Smith felt like medicine did not provide enough satisfactory options. The options were to get more sleep, but she found herself wondering what happened if you were still exhausted after getting more sleep. She realized she needed true soul rest. It was that line of thinking that led her to research the science and dig into the scriptures for answers on what to do when you’re tired of being tired.

[4:57] Dr Dalton-Smith’s seven types of rest

The seven types of rest are:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Spiritual
  4. Emotional
  5. Social
  6. Sensory
  7. Creative

Physical rest seems so easy: just go to sleep. Physical rest, however, actually has two different components. It includes the passive forms that include sleeping at night and napping during the day. Physical rest also includes physically restorative activities, such as leisure walks, stretching, using foam rollers, and massage therapy.

Mental rest is probably the type of rest that people need the most, says Dr. Dalton-Smith. On rest assessment tests, mental rest is the type of rest with the highest scores. She says mental rest really boils down to clearing your mental space. In order to experience sacred rest we need release our minds from the congestion of our thoughts so that we’re not ruminating over thoughts or becoming unfocused. Multitasking is really taxing for the mind and we need to recover from it, she adds.

Spiritual rest includes learning how to connect in a meaningful way with God and grow in relationship with Jesus. It includes taking responsibility for our spiritual well-being, including confessing sin and surrendering things out of our control to God. It includes an ongoing, active connection with God so that we can learn how to live more from the truth of God’s promises.

Emotional rest includes being authentic about our feelings. Most of us spend the majority of our time covering our emotions. We do it because we don’t want to let them out in professional settings, or because we want to protect our children or other family members. With the pandemic, for example, a lot of people were carrying a lot of emotional labor because they didn’t want their kids to know they got laid off or couldn’t afford things they used to be able to afford. There is a fatigue that comes with this emotional labor and feeling like you have to hold on to feelings that you can’t share with others.

Social rest includes allowing ourselves to understand how different relationships pull on our energy. Dealing with people can be draining, and Dr Dalton-Smith encourages us to look at why we are drained by certain people and why other relationships make us feel revived, restored, and energized. We need to make sure we aren’t spending too much time with people who pull from us. More of our time should be devoted to those who are life-giving, who pour into us and who fill our cups.

Sensory rest is a bit different from physical rest because it is very specific to our individual senses and how we respond subconsciously, Dr Dalton-Smith says. Everything from lights, sounds and smells of our environment, and anything else our bodies respond to – even if we aren’t consciously aware of it – can drain us. We need to bring our awareness to these factors and make changes if needed.

Creative rest is our ability to express our unique voice through everything from writing to cooking to traditional arts. Since God is the Creator and we are made in His image, creative rest is a way for us to continually grow in our spiritual identity as well. Being creative allows us to stay motivated and inspired. It keeps that childlike wonder inside of us and promotes our abilities to brainstorm and problem solve through creative processes.

[8:22] Why getting more rest is a struggle for so many Christian women

After hearing about the different types of rest, I shared that I struggled with sensory rest and creative rest. Before reading her Sacred Rest book I hadn’t been able to identify my need sensory rest, however I’d noticed an exhaustion inside of me that I identified as “feeling like an overextended toddler” who had experienced too much in a day. I felt like I just needed to stop what I was doing and go to bed. When I really dug into what caused me to get to that point, I realized it happened when I felt overstimulated. I especially struggled with this when I had young children. There were so many things happening and I felt like I was overloaded and needed to pull myself away.

During my darkest times of feeling depleted, I also forgot how much I loved being created. It was such an important part of me as a young girl and a young woman, and I neglected it as I began to feel more overwhelmed and less rested. When I began to incorporate creativity back into my world, it brought a lot of new life for me.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shared that she tended to feel most depleted on an emotional level. She considers herself to be a highly sensitive person (HSP), so she is very aware of other people, how they are doing, and how they are responding to things. As a physician, she would have to have difficult conversations with patients about illness and death. It was important for her to be able to perform her job without bursting into tears, but it didn’t take away her natural tendencies to overprocess those types of emotions. She really had to be aware of how those situations affected her and what she needed to do in order to recover at the end of a particularly emotionally draining day. We have to assume the responsibility of professionalism, but we also have to assume the responsibility over our own mental health and wellbeing. We need to allow ourselves time for processing, without withholding or bringing on extra emotional labor.

 [11:30] A new perspective on rest as restorative activities

For Dr. Dalton-Smith, rest is all about restorative activities. These are things we do that pour back into the places that we deplete. When she first started researching rest as someone who was burned out, she thought she just needed more sleep. That is what she had been telling her own patients for years. Sleeping longer, however, wasn’t solving her problem. She could sleep for 10 hours without improving her fatigue.

Before she saw the differentiation between the different types of rest, Dr. Dalton-Smith began to think that maybe she needed more downtime. Maybe “vegging out” and sitting in front of the TV more would help. She would watch movies all day, however, and her fatigue wasn’t improving that way either. Going on vacation seemed to help momentarily, but it wasn’t easing her overall burnout symptoms once she returned.  

After she began to see the seven different areas of her life that were depleted, she started to get extremely intentional about figuring out what kind of tired she really was. She narrowed it down to a specific area that was depleted, and poured back into that area directly. Once she took on that practice, she started noticing a big difference in her fatigue and burnout symptoms.

[14:41] Feeling safe with God in order to let go and rest

Dr. Dalton-Smith fully believes that we rest at the level of our trust. She shared that she spent a long time as a Christian saying that she trusted God, but she wasn’t acting as someone who trusted God. She worried that she couldn’t stop anything. If she left anything undone, it would become a mess. Her actions didn’t show trust, and it was very difficult for her to rest until she addressed that problem.

Because her mother died in childbirth her childhood was traumatic. She grew up in the mindset that God couldn’t really be trusted, and it took a long time for her to reconcile the lack of trust she had with God. She was driven, and she felt that if good things were going to happen in her life then she would have to be the producer of those good things. Her mentality involved checking things off her to-do list, meeting goals, and putting 100% of her energy into things she wanted.

Isaiah 30:15 talks about how by returning to God and finding rest we will be able to find strength. The last sentence is, “but you would have none of it.” That is when it dawned on Dr. Dalton-Smith that she had an invitation. We see multiple times in the Bible that God gives us an invitation to rest. We are encouraged to remember the Sabbath and to come to God when we are weary and heavy laden. So she noted that if she was tired, it wasn’t God saying He wasn’t there to help her. She already had an invitation to rest, and she didn’t need anyone else’s permission because she had divine permission. She was making the choice not to rest, and she had to take ownership of that.

We all have the same amount of time, and everybody’s life is busy. We have to own our decisions to either rest or grind, and we have to function within the decisions that we make. Dr. Dalton-Smith admits that she spent many years functioning within a decision to grind, and that decision took her almost to the ground until she came to a new understanding of rest.

[18:25] Changing boundaries in order to prioritize rest

The first thing Dr. Dalton-Smith had to do was get really clear about her priorities. She still prioritizes work as that is how she is wired. She loves her research, writing, speaking, and medicine. So she still enjoys her work, but she has set more limits for herself.  She has to be intentional, because she knows it is easy for her to slip into worker-bee mode. For example, the day we recorded this interview was an extremely busy day for her. The following day, however, she planned to work for only three hours. She is more conscious of how she uses her energy, and she devotes time to managing her energy so she can stay at her best.  Rather than trying to pour out from emptiness, she makes an effort to remain full.

In addition to priorities, she shifted to take more ownership over what she said “yes” to and what she said “no” to. She would consider her opportunities to speak or take a trip versus what her children needed or activities of theirs that she wanted to attend. Any “yes” that she would have given out of fear, shame, or guilt, had to be a “no”. She evaluated how to give a “yes” that was truthful and that honored God rather than doing it out of false reasons. Once her “yeses” aligned with her priorities, they were no longer draining.

[24:42] Resting in God allows us to find acceptance, identity, and security

Too often, especially as people who tend to be goal-oriented or results-driven, we can feel like our achievements aren’t attention worthy in comparison to others. It takes away our ability to see meaning behind the work we do, despite the fact that we can absolutely do meaningful work without getting all the accolades we think we need. If we focus on how effective we are with transformation, helping, and serving, those are things that truly bring meaning. We end up having more joy as we balance our goals and our meaning. We often have goals that we can check off a list, but what actually keeps us in a place of feeling like our work has value is the meaning behind it. If our work is kingdom-serving and God-honoring, then it is based on our relationship with Christ and it will feel so much more fulfilling.

[27:54] Learning to discover the gifts of rest

Before reading Sacred Rest, I had a hard time believing that rest was really a gift. Finishing things made me feel good, and accomplishments made me feel good, and I wondered how a break from that could also make me feel good. For me, rest is truly the hardest work that I do.

Dr. Dalton-Smith loves how science and faith really merged in this section of her book. Even the seven types of rest came from looking at the life of Jesus and how He rested. While working on this book she realized that the way she looks at herself is through a refractive view of her knowledge of her faults. She was focused on looking at herself through her shortcomings and the ways she felt like she failed God. The more time she spent with God and appreciating the different types of rest -whether it was going outside for a walk, praying, meditating, or sitting in her chair just listening – she started to recognize who she was in Christ. Her identity was more fully formed during those times. She saw herself reflected the way God saw her, rather than focusing on the ways she felt like she was falling short.

[33:43] Dr. Dalton-Smith’s advice on how to make rest a priority

First, Dr. Dalton-Smith advises us to stop saying we are “tired”. It’s like going to a doctor and saying, “I hurt.” What are we supposed to do with that? We need to know what is tired in order to know how to rest.  

Second, she always asks her patients what is stopping them from getting the rest they need. Are we stopping ourselves? Do we feel like we need permission from somebody else? Is there a financial barrier? We need to address the obstacles in our path, because until we figure out how to jump that hurdle, there will be no transformation. There will be no improvement – and in this case, there will be no rest.

[35:33] Surprising ways to find rest

Right now, Dr. Dalton-Smith says her greatest rest is coming from a creative outlet. She does a lot of speaking, in both corporate and faith-based areas, and she also does a lot of writing that requires a lot of creative energy. To fill this energy, she loves making time for prayer. She gets outside with God, listens to the birds, and takes walks. On these prayer walks, she sees the most unusual birds that will land in her path. She calls them “God kisses” because they are beautiful birds that will fly or land in front of her as she takes these walks with God. They are reminders to her that she serves a God with endless creativity. She never has to worry about tapping out her creativity, because she is pulling from a source that can’t be tapped out.

[38:18] Other podcast episodes related to finding rest

What Dr. Dalton-Smith shared in this conversation today really got to the root of so many issues I have with resting. The whole idea of rest being something that God has given me, but that I am choosing to run away from, was so convicting.  

It reminds me of an episode I did probably almost a year ago, Episode 89a: My Breakthrough: In Repentance and Rest is Your Strength. That was really this moment when I first saw that verse in Isaiah that she referred to. I began thinking through what I had been doing in my life. I had been ignoring God’s true invitation and gift of rest.  

I wanted to take a few minutes here to share a couple of other really impactful podcast episodes around the topic of rest. Several of them actually refer to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith’s book, Sacred Rest, and I wanted you to have them in your back pocket so you can dig into this topic from different angles if it interests you.

Episode 143: 10 Recommended Resources for Finding Soul Rest as a Christian Woman

Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book is mentioned as one of those 10 resources.

Episode 121: Finding Spiritual Rest and Sabbath When You’re Stuck in Over-Function

This is an interview with my friend, Deanna Mason, who introduced me to Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book. In this episode, Deanna and I talk about the concept of sacred rest addressed in the book.

Episode 89: Permission to Rest, Hibernate, and Find Resilience

This episode really addresses the key thing that a lot of us don’t think about when we think about rest. We haven’t given ourselves permission to rest, we’re waiting for other people to give us permission, or we’re waiting for God to somehow shine a light from the heavens telling us to rest. I share how I learned I needed to give myself permission to rest, hibernate, find resilience, say no, and to back away in certain season in order to come out stronger as the person I needed to be.

Episode 78: Finding Rest and Fun When You’re a Type A Woman with Carlie Kercheval

My dear friend Carlie Kercheval and I talk about how God has had to teach us how to find fun and find rest as Christian women who naturally are easily stuck in overfunctioning.

I also wanted to share a few episodes on self-care and how that relates to rest, as we alluded to in this conversation with Dr. Dalton-Smith.

Episode 75: 2 Secret Weapons for Daily Self Care: Noticing Cues and Setting Boundaries

We mentioned boundaries and noticing what is going on inside of us, and this is a good episode to delve into for more details.

Episode 71: Self-Care 101: Managing Capacity, Clutter, Calm and Control

These are huge topics on figuring out what is draining and depleting us.

Episode 73: How to Cultivate Daily Soul Rest by Growing Closer to God

God is our source of rest, like we talked about with the spiritual rest addressed in Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book. He is really the source of all creative rest. He provides all the sensory activity. He helps us understand what is going on in our minds and how our bodies function, and He helps us deal with our emotions. God really is in all of those things, and this episode helps us address how we start the process of rest by laying ourselves before His throne and asking what we need to be able to step into rest.

Listening to those episodes would be a great next step moving forward, and I encourage you to check out Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith as well.  

Today’s conversation has given us some tangible things to think about in terms of next steps toward finding rest. Rest is a lifelong responsibility, and we continually need to pay attention to this and learn what it means to rest in Christ. We are all figuring this out, and rest looks different in different seasons as well. 







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