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Understanding the Seven Types of Rest (From an Autistic Perspective)

Rest: we know we need to do it, and often, we know how to do it. It's just sometimes it's really difficult. 

Especially if you are autistic. 

Autism and Rest 

Autistic people can require more rest than neurotypical people because autistic people use additional energy to function in a world that doesn't meet their needs. For example, it takes effort for autistic people to suppress stims, decode neurotypical communication, and manage sensory overstimulation. 

The Seven Types of Rest

According to Calm, there are seven types of rest:

  1. Physical rest includes sleep and other ways of relaxing your body, such as yoga or a gentle walk.

  2. Mental rest is about resting your mind; practices like meditation work for some, but it can be as simple as taking a break.

  3. Emotional rest means different things to different people. For some, it will be having the freedom to express emotions. For others, it will be removing themselves from emotionally draining situations.

  4. Sensory rest is taking time away from anything that overloads your senses, for example, reducing screen time or resting in a dark, quiet room.

  5. Creative rest is often a pathway to creative inspiration, idea generation, and joy. This type of rest might include doing handmade crafts or listening to music.

  6. Social rest, depending on your needs, might be abstaining from all social interaction for a period or being with people who do not drain your social battery.

  7. Spiritual rest helps you find meaning; for some, this could be prayer or being in a specific community.

How Understand Rest Helps 

Defining the seven types of rest can be helpful for autistic people because you can quickly see the types of rest you need to prioritise. For example, you should prioritise sensory rest if you have sensory challenges. Social, physical, and mental rest are likely high priorities, too.

Once you have prioritised the type of rest you need, the next step is to describe what it looks like; for example, creative rest might be researching a special interest. 

Make a Plan

Unfortunately, knowing how to rest and what it looks like is not enough. Rest deserves a place in your schedule – planning rest will help you manage your energy. For example, if you know you have a social-heavy weekend, can you plan some social rest soon afterwards?

You will not always be able to plan rest – sometimes, you just need to respond to your body. But having space in your schedule for rest is a great starting point. 

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