If you’re returning from your Fourth of July vacation feeling a little exhausted and not exactly rested and renewed, I have some encouraging news: you’re doing it right. That’s because according to rest expert and author Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, vacations aren’t really about resting. Instead, she says we should view vacations as opportunities to do fun things away from home and make memories with loved ones. But rest? No.
We recently replayed a podcast episode where I interviewed Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith on the topic of Rest. Rest is essential in order for us to be the best leader, team member, parent, and family member we can be. So, if you missed this important episode, be sure to give it a listen!
I found Dr. Dalton-Smith’s story compelling. As a board-certified Internal Medicine practitioner, Dr. Dalton-Smith became interested in the subject of rest when, as she described it, she had an onslaught of patients complaining about being constantly exhausted. According to her, 85% of her exhausted patients had blood workups and test results that showed they were medically “normal”—there were no imbalances or issues to treat; but even when they got 8 hours of sleep, they still reported fatigue.
7 Types of Exhaustion
Determined to help her patients, she researched fatigue and rest and realized that there are seven specific types of exhaustion we can suffer from. She identifies them as mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, creative, social, and sensory. I hope you’ll listen to the show to hear her in-depth explanation of each one; it’s fascinating! Even more intriguing, Dr. Dalton-Smith identifies those certain types of people suffer from specific types of fatigue.
What Can Exhausted Leaders Do?
If you’re a leader, you won’t be surprised to discover that you’re likely to experience creative fatigue because your role requires you to continually think creatively—to problem solve, develop strategy, innovate, and provide answers for others. Dalton-Smith advises leaders to understand how others need you—most relationships tend to be ones where leaders are giving but not receiving a lot of energy in return. She stresses that leaders must be able to identify those relationships they have that are “positive energy relationships” that can help nurture them back to restoration.
Also, it’s important to discover what restores you creatively. Many of us feel a sense of calm and renewal when we find ourselves in nature, but taking a daily walk on the beach isn’t always possible. Luckily, there are lots of tricks to discover—Dalton-Smith points to studies that show even looking at photos of nature can have a relaxing effect on the viewer. So maybe adding a picture of your favorite beach to your office décor could help you relax after a stressful meeting or call?
Notably, Dr. Dalton-Smith shared that those individuals who serve in leadership roles suffer most from two types of exhaustion: creative and emotional.
Leaders are also likely to feel emotional fatigue due to the demands of being “on” for most of their day. Whether running a meeting, giving a presentation, or engaging with clients, leaders are up front and visible most of the time. Because others expect a certain persona from leaders, Dalton-Smith explains that just the simple act of trying to play this role day after day is taxing and draining. In order to recharge and restore in this area, it’s important for leaders to spend time with others that they can truly be their authentic selves with. She counsels leaders to “think about those 2-3 friends you have that you can truly show up with as yourself—no makeup, no shaving required. You can laugh and be silly or be brutally honest with them and you know it will be okay. Those people are important to your well-being and mental sustainability.”
WOW. That’s pretty powerful stuff right there—we actually need those relationships in order to allow ourselves to emotionally rest and renew so that we can be better when we’re “on.” I’m grateful that I have those kinds of friends in my life—do you? Lucky for me, I have several friends I’ve known for over three decades and I know every time we’re together I leave feeling lighter, more positive, and at ease with the world. Now, I will say that due to the pandemic and crazy family schedules, spending time with these friends has been more difficult of late, but after revisiting this podcast, I feel a sense of urgency to break out the calendar and schedule some time for laughs over ridiculous card games. I encourage you to do the same with whomever fills this role for you.
Rest, Restore, and Sit in the Right Seat
As I re-listened to this episode, I was struck by the similarities between my clients and Dr. Dalton-Smith’s. Like her, the leaders I work with often relate feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. As I listen to them explain their daily interactions and schedules, I understand why! Leaders are pulled in numerous directions and face a myriad of challenges in managing time, identifying priorities, and guiding people. I’ve realized there has to be a better way and solving for the exhaustion equation is part of what I’ve hoped to achieve with my latest book “The Author vs Editor Dilemma: The Leadership Secret to Unlocking Your Time, Your Team & Your Impact.”
As leaders, I believe our greatest responsibility is to help others develop so they’re empowered to take ownership, show initiative, and display critical thinking to solve challenges for themselves. Whether it’s your team at the office or your kids at home, this is fundamental to good leadership. In my new book I’ve offered what I hope are simple and practical solutions to these daily challenges and puzzles so that leaders can reclaim their time and energy—and maybe get some much-needed rest!