Manage your Energy and Time with Strategic Rest


By: Sonya Henry, Associate Director of Well-Being Programs, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being (CWB)

Photo by Pixabay: blur-close-up-coffee-coffee-cup

It’s been several weeks since spring break and we’re in the home stretch of the semester. In mid-March, I recall asking students and colleagues “Did you enjoy spring break?”, “Do you feel recharged?”, “What did you do to take care of yourself during that week?” While I received a variety of answers, most people shared that they relaxed or slept in and ultimately felt about the same several days after returning from the break. Hearing that the joy of a weeklong break dissipated within a few days disheartened me; however, I wasn’t completely surprised. This reminded me of the importance of rest, but also that we should be critical, creative, and strategic about the types of rest 1 we give ourselves. 


I know this to be true because I had these very same feelings in January after returning from the long and lovely holiday break. After a few days back into my normal routine, I no longer felt relaxed and recharged. This was both surprising and confusing to me. After a little research, I took the Rest Quiz 2 based on the book, Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith. I realized that I needed to do things a little differently in order to get the proper rest that I needed. 


When most of us hear the word rest, we typically think of its physical aspects. While sleep (naps included 3) is absolutely paramount to our health, there are indeed other important types of rest we must engage in to support our holistic well-being. According to Dalton-Smith, there are 7 distinct types of rest that we need in order to recharge and maximize our time and energy. Take the quiz 4 to see which types of rest you can focus on to better manage your life. 


The 7 types of rest according to Dr. Dalton-Smith 5 are: 


  • Physical: The chance to use the body in restorative ways to decrease muscle tension, reduce headaches, and promote higher quality sleep. 
  • Mental: The ability to quiet cerebral chatter and focus on things that matter. 
  • Spiritual: The capacity to experience God in all things and recline in the knowledge of the Holy. 
  • Emotional: The freedom to authentically express feelings and eliminate people-pleasing behaviors. 
  • Social: The wisdom to recognize relationships that revive from ones that exhaust and how to limit exposure to toxic people. 
  • Sensory: The opportunity to downgrade the endless onslaught of sensory input received from electronics, fragrances, and background noise. 
  • Creative: The experience of allowing beauty to inspire awe and liberate wonder.  


While these definitions are great to learn about, below are a few tips for graduate students to improve your time and energy management based on each type of rest. I encourage you to discover your own unique rest practices as well! 


  • Physical:  
  • Develop a strong self-care routine that includes a healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate daily sleep.  
  • If you notice additional tension in your body, be sure to stretch often and/or schedule a massage as a special treat. 
  • Mental:  
  • Schedule adequate breaks while studying and completing assignments. If you have a very long to-do list (which I’m sure you do), block similar tasks into chunks and switch the types of tasks you do in between. For example, if you dedicate 2 hours to writing, do chores around the house or run errands as a break before starting another two-hour chunk of reading or responding to emails, etc. These changes will allow your mind to rest while checking off items on your list. 
  • Social:  
  • Pay attention to your energy after engaging with family, friends, professors, and classmates. Try to spend more time with people that uplift you and add positive energy to your life.  
  • Reduce (if and when possible) interactions with people who drain you and literally suck the life/energy away from you! 
  • Sensory:  
  • Take a break from Zoom, your cell phone, TV, and other tech devices. This could be at a specific time each day, for a specific amount of time or even a full day. Choose what works best for you, but try to disconnect to reduce external stimuli. 
  • Develop a mindfulness practice by attending a Mindful Mason Moment or Koru Session 6 offered by the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. 
  • Creative:  
  • Take time to engage in a creative hobby for its own sake7  
  • Change your surroundings and scenery for a boost of novelty and inspiration.  
  • Engage with art by visiting a museum or attending an open mic night or concert. 
  • Spiritual:  
  • Spend time in nature and marvel at the various types of creation on the planet.  
  • If you belong to a faith-based organization, attend a service and connect with others in your community.   
  • Emotional:  
  • Pay attention to your mood and emotions. If you notice a persistent change, seek help. 
  • GMU offers excellent mental and emotional health resources such as TimelyCare 8 and CAPS 9


Most people take up studies in graduate school to improve their potential for professional success. The ability to manage your time and energy is a trait that many successful professionals possess 10. I know you’re busy juggling multiple competing priorities as a Mason graduate student. As you strive to seek a balance with everything you have on your plate, please remember to rest and do so regularly and strategically. After all, if you want to be and do your best, you must rest (just make sure it’s the right type)! 


  3. “Grads, Give Yourself Permission to Nap,” Mason Grad Insider Blog, accessed September 1, 2020 
  4. Ibid.