Rest and recharge is a key part for improving your gut health which is why it is a pillar of The Mindful Gut™ Approach. There’s a lot of science behind the benefits of rest.  Joseline Mejia, LCSW describes rest as “the process to give our body and mind a reset to be able to function at their optimal state.”

I dove into the science in this blog post here about the importance of rest for your gut.

Now that we know rest is good the next question is naturally how do I actually rest? What does rest even look like? It might even feel weird or you might feel guilty to rest.

Today we are diving into part two of our rest series and going to go over rest and recharge strategies for your gut.

How to tell when you need rest

A lot of us struggle with rest so sometimes it can be hard to know when you need to take a break. This is where Sarah Zepeda-Nguyen, LCSW, gives us some guidance. According to Sarah, “some signs you need to slow down and take time to rest include losing energy for things you enjoy, relying on caffeine or other substances to get through the day.” 

Keep in mind that you might have different signs your body needs rest. Joseline remarks that “every person is different and could have different ways to express when is tired” and that lack of rest can affect mood or even contribute to physical aches.

It’s also a good idea to watch for the point where lack of rest is turning into burnout. If you’re feeling like you want to quit your job and move to the Bahamas you are approaching burnout, says Sarah.

cartoon gut winking

1. Feeling guilty to rest? Reframe rest as work

Even though we now know that rest is great for the gut. It is still hard to do. I get that.

What if you reframed rest as work? It might be easier to rest if we reframed it into something that we generally have no problem doing…work.

I can’t take credit for this idea because it was my therapist who helped me with this idea to reframe rest as work. When she told me this, things started to click for me. 

Rest is work. Rest is also a practice and practice makes progress. 

Granted, I still have a hard time with it but I’m finding it easier to recognize when I need rest and to take it when I need it. 

What I have found is the more I try to rest the better I get at it and the better I feel; physically and emotionally. According to Samantha Gambino, PysD this totally makes sense because “when you are well-rested, you have the emotional space to regulate your feelings.”

Rest Tip: 

If rest is work how can you do a little bit of that work today?

cartoon gut with lightbulb

2. Recognize the different types of rest

If you’re someone struggling with turning off your brain this tip was made for you.

One of the most impactful things we can do is recognize when we need rest and what kind of rest we need. It wasn’t until I watched this TEDx talk by physician Saundra Dalton-Smith about rest that I came to realize rest has a lot of different looks.

This strategy is something that will evolve with you. When I first watched the talk and read about 7 different types of rest I was amazed but I didn’t change any of my habits and that’s ok. 

I find that this information takes time to process and understand. It’s so simple and yet it’s not because society wasn’t built on people resting.

Rest Tip: 

After learning about the types of rest take a few minutes to journal on what you learned or your aha moments. Then make sure to celebrate the moments when you recognize when you need rest and/or take that rest.

meditating gut

3. Solid sleep is a good starting point

Good quality sleep is everything and the ultimate form of rest. 

Sleep has a huge impact on how we feel and Samantha tells us that “Lack of sleep is also related to higher rates of depression and anxiety.” Given that there is a strong gut-brain connection we need to prioritize sleep.

You can look to your plate as a way to help with sleep. Your gut microbiome can influence your sleep. There has been emerging research looking at how a diverse gut microbiome may help with sleep.

The American Gut Project has found that those who have 30 different plants a week have a more diverse gut microbiome so increase variety in your everyday diet.

Rest Tip: 

First tip for sleep would be to create a wind down routine to get your body ready for sleep. Second tip is to eat more plants to help with gut microbiome diversity.

cartoon gut with muffin and broccoli

4. Eat with intention

Your gut takes rest breaks, aka the periods you aren’t eating, to do some self-cleaning. This is called the migrating motor complex and I talk about it here.

What this means to you is that you want to eat with intention. When we define what matters to us the most when it comes to food, our intention, we can improve our digestion and find ease with eating.

This also means you want to eat mindfully during the meal as well. Make sure you’re chewing your food well and feel relaxed while eating. Chewing is the first step of digestion and makes the rest of the process easier for the gut. Plus, being relaxed means you’re in rest and digest mode.

Eating with intention can have different looks throughout your day and week. It may mean making sure not to skip breakfast because you notice that when you do you get hangry and extra hungry. Or it might mean doubling your dinner recipes so you can have leftovers the next day.

What intentions do you have for your food and eating habits? 

Rest Tip: 

Define what intentional eating means to you and focus on one of your intentions for a week. If you aren’t sure where to start, use this eating with intention blog as a guide.

cartoon stomach flexing

5. Move your body 

Movement is a great way to recharge.

Just like the Taylor Swift song sometimes you gotta shake it off and movement helps you do that. Just think about when a dog first wakes up in the morning and shake out the last bits of sleep before starting their day.

Movement can mean exercise, taking a walk, or even cooking. When you physically move your body you’re able to tap into a different energy. You can even try shaking your body just like your dog. This is a tool that is used by people use to help with anxiety and relieve tension.

Plus movement is also one of the most underrated ways to help you poop! If you’re someone that gets constipated occasionally look to movement as a way to literally get things moving in your bowels.

Rest Tip: 

Move your body when you find yourself sitting for long periods of time. Take a walk and/or do a couple stretches. If you can combine movement with nature to recharge. Nature is a great way to ground yourself and reconnect with your body and feelings.

happy cartoon stomach

6. Listen to your gut

Everyone has a gut instinct. An inner voice that gives guidance and that voice is important to your gut health because how you feel emotionally can impact you physically.

Your gut can tell you a lot about how you’re doing.

Your gut can help with finding your joy, your decision, identifying your needs, and insight into your stress levels. Sometimes your gut will feel things even before you are consciously aware of it.

There was a time when I was driving home from work and even though I had a great day I immediately felt a pit in my stomach when I pulled up to my house. I didn’t understand why I felt this way until it hit me in my gut, literally.

My gut was telling me that I needed to slow down and process the stress I had even though I thought I had it all handled. Chronic stress is the sneakiest stress because even though you get used to it that doesn’t mean it’s not affecting you.

That connection is priceless because we are in alignment; we are our happiest and truest selves. Your gut can help guide you to how you are feeling when you take the time to listen.

Rest Tip: 

Check in with your gut feelings with your gut feelings periodically during the day. Take short pauses during the day, take a deep breath, and ask how you’re feeling.

Feel out what works for you

There will be different strategies that work for you at different times. Sometimes rest and recharge may look like prioritizing sleep on the daily. Other times it may look like eating with intention.

What it boils down to is recognizing when you need the rest and taking that rest without guilt. As Sarah says “rest is a basic human need.”

Experts Mentioned

Joseline. Mejia, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist 

Konnect Counseling Services and Stream Konnections  

Sarah Zepeda-Nguyen, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Samantha Gambino, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and owner of Psychology Ventures, an online store that provides therapeutic products to help people manage stress, anxiety, and insecurities. You can follow Samantha @samanthagambinopsyd