Inside: Are you mentally exhausted and depleted? Here are some effective ways to get mental rest, even if you’re short on time or struggle to relax. 

One of my earliest memories is mandatory naptime in kindergarten. After lunch, I’d lay in a sardine-packed room full of squirming 5-year-olds trying to hold still. 

As the fan rattled, I’d stare at the tiny holes in the ceiling tiles and wait to be released. Naptime was boring—and I didn’t see the point. 

Oh, what I’d give for a daily nap now in a cool, breezy room.

I bet you would, too.

It’s funny how we don’t appreciate the good things in our childhood until we’re adults. Now naptimes rank up there along with home-cooked meals, lazy Saturday mornings, and getting socks for Christmas.

Naptime allows kindergarteners to rest their bodies and minds. While a post-lunch siesta isn’t realistic for most of us as adults, we still need mental rest today. In this article, I’ll share with you 25 ways to get this type of rest.

What Does It Mean to Mentally Rest?

In her book Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith describes seven types of rest: physical, mental, emotional, sensory, creative, social, and spiritual. When we get enough of each kind of rest, we’ll feel most balanced and refreshed.

Mental rest happens when we stop pushing our brains to work hard and process information. We disconnect from the outside world and turn off our negative inner dialogue. Our minds get the much-needed time to relax and reflect at an unhurried pace.

Mental rest can mean the difference between surviving and thriving in life. 

Getting enough of it means that our minds will feel calm and in control. We’ll think with clarity and feel ready to face the day. Our memory will be in top shape. And we’ll have more peace. 

If you can’t remember the last time that you felt this way, you’re not alone. Most of us skimp on mental rest, resulting in a state of chronic mental exhaustion. 

What Does Mental Exhaustion Feel Like?

So how do you know if your brain needs a break? Here are some possible symptoms of mental exhaustion

  • Inability to focus 
  • Low motivation
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • A sense of dread
  • Cynicism and pessimism
  • Irritability or anger
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poorer eating habits 
  • Physical exhaustion (despite adequate sleep)

How to Get Mental Rest

The good news is that you can start addressing mental exhaustion symptoms today. Here’s how:

1. Give yourself permission to rest. 

If you want to get mental rest, the first step is to give yourself permission. Many of us don’t allow ourselves to slow down until we experience physical manifestations of stress (or burnout). Don’t wait until this point. 

To recover from mental exhaustion, you must recognize the seriousness of its symptoms and make rest a priority.

2. Fix your mind on God.

God’s Word shows us how to find the mental rest we long for. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (NLT).

We’ll experience mental rest when we turn our eyes to God and meditate on His Word. And we’ll find peace when we put our trust in Him, rather than the things of this world or ourselves.

3. Follow along with a guided meditation. 

If you’re having trouble focusing on praying or reading the Bible, try following along with a short 10-minute meditation. Guided prayer can help you refocus on God and His Word.

A couple of places to start are the One Minute Pause App or Abide App. Establishing a habit of doing this sometime every day will help ensure that you get regular mental rest.

4. Get moving.

I know, you didn’t need another reason to get up and exercise. But physical activity helps a great deal with mental rest. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins and relieves tension in the body, which helps our minds relax

Fortunately, you don’t have to pound the treadmill or do a full set of burpees.

Pick an exercise you enjoy. Start with a walk around the neighborhood or throw a frisbee with your dog. The point is to get moving.

5. Walk (or run) mindfully.

Perhaps your idea of exercising is drowning yourself in nostalgia, as you blast Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” as loud as your earbuds allow.

There’s nothing wrong with motivating yourself like this. But if you want to maximize your mental rest, add a mindful component.

Pay attention to the physical sensations while you walk (or run). Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing, the sound of your feet hitting the pavement, or the sensation of the wind as it blows. 

6. Connect with nature. 

Another option is to pay attention to God’s creation. The more you admire nature, the more you’ll be drawn to worship Him.

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (NIV). So contemplate the rugged mountains on the horizon, sunset at your favorite bluff, or cotton candy clouds on a crisp day.

Or listen to the birds and recall God’s provision for you. Remember how Matthew 6:26 says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” 

7. Pick up a therapeutic hobby. 

Therapeutic hobbies have a meditative quality to them. Known as active rest, these hobbies relax the mind by helping you turn off your worries while you do something enjoyable.

Gardening is a classic example, but cooking, creating art, doing adult coloring, and fishing are other options. It might take some experimentation to find a hobby that gives you mental rest.

8. Let your mind wander. 

But you don’t have to do anything either. Your mind can’t function properly when it’s engaged in activity every minute of the day. Downtime is not only essential for mental rest but also for creativity and productivity.

Make sure you’re leaving enough margin in your schedule. And then allow your mind to wander for a bit—without any goal or task to accomplish. 

9. Cry out to God.

No matter what, let’s not forget that Jesus is our true source of rest. Go to Him first when you’re mentally exhausted. Matthew 11:28 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

Tell him how drained you feel. Give your burdens over to Him. Then ask Him for rest and renewal.

You don’t need to figure out what to say. Or wait until you have more energy. Talk to Him just as you are. Even. If. It’s. In. Incomplete. Sentences. 

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Ideas for Mental Rest When You Don’t Have Much Time

If you struggle to find time because of your busy schedule, here are some quick ways to get mental rest. Some rest is always better than none.

10. Savor your favorite morning beverage by itself. 

When was the last time you enjoyed sipping on your coffee (or tea) for pleasure and not as fuel for the day? Make your favorite morning beverage and savor it—without getting work done at the same time or scrambling out the door.

11. Schedule microbreaks.

Take regular breaks at work. Studies show that we can concentrate or focus for at most 90 minutes at a time. Be sure to take your lunch break, too. Don’t give in to the temptation to skip your lunch break to get more done. 

12. Get some fresh air. 

Most of us opt to stay indoors during our breaks. Go outside for a few minutes instead. Studies show that being in green spaces increases your ability to recover from psychological stress.

13. Enjoy your lunch without your phone.

Most of us eat lunch with our phones as loyal companions. We scroll through the latest updates as we mindlessly scarf down our meals. If you use this time to savor your food instead, you’ll feel more refreshed afterward. (Bonus points if you eat outside.)

14. Do a mindless chore in silence.

At home, you might prefer to tackle that heaping mountain of laundry while listening to your favorite YouTuber. It makes a boring task a little more exciting.

But if you’re mentally exhausted, you can use this time to get mental rest. When you do the task in silence, you give your mind the chance to recover. 

15. Change your mindset regarding self-care.

Unless you have young kids, you get downtime when you shower or get a haircut. These moments of self-care can be therapeutic because you can only do that one thing at a time.

Use these moments to intentionally slow down and relax, rather than as another task to plow through. 

16. Turn down the background stimuli.

Reduce unnecessary sources of noise and light. Close your laptop when you’re not working. Silence your phone notification dings after work.

Turn off the TV when no one is watching. Turn down those glaring hallway LED lights in the evening. Do your brain a favor by giving it less to process. 

17. Keep a brain dump list. 

Often, our minds can’t relax because of the sheer amount of information it’s keeping track of. Take the burden off your mind by moving all your ideas out of your brain onto paper (or planner).

And if you have trouble with racing thoughts at night, keep a notepad at your bedside to jot down ideas you don’t want to forget. 

Ideas for Mental Rest When You Struggle to Relax

If you struggle to turn off your brain, you might find mental rest by doing something else that’s relaxing at the same time. Here are some ideas:

18. Spend time people-watching. 

Head to your nearest beach, park, coffee house, or burger joint to people-watch. People-watching is therapeutic because it takes our minds off ourselves and helps us stay in the moment. It also increases our empathy and understanding of others.

19. Relax in front of an Apple TV screensaver. 

Do you remember the view from the airplane the last time you landed in a sprawling city? Apple TV has captured that view. Its built-in screensaver shows breathtaking footage from an aerial drone flying over cities and landscapes all over the world.

It’s surprisingly mesmerizing and relaxing. Check it out.

(If you don’t have Apple TV, you can enjoy the same aerial video views here on your computer.)

20. Cuddle a dog or other pet. 

Dogs are masters of living in the moment. They don’t worry about what’s for dinner tonight—or feel guilty that they ate your $500 nightguard last night. 

We can learn to stay in the moment and shut off our worries when we play with our pets. Interacting with pets for 5 to 20 minutes has also been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Even if it’s someone else’s pet.

21. Follow an animal cam.

If you don’t have access to an unsuspecting pet, another option is to watch an animal cam. Here’s an example of a puppy cam and a kitty cam. If you’re a zoo fan, here are great feeds from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

22. Reminisce on good times. 

If you still can’t turn off the noisy chatter in your head, try reminiscing on good times. Pull out photos of your last vacation.

Or if you’re feeling more ambitious, take a trip down memory lane. Dig out those items or music from the past that bring you nostalgic memories.

23. Put on ambient music.

Another way to get mental rest is to put on ambient background music. You might search YouTube for ambient music from your favorite movie soundtrack. (I like The Lord of the Rings.) 

For Christian music, try searching for “instrumental worship music” or “instrumental soaking music.” And if you want to capture a vacation vibe, search “hotel lobby music.”

24. Create a “happy place.”

Pick a small, simple area of the house. Reorganize and decorate it to turn it into a “happy place.”

Add a candle, cozy blanket, or fresh-cut flowers. Or create a collage board with photos of memories with family and friends. Transform it into an uplifting area that makes you smile. 

25. Get lost in Minecraft.

Fans of the video game Minecraft find the simple, repetitive nature of the tasks to be relaxing. It often leads to a meditative state of flow. 

You might find Minecraft to be therapeutic, too. There’s nothing like defeating the Ender Dragon after you’ve been slaying HR dragons all day at the office. 

The Most Important Part of All

Mental rest can be as original and creative as you want. You don’t have to twiddle your thumbs for an afternoon. Or stare at the holes in the ceiling tiles as I did in kindergarten. 

With some forethought and planning, we can build regular rhythms of rest in our lives. It’ll not only give us respite from the world’s noise but also help us enjoy a deeper, richer walk with God.

So, when is the next time you’ll get some mental rest?

Recap: How to Get Mental Rest

1. Give yourself permission to rest. 

2. Fix your mind on God.

3. Follow along with a guided meditation. 

4. Get moving.

5. Walk (or run) mindfully.

6. Connect with nature. 

7. Pick up a therapeutic hobby. 

8. Let your mind wander. 

9. Cry out to God.

If you’re short on time:

10. Savor your favorite morning beverage by itself. 

11. Schedule microbreaks.

12. Get some fresh air. 

13. Enjoy your lunch without your phone.

14. Do a mindless chore in silence.

15. Change your mindset regarding self-care.

16. Turn down the background stimuli.

17. Keep a brain dump list. 

If you’re having trouble unwinding:

18. Spend time people-watching. 

19. Relax in front of an Apple TV screensaver. 

20. Cuddle a dog or other pet. 

21. Follow an animal cam.

22. Reminisce on good times. 

23. Put on ambient music.

24. Create a “happy place.”

25. Get lost in Minecraft.

What’s one way you could get more mental rest this week?

For more on this topic:

Living with Margin: 13 Ways to Create Space in Your Life

Seven Types of Rest: The Key to Recharging Your Energy

How You Can Use Creative Rest to Restore Your Creativity

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Photo by Eduardo Flores on Unsplash

About the Author

Helen Rees

I am a Christian, wife, stepmom, psychiatric nurse, and writer. I write about research-backed ways to navigate the challenges of fast-paced modern life while growing in your Christian faith.

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