The Connected Mom

Spoiler Alert! Yes, rest is possible for mamas...but it may not look how you think. Join us for this super-practical episode with Dr. Saundra about different kinds of rest and how you can get some...and must! 

FREE Resource from Dr. Saundra:
Take this quiz and find out what type of rest you need to live your best life...

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith is an award-winning author, speaker, wellbeing thought-leader and host of I Choose My Best Life podcast. She spent over 20 years in clinical practice as an internal medicine physician. Dr. Saundra speaks internationally to audiences on topics of faith, wellness, and healing. Learn more about Dr. Saundra at


Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity

How can you keep your energy, happiness, creativity, and relationships fresh and thriving in the midst of never-ending family demands, career pressures, and the stress of everyday life? In Sacred Rest, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a board-certified internal medicine doctor, reveals why rest can no longer remain optional.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares seven types of rest she has found lacking in the lives of those she encounters in her clinical practice and research-physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, sensory, social, creative-and why a deficiency in any one of these types of rest can have unfavorable effects on your health, happiness, relationships, creativity, and productivity. Sacred Rest combines the science of rest, the spirituality of rest, the gifts of rest, and the resulting fruit of rest. It shows rest as something sacred, valuable, and worthy of our respect.
By combining scientific research with personal stories, spiritual insight, and practical next steps, Sacred Rest gives the weary permission to embrace rest, set boundaries, and seek sanctuary without any guilt, shame, or fear.

Creators & Guests

Becky Harling
Author of How to Listen So Your Kids Will talk and several others. Podcast host of The Connected Mom. A dynamic speaker who is passionate about Jesus.
Saundra Dalton-Smith
Physician/author helping stressed-out individuals shift their mindset/eliminate limiting emotions/maximize wellbeing, so they can choose their best life now!

What is The Connected Mom?

Form a deeper connection with God, more empathic connection with other Moms, and more intentional connection with your child.

Welcome to the Connected Mom podcast, where we have real conversations helping you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. I'm Becky Harling, your host, and today we're going to talk about a topic with you moms that I know is near and dear to your heart, that of rest. Some of you are saying, oh, my word, I need to stop everything I'm doing right now and listen to this, because Lord knows I need some rest. Many of you are exhausted. I think I've talked to at least five moms in the last month who have told me, becky, I am just so tired. And so today we have a very special guest with us. We have my dear friend, Dr. Sandra Dalton Smith. She is a medical doctor, so I need to say that first and foremost, because it seems like if you're going to talk about rest, we should get a doctor involved. But she's also a best selling author, and I love her book, Sacred Rest. I've actually used her book with coaching clients, and, uh, it is just one of my favorite books ever on the whole topic of rest, she has all manner of degrees. She's been a guest, uh, featured in Women's Day Red book, first for Women magazine. She gave a Ted Talks, which we'll try to have that in the link so you can listen to her, do her Ted Talk. She's a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association and has been a keynote speaker at a whole bunch of their events. I could go on and on, but welcome, Sandra.

Thanks, Becky. It's so good to be here with you.

Yeah, it's so great to have you with us. And we are going to talk about rest. I mean, I'm so excited about this because, as I say, I've had at least five different conversations in the last couple of weeks with very tired mamas. So let's start by first asking you, what is the difference between rest and sleep?

Yeah, they're similar, but they're definitely not the same thing. I think for most of us, when we lump the two together, we basically exclude the different types of rest that we need. Most of my research is focused around seven types of rest, with those seven types including physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, and creative. And so sleep really just sits into the physical bucket. And even with that, it's only the passive form of physical rest, with there also being an active form. So if you put all your eggs into the sleep basket, you're basically omitting all of the other six types of rest because you can't get, let's say, for example, social rest, which is the rest you get when you're around life giving people when your eyes are closed in bed. So there are certain types of rest you will never experience when you are sleeping.

Yeah, well, and on the other hand, mamas of infants and toddlers are thinking, yeah, but if I could just have a little sleep, that might help. In fact, one of my daughters asked me recently, mom, when did we sleep through the night? And I said, you know, I had to think for a minute. And I said, it was different for all of you. And one of you I don't think she slept through the night until she got married. And even then, I'm not sure if she sleeps through the night. So, I mean, we do need sleep, but absolutely talk about some of these other types of rest. Okay, so you talk about spiritual rest. What even is that? Does that mean you take a break from God?

No, uh, that's a great point to start with, because rest, when I say rest, I'm not talking about just cessation activities. I'm actually referring to what are the things you do to pour back into the places that have already been depleted. So we're looking at not cessation activities, but what are the restorative processes that you have in place to pour back into your life. And so if we're looking at spiritual rest, one of the things that I think is important to differentiate is there's time that we need to be studying God's word, and there's time we need, um, devotions and scriptures and all of those and going to church and all of those things. But a big part of that is to make sure we don't lose the opportunities for intimacy with God. So that we're building relationship because the spiritual rest aspect of it is more relational than it is religion. And so to make sure that we are building that spiritual relationship with God.

Uh, okay, I love that, and I love the way you talk about rest being restorative. So I'm going to jump around between these seven types of rest, and the one that I'm thinking about right now is sensory rest. Okay? Let's say there's and I know a mom like this, let's say there's a mom out there with five boys, a football is always going on through the house. The TV is going. I mean, how does she practically get sensory rest? I think of different moms I've talked to, and they're like, I just need some quiet because there's so much noise in the house. What does sensory rest look like?

Yeah, you bring up a great point because sensory rest deficit, which is what it sounds like these mamas have, is a deficit in sensory rest because they are constantly being sensory overstimulated. A lot of us are in sensory overload syndrome. We have ongoing light, sounds, smells, tactile things happening all day long. And so the reprieve of that is looking at what are ways that we can downgrade the sensory input. So some things you can't as easily strapulate. Like my oldest son had colic, so he cried nonstop. And, uh, he cried nonstop for probably a full year. So I couldn't get rid of babies crying because that was the sounds that were going on in the background. However, I could turn off the notifications on my phone so that I don't have extra sounds and bells and whistles and things going off at the same time. I could limit my amount of bright lights within the house so that I'm not having that as an additional sensory input for me or him. Um, so there are things that we can do to downgrade the sensory input. We can't always downgrade the specific one if it's like a colicky baby. But then look at what are the other ways that you can downgrade sensory input, because sensory rest is that reprieve from the excessive amount of sensory overload. And so any of the senses, you can start decreasing the input. You'll start noticing improvement now as the kids get older. Because I know, uh, sometimes parents are working from home and they have kids that are homeschooling and different things going on. You can do something as simple as having some noise cancellation earbuds that you put in your ears for 30 minutes. Your eyes are physically on your children, but your ears don't have to hear every sound out of their mouth. You can blunt it down a little bit, same as you would if you hopped on an airplane. Because people who travel a lot, I recommend they do that, get on the plane. You don't have to even be listening to anything. I'm talking about just the noise cancellation, just to put it in, just so that you can decrease the amount of input you're getting from the auditory sound. So a lot of different ways of doing that. And then as far as just a moment of just reprieve altogether, sometimes it's helpful as a parent when you have those opportunities. Maybe your spouse or your mom or somebody else is there that can watch the kids just for a moment, just to go and lay on your bed with the noise cancellation earphones in and your eyes closed. Just five minutes of noise and visual blackness can reset the system. And sometimes you don't need these gigantic blocks as a mama. Sometimes when you have little ones, you can't take some major sabbatical or go on a vacation every time you need a break. It has to be stuff you can do, integrate it within your everyday life. So small moments of restorative activities build up to help you start feeling more rejuvenated.

Yeah, I really love that. Okay, I have to bring this up. We've brought it up before on the show, but for some of our moms, they are on sensory overload. So then they're maybe at the park with their kids, but what are they doing? They're scrolling Instagram and Facebook and all these things. But that's another form of stimulus stimulation, right? Sensory stimulation. And that can be exhausting. Right? So talk to us a little bit about that.

Yeah, absolutely. I think for most of us, uh, the majority of our sensory overwhelm is perpetuated by our devices. And so whenever you can either time block like things like, um, checking emails, scrolling through your social media, a lot of those things should be timed. Block if we want to be able to kind of not get into these cycles of doing it all day long. We have periods of time that we do it so that we stay up to date, but we don't feel like we're trapped by it. And the other thing with our devices, i, uh, mentioned the notifications. A lot of us have ongoing stress responses because we get so many notifications throughout the day. And so simply turning off your notifications so that the only notifications you get are your actual phone and your text messages, which are if the school needs you, that's how they're going to get in touch with you. They're not going to send you a DM in your Instagram or something. They're going to actually call you or text you like normal people. So if you leave those two on and turn off all the other notifications, you can still keep the app on your device, but you then regain control and you stop allowing the app to push you stress at its discretion. And you get to choose when you want to look at your social media or your news app or whatever it is, and you take back some of that stress load that those things are really pushing into your life every time you get a message.

Yeah, I think that's such an important conversation because, uh, even 20 years ago, people didn't have cell phones. Right? I sent my kids off to college without cell phones and never thought about it because we didn't have cell phones. And I realize now how much that's changed. So I know for me, for sleep at night, I turn my phone on. Do not disturb at night because I know, okay, if there's really an emergency, my kids know they can call twice and it'll break through that. But I'm not hearing dings from notifications all night long, and that's exhausting. So let's switch and talk about emotional rest for mamas. Some moms are in maybe a marriage, and maybe that's not going well right now. Or they have a lot of worries about their kids. Maybe certain ones of their children are not doing well in school, or they may have challenges, behavioral challenges. How in the world does a mom get emotional rest?

Yeah, well, I'll talk about emotional rest and social rest a little bit together because they both feel like people. And I find that typically moms struggle with both of them at the same time, because if you're really wrapped up in that child raising season, especially if you have little ones, it can seem difficult to find time to get away, to connect with other moms. And so one thing that we're seeing a lot of moms benefit from is you don't have to have some gigantic support circle, but you do need to have some people in your life who you feel the liberty to just be very open, honest, and authentic about what your feelings are so that you're not carrying the emotional labor of, uh, feeling like I can't truly express how I'm feeling. I have to hide it from the world or hide it from everybody. Because nobody understands. We need those people that we feel like they get me, they understand what I'm going through. So whether that's one mom that you hang with, or whether that's a therapist or a counselor, uh, or a pastor or whomever, it's helpful to have someone or some people in your life that you just feel the liberty to release that with. And if you are in a situation where you really feel like there isn't anyone. Some people do experience emotional rest through journaling, being able to write those authentic feelings down so that they can express them that way. Some people experience emotional rest by releasing their emotions onto the canvas or writing music or writing poetry or painting or whatever it may be. But we all have to have a release. You can't keep your emotions kind of blocked in. And if you have tendencies, like people pleasing type tendencies, where you have learned, um, the habit of suppressing your own emotions for the sake of others, which some moms do very naturally, you can carry quite a bit of. Emotional labor, which is draining and stressful in itself because you're constantly kind of suppressing your truth in an attempt to fit into what somebody else desires and plans are.

Mhm, those are such great tips. And I think too, friends are important, right? I mean, that's what you're talking about. Safe people are people that you can just kind of laugh with when it all blows up, the chaos around the dinner hour. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right? Because it is going to be a mess.

That's, that social rest part of it. The social rest are the people. So the social rest is looking at your relationships and really evaluating who are the people in my life that are life giving, that are pouring back into me. Because it's very easy for relationships to become one sided as a mom, where you're always on the giving mode, you're always giving, you're always pouring out, then you have to evaluate who is pouring back into me. And if you got little kids, your kids and your spouse can pour back into you. But usually it's after they get to a certain point with your kids when they're little, they can give you love, but they need more than they can pour. So you're going to need to find that somewhere else. And it may be your spouse, but even your spouse has a little bit of a give and take. So it's a great, um, kind of mindset to start thinking about who are the people in my life who don't need anything from me, who I just enjoy being around, and they enjoy being around me, and we have fun together. And then making a decision to find some way to connect with them, whether that's through a zoom or a phone call or, ah, um, Marco Polo app or whatever it is some way that you're going to connect with them. And that is, ah, excuse proof. Because, yes, the kids can have a cold and vomit all over everything, but you can always text your friend and say, girl, this is a hot mess in my house right now. And be able to have someone where you can at least express that.

Yeah, I love that. Okay, so let's switch gears now and talk about creative rest. What does that look like in motherhood? A lot of times moms might think, well, I'm not even creative, but moms have to be creative every day. They have to be creative about the discipline they come up with. They might have to be creative. You get that teacher in school that all of a sudden you don't realize it, and they're like, yeah, your child needs a costume this Friday for whatever. And you're just like, oh, I can't even so talk to us about creative rest.

Yeah. What you're describing is the reason why so many people have creative rest deficits is because they are using a lot of creative energy just in the problem solving and thinking outside of the box with everything from schedules to home school plans to everything that they're doing. And so, creative rest is then looking to see what are the things that actually spark your inspiration and creativity. So, for some, it's natural things like the ocean, the mountain, the flowers, the trees, the sky, the clouds. For other people, it's manmade beauty. Things like art or music or theater or dance or whatever. So we have to evaluate how are we inspired? What actually kind of awakens that childlike awe ah, and wonder inside of us. One of the things that I found when I was writing Sacred Rest is some of the research on this was extremely, um, exciting because for myself, I get greed of rest when I'm around bodies of water, but I don't live anywhere near a body of water. And one of the research showed that people who experience that can get a similar effect when they look at images of the things that bring that on wonder to them. So put pictures of, um, oceans or whatever it is that you like on your screen saver on your phone or your computer, or even having, like, a nautical theme within your house. It even showed that people who have, like, if they associate with the water being calming and relaxing to them, if they painted their room colors of the ocean. So the blues, the teals, the aquas, that they would have a similar feeling of relaxation, renewal, and peace. And that creative kind of renewal that occurs just by making some slight shifts like that. So, lots of different interesting things that came out with creative rest.

I love that. Um, I realize as you're talking, I also love bodies of water. I live in Colorado, so we don't really have a lot of them. We have the mountains, which feeds my husband. Um, but we have pictures of the ocean in our bedroom. And I love that. So every now and then, I might just go in my bedroom and look at the ocean for a few minutes and regroup before I get on to the next creative adventure or before I write the next chapter or whatever. So I love that that's possible for us. And I would think for Moms that that's especially essential, those moments where Holy Hallelujah has broken out in your house, just taking a little break and looking at a picture of an ocean and regrouping and then coming back to face whatever that's going on in the house. Um, so, Sandra, in the book, you talk about a time where you were very tired. Talk to us about that.

Yeah, it was when my boys were both toddlers, so it was a very long time ago now. Um, but I had two kids under the age of two and was still working, uh, full time m beyond full time, an internal medicine physician who works inpatient and outpatient. So it was like 40, 50, 60 hours a week that I was working. And, uh, I just remember coming home one day after picking them up from daycare. And, uh, I walked in the house and I'm sitting there and I'm thinking, god, these are the kids I've been praying for, like, my entire life. Pregnancy was not easy for me and my husband, so it's like, I've been praying for these kids. I'm so happy I have them. And I don't have any energy to even enjoy the blessing that you've given me. And I think that really is what kind of opened up my eyes. I think when you get to a point where God is blessing your life, but you don't even have the capacity for the blessings anymore, because you've just allowed yourself to get to a place of burnout and exhaustion, you have to regroup and kind of reset. And God took me through this, um, journey through Isaiah 3015, where in that he says, in returning in rest, you shall be saved and quietness, and trust shall be your strength. But the last sentence of that is what really got me. And it says, but you would have none of it. And I think for me, that's when it turned more from like, I need rest. It's like it's on the table before me, but I'm just refusing it. And I had M to start evaluating what is it about rest that I'm running from. Why do I resist it? I had a lot of trust issues with God. I felt like if I didn't keep moving and doing stuff, then things wouldn't work out. I had a lot of issues with how I viewed rest. I felt like rest was what you did after the work was done. And that's not biblical. Rest is actually what you do so that you're equipped to do the work. So there was lots of mindset shifts that had to happen. And so that was where that journey came from. And it came during the time when I had toddlers.

Yeah. Which is so relevant, I think, because the journey of raising toddlers is at times exhausting. And then you were working full time on top of that. And then for some moms, they are out of the toddler season, but just if they have multiple children scheduling challenges. And so talk to us a little bit about schedules. I mean, you want your kids in sports because you want them to be able to enjoy it. I see extremes in motherhood, right? I see moms who are like, well, we're going to home school. We're not going to put our kids in anything. But then your kids maybe don't get to enjoy some of the, uh, activities and the creative things or the sports that they would like to enjoy. So how does a mom find a balance with all of that? Because in there, beyond school or activities, you've got to fit in. I mean, you're a doctor, right? So you got to fit in doctors appointments, dentist appointments, eye checkups, the whole thing. How does it happen without moms becoming exhausted?

I think it's important to first kind of sit down with your child and evaluate their schedule. I think oftentimes we let our children get trapped into the same I started it, so I got to finish it mindset that we sometimes do. But just because your child did football this quarter doesn't mean that he wants to do it next year. Or just because they played, um, tennis or piano or in the band doesn't mean they want to do it every single year. So I think we need to allow our children to have the ability to make choices about their schedule that may not always align with what we want. Because sometimes I find that kids feel as if they're forced to stay in something because the parent likes it and likes whatever it is. Maybe it's the social gatherings that come with whatever that is. I don't know. But the parents like the situation, and they're reluctant sometimes to let the child give up something that the child's already determined is a season they don't want to remain in. And then to also, if you have a child that is the opposite of that, who's like a type A, they want to do all the sports, then to bring to their attention, if you're noticing signs of burnout? Because sometimes what I find is that a teen will feel as if, uh, I should do a fall sport, a spring sport, a winter sport, I should do all these different things. Um, I should be on all the teams and all the clubs and all the things. And you'll notice that they're getting more and more depressed, more and more anxious. They're having a harder time sleeping, they're having a hard time keeping up with their schedules. When you're noticing signs of burnout, bring it to their attention, not as a judgment, but as a, hey, let's take a look at what your schedule looks like and let's see if there's certain things now that maybe you don't find joy in them the way that you used to. And you can actually free up that time so that you can have more time and more energy for the things you really love right now. That is how you model for children, how to be adults that don't burn out, because most of us never learn that. And so we get trapped in situations where we feel like we have to keep going in the same flow, even though we realize God has long left the building in that situation. And we should have probably left, too.

Yeah. I was thinking, I had a conversation with my daughter. I mean, all my kids are adults now, right. And we have 14 grandchildren. Um, so it's an amazing season of life. But I had a conversation with, uh, my oldest daughter the other day, because she was remembering in the beginning, uh, she was the firstborn. So as a parent, you want them to have all these experiences, right. So she was in piano and swimming, and she had church activities. And I remember when she hit a certain age, I think it was like twelve, and she said, I don't want to take piano anymore, uh, because she loved sports. So she wanted to give more of her attention to swimming. And I remember thinking, okay, I wanted her to take piano, but this is her desire and her choice. And it actually freed me up because I didn't have to worry about scheduling the piano lesson. Right. So she gave that up. I remember another daughter saying, I don't want to play soccer anymore. I really want to get into dance and musical theater. So she shifted towards that direction. So I think it's really important what you're saying to listen to our kids. And, uh, for me as a mom, because we had four children and my husband's schedule and my schedule were pretty full, we had to sit down with the four kids and say, okay, we want to accommodate your needs and our needs so everybody can do one activity outside of school as long as you're still involved in church. Because church went along with our core values. When you have four kids, you can't have them each doing three different sports. There's just not enough time. Just making some of those choices are really important, I think, for parents. Otherwise, parents are absolutely exhausted and your kids are exhausted. So in the middle of all of this, how do you keep your energy up as a mom to keep investing? And I realize some of our moms are single parents, and my heart goes out to them because I was blessed to have a husband who was very involved in the parenting process. Uh, but I do want to bring this up for just a second. How do you stay emotionally resilient and physically resilient so that you can invest in your marriage as a mom?

Yeah, I think a big part of that is prioritizing yourself in the process. Sometimes you can almost feel guilty by saying, I need a break. I need to take a moment to do this. I need to do this restorative activity. But I think when you really think about it, uh, there's always that thought process of if on the plane they tell you to put on your parachute, you have to put yours on first. That really is the reality of our lives. If you are burned out, how are you going to continue to serve your family? Well, if you get to the end of yourself? And so we have to recognize that, really, to be the best version of ourselves, that we have to honor our own need for rest and to make room and space in our lives for that. Um, I had a conversation with, uh, Mark Buchanan, and he's the author of The Rest of God. And he made this comment to me one time that he's like, m many of us, we look at the Sabbath and we think, well, if I get around to it, I'll have time. And he made this comment that the Sabbath is like a snow day. He goes, that's how we should approach it. When you're a kid and there's a snow day, it's like you are so excited to enter into that day. He's like, if we ever got to the place of entering into the Sabbath like a snow day, it would change people's lives. And so I would encourage moms, next time you see your children on a snow day, when schools close and you see that eyes light up and they're like, Yay. And they're having so much fun, try to enter into the Sabbath like that. Not that it has to be a full 24 hours. Can you spend 1 hour doing something different just for you on that day?

I m love that. Go get a pedicure or get your nails done, or take a walk with a friend or have a long show friend. Yeah, there you go. Or a hot bubble bath. I have one daughter who is like, I just need a break. I'm going to go take a long, hot bubble bath. Well, this has been delightful, Sandra. Thank you for joining us today. And I know there's so much more we could talk about around the element of rest. But for our moms, I want you to remember that rest doesn't mean just taking a good, long nap. It's what restores you. And so think of it like that. I want to encourage you to get Saunders book. It's called Sacred Rest, and it is phenomenal, girls. So make sure you get her book, um, and go through it. Maybe even do it with a friend so that you can talk about the different types of rest that you need. Sandra, would you pray over our mamas, especially those mamas that are absolutely exhausted?

God, I thank you so much for your gift of rest. God, I thank you that you have given us each an invitation to come to you when we are weary and that you have extended rest to us. And you didn't put any limits on that rest. You extended it openly. And so, Father, I just pray that for every woman who is exhausted, who is, um, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually exhausted in whatever way she feels drained, God, that you will just open up her eyes to be able to receive your hand of invitation extended to enter into times of rest to enter into times of refreshing and reprieve and reset. And that during that, she understands the legacy that she's leaving with her family as she models what it looks like to be a well rested woman. Father, I thank you that rest is something that you give out daily, you give out lavishly, and you give it out in whatever container we allow, whether that's large blocks of time or small sips of time. God, I just pray that each woman drinks freely from your river of grace as they enter into the rest that you have for them. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Amen. Hey. Thanks, Sandra. Hey, friends. Thanks for joining us today on the Connected Mom podcast. And, hey, if you enjoyed today's episode, would you please share it with your friends? Because, again, here on The Connected Mom, we want to encourage you to connect more deeply with God, more empathically with your fellow moms, and more intentionally with your child. So we'll see you next week for another episode of The Connected Mom podcast.