I recently had a conversation with my friend, Alicia Michelle, on Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast about how to find mental rest. Right around Thanksgiving of last year, the Lord started talking to me about the need to take a period of extended rest this year, which is so much more than just physical rest. It’s a period of ceasing. Ceasing striving. Ceasing working. Ceasing putting everyone else’s needs before my own. So I was particularly interested in having a conversation with Alicia about mental rest. If you haven’t listened to our conversation, I encourage you to listen to it here [How to Find Mental Rest and Calm Your Racing Thoughts – Episode 251]. Today I’ve asked her to share with you 2 steps for finding mental rest when you’re overwhelmed.
2 Steps for Finding Mental Rest When You’re Overwhelmed
by Alicia Michelle
“My brain feels fried.” “I can’t think straight.” “I’m just mentally done.”
Ever found yourself saying phrases like these? We live in a world of constant motion, and all too often it feels like our minds can’t keep up. Our world is overflowing with noise, stimulus, needs, and requests.
And then there are the times when we must carry the heavy load of grief, hurt or other pain that can cripple our ability to feel mentally whole. It’s no wonder that mental exhaustion and overwhelm are more the norm than the exception in this fast-paced and broken world.
What Kind of Rest Is Needed?
Too often we simply label our need for rest as a feeling of overwhelm. But what is the source of that exhaustion? In order to alleviate our deep fatigue, we must ask ourselves “what kind of rest do I need?”
Sometimes what we need is physical rest—a good night’s sleep, perhaps. Other times, it’s mental rest—a break from the constant buzzing of thoughts. There’s emotional rest—allowing ourselves to feel and process emotions without judgment.
The great news is that God can meet every one of our rest needs. His unlimited power can renew even the weariest bodies (Isaiah 40:31). His rich compassion helps us lovingly process painful emotions because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). And yes, His comforting restorative presence can quiet the relentless inner chatter of a mind on overdrive (Zephaniah 3:17).
What are some signs that we need mental rest instead of physical or emotional rest?
Naturally symptoms of mental exhaustion vary from person to person. However, some signs that we might need mental rest include persistent feelings of overwhelm, difficulty concentrating, increased irritability, and disrupted sleep patterns. If you find your mind racing even when you’re physically at rest, it might be a sign that your mental well-being needs attention.
Why Is Mental Rest Important?
Mental stress doesn’t just affect our minds; it takes a toll on our bodies too. Chronic mental overwhelm has been linked to various health issues, including heart disease, a weakened immune function, and digestive problems.
When we’re mentally stressed, our bodies release hormones like cortisol, which, over time, can lead to a range of health challenges. For me, years of little mental rest and high cortisol levels led to a serious, unexpected medical emergency in 2017 that nearly took my life and left me in bed for 9 months.
We each must identify our why for making mental rest a priority. Maybe you’ve noticed physical signs of your mental exhaustion such as headaches, brain fog, out-of-control emotions, or burnout, but passed them off as annoyances or unimportant to address.
Because of the link between long-term mental fatigue and physical disease, however, we must recognize that finding mental rest is not just about feeling better emotionally. Mental rest is about safeguarding our physical and emotional health as well.
So how can we find mental rest in God, especially in those moments when it feels elusive? Here are two essential steps.
Step 1: Surrender the Inner Mental Chaos to God (Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 62:1-2):
Our journey to mental rest begins with surrender. In the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to forget that we have a Savior who invites us to lay our burdens down. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” A weary and cluttered mind can be an opportunity to receive replenishment from God.
Once we surrender the swirling chaos in our minds to God, we can allow His peace to wash over us. David reminds us in Psalm 62:1-2 that, ”truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.”
True mental rest means that we don’t need to take control of a situation or even have all the answers. We can stop the “what ifs” and “why nots” and simply say yes to His invitation to let go of the inner chatter.
Finding mental rest is not about doing more; it’s about surrendering to the One who offers rest beyond understanding. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up; it’s an act of trust. As we release our worries into God’s capable hands, we open ourselves to the peace that surpasses all understanding. It’s a rest that goes beyond circumstance—it’s the rest found in knowing that God is in control.
Step 2: Choose to Accept God’s Offer of Mental Stillness + Replenishment (Psalm 46:10, Isaiah 30:15-17, Mark 6:31):
In a world that values constant activity, finding rest often involves intentional stillness. Stillness isn’t just the absence of noise; it’s an intentional posture of the heart. It’s a moment of pause amid the chaos, allowing the noise to fade as we focus on God’s calming presence. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) aptly sums up this ability to find solace and assurance in His soothing presence.
But interestingly, the Bible mentions several instances where God’s people were presented with His rest, but they chose to not take it. For example, in Isaiah 30:15-17, the Lord tells His people that “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt.’”
All of us have been guilty of “getting our help from Egypt” from time to time, haven’t we? We look to everything but the Lord to fill us up.
That’s why, first and foremost, we must choose to accept His invitation to have mental rest. We must stop our running, striving, and doing, and simply accept that we are dependent beings with limits. We must accept that He is the giver of that deep mental rest we crave and that, despite our most valiant attempts, we cannot create our own rest. We must remain (or return) to the vine, waiting for His power to fill us up and restore our minds to wholeness.
Even Jesus, amidst His ministry, embraced moments of stillness. In Mark 6:31, we read, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Even though He was God and could essentially create His own rest, He perfectly modeled what it means to be a human with limits that can only be met by God.
Mental rest is an intentional choice, and we must each decide if we’re going to accept God’s invitation to rest.
Is It Time for You to Embrace Mental Rest?
If you find yourself feeling mentally overwhelmed and full of racing thoughts, pause and ask God if you’re in need of His mental rest. That may look like a few minutes of quiet before walking into your workplace, or it may mean deciding to create habits that make mental rest a regular reality. He may even call you to an extended time of mental rest.
Either way, finding mental rest is not a luxury—it’s a vital aspect of our faith journey. As we surrender to God’s invitation to rest and embrace stillness, we’ll discover a profound sense of peace that the world cannot give.
We’ll also be healthier and whole, and ultimately that means we’ll be better equipped to serve as His light and love to the world.
What has helped you engage in mental rest? We’d love to hear in the comments below.
About Alicia Michelle
Alicia Michelle is a certified mindset coach, speaker, Bible study author and award- winning podcast host of the top-ranked The Christian Mindset Coach Podcast. Through her coaching and courses (and by the power of the Holy Spirit), she equips Christian women with practical biblically-based tools to break free from the worry and exhaustion of perfectionism, people pleasing and performance that come from feeling “never enough”.