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I was chronically busy – here's how I finally learned to rest

Holistic life coach Tamu Thomas helps busy women learn to rest. Here's her advice for becoming well-rested

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Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
On 29 April 2024
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Tamu Thomas, 46, had always dismissed her anxiety, minimising the severity of how she was feeling, but a huge panic attack on the way to work as a social worker forced her to take her health seriously, prompting her to reset how she was living her life.

"Layers of depression and anxiety manifested as panic attacks because I was too busy running from task to task to pay attention to what my body was telling me," Tamu tells HELLO! "I was overwhelmingly busy, and it was taking an emotional toll. It left no room for me to consider how I was feeling.

"I used to think that if one thing dropped, everything would unravel, and people would think I was a failure, not committed and unproductive."

woman in orange blazer looking serious
Tamu Thomas was overwhelmingly busy

The wake-up call

It was the thought of her young daughter that gave Tamu the wake-up call she needed to address how she was living her life. "I wanted her to experience me as vibrant and energetic," Tamu says. "I wanted her to see womanhood as something vibrant and see me having healthy boundaries, living in a way that felt good to me."

After years of living with anxiety, Tamu made changes that day, booking in with a nutritional therapist who explained what was happening in her body in a more practical way than the doctors she had seen did.

"My nutritional therapist explained how everything came together to create the situation I was in and she prompted me to start doing my own personal development work such as listening to podcasts and reading books, and seeking out a life coach.

 INSPIRATION: I chose gentle peace over explosive joy – and my life is better than ever 

"I wasn't ready for therapy because I wasn't comfortable addressing my problems yet, but coaching helped me experience myself differently," Tamu says. "She taught me that instead of chastising and shaming myself, I should try to understand myself."

In her quest to change her life, Tamu realised that being well-rested is key to her wellbeing.


Tamu learned that being well-rested was essential for her
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What does it mean to be well-rested?

"Being well-rested means I can sit still and not immediately jump up and start doing something constructive with my time," Tamu says. "It means that I understand how important it is for me to do things I enjoy." 

DISCOVER: Is this the reason we're all so exhausted right now? 

Emotional rest

Emotional rest is central to feeling well-rested, Tamu says.

"Lots of women find emotional rest difficult because whether we have children or not, we take on a lot of caring responsibilities, and this prevented me from feeling at ease.

"I now know how to calm my mind so that I don't spiral, and journalling was pivotal to this. Looking back on the worries I've written down, I am able to notice how many of my thoughts or themes are repetitive.

 READ: Society airbrushes older women out – but I feel more confident than ever at 43 

"Being able to reflect on my negative thoughts gives me a moment of pause, so even if my natural reaction of panicking happens, I can stop and choose my response rather than spiral downwards."

Journalling and the mental load

Journalling also helped Tamu manage the mental load. "It helped me distinguish what I was doing simply to please others, helping me stop that and start doing things that actually meant something for myself."

How to learn to rest

Now a coach herself, Tamu helps chronically busy women learn to rest. Here she shares her top advice…

Look at how you spend your time

"Spend a week writing down what you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep to see how you're spending your time.

"The first thing people tell me when I encourage them to rest is that they don't have time.

But if you see how you're actually spending your time, you can start to see what you can shift and adapt."

"Monitoring your screentime is pivotal," she says, "A lot of the time we're using screen time to numb ourselves when what we actually need is rest. I encourage clients to look at their screen time and swap time spent on their phone for something else; take a walk or read a few pages of your book. You don't have to find separate time to do things in an already busy day, just use the pockets of free time differently.

 INSPIRATION: I'm happier than ever at 49 - here's how 

"Have five restful minutes at your desk where you listen to a song that feels calming and soothing or queue up some meditation music. Start with micro moments of rest and build up on them."

Nighttime routine

"It doesn't have to be all singing or dancing, but a bedtime routine will help you add extra rest into your day.

READ: Is this bedtime habit ruining your sleep? 

"I've got an alarm that tells me when it's time to go to bed. After it goes off, I wash my face, brush my teeth, get into bed and read a couple of pages of a fiction book.

"While it can be tempting to go to bed later and then lie in the next day, a lie in actually starts the night before. It's better for us to get into the habit of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier to have the me time we crave at the beginning of the day rather than at night."

Book cover of Women Who Work Too Much

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