Welcome to Rest Lessons, Strong Women’s new weekly series that asks women about the moment their relationship with rest and recovery changed for ever. 

Olimata Taal, aka @wellwitholi, is a qualified PT and registered nutritionist who blogs on all things mental health and eating disorder recovery. Her Instagram page is full of gentle tips on body acceptance and restriction-free priorities. Here’s what she’s learned about rest in recent years.

Hi Oli! What’s the one lesson you’ve learned about rest?

It’s essential. My work and those around me need me at my best, and I can’t be my best if I don’t also rest. 

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Preach. So, what does ‘rest’ mean to you right now?

Right now, rest looks like letting moments of joy pour in. It’s having emotional rest from the world and its stresses, and from my mind. This could be anything from having a pancake night with my best friends to getting involved with my amazing running club, LDN SLCT, on the weekends. 

Allowing people in to help foster spaces of joy feels like true rest. 

Has there been a point in your life when rest had to become a priority?

After a recent breakup, the loss of my grandpa and moving house, my body went into full overdrive and for the first time, I experienced true burnout. I was in physical agony from the stress of carrying too much and not pouring as much into my own cup. From that moment on, I promised myself that would change.

That sounds like a lot to deal with all at once. How did your relationship with rest and recovery change in that moment?

I knew that I had to be gentle and preserve my body. We’re all strong and powerful – and we can achieve so much… I actually think we’re really delicate. We need nurturing.

Now, things like rest days, getting enough sleep and switching off are non-negotiable. I factor that time in rather than hope it just comes one day. 

So, taking that time out must have had some benefits – right?

Well, I feel a lot more present now. I think a lot more clearly and I’m finding that, when it comes to the things that would have previously stressed me out, I’m able to process from a more balanced outlook. Actually, that’s probably the more accurate word: I feel more balanced now.

What do you think women tend to get wrong about rest?

This idea that if we need to take a break, it’s because we’re not strong, successful or powerful enough to power through. And I understand why so many women think that: between capitalism and the patriarchy, we have our hands tied. 

I’ve managed to reframe my understanding of rest to now see it as a  bold, radical act of self-care. 

You’re so right – it is a radical act. And finally, how do you prioritise rest day-to-day?

A recent thing has been setting the small goal of being asleep before midnight. I used to be terrible at working until the early hours of the morning; setting midnight as the benchmark is challenging without being too strict. It feels more achievable. 

I also take every opportunity I can to wake up slowly and make sure I’m eating enough throughout the day.

Images: Getty; Olimata Taal

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