A relaxed woman does not exist.

As a work from home mum, I don't travel often. Let's be honest, I rarely escape the house without a child (or five) in tow. But last week, I flew to Melbourne - for an entire week - to record the audio version of my book

The process was quicker than expected, and my automatic response was to book an earlier flight home. I mean, how are they surviving without me? But with everyone heading north for the school holidays, all flights were booked, leaving me with an entire day to do… whatever I wanted. 

It was an odd sensation indeed. I went to the art gallery; I stumbled across the ACMI screen culture museum and spontaneously purchased a ticket for an exhibition. I stopped by the cathedral. I sat in a cafe, devouring an entire plate of salt and pepper calamari, on my own, without interruption. And, more importantly, without the guilt of believing I should have been doing something else, for someone else. Because, well, I couldn't. 

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Video via Mamamia.

I noticed I was walking slowly, strolling in fact, instead of purposefully striding, as I normally would. Then, I realised, I was smiling as I strolled. Smiling, as I noted my surroundings. The architecture, the people, the sounds. When I returned to the hotel, I poured a bath. I played music. I relaxed


As I exited the bath, lobster red, wrapped myself in a towel and plonked on the couch, it hit me. 

I genuinely couldn't remember the last time I truly felt relaxed. Or, in fact, the last time I even tried to relax. Heck, I can't get through half an hour of exercise without feeling like I should be doing 20 other 'more important' things, and usually stop mid-way to do something for someone. 

Days later, (because the internet is always listening to our thoughts), I stumbled across this Instagram post by Nicola Jane Hobbs. 

Growing up, I never knew a relaxed woman. Successful women? Yes. Productive women? Plenty. Anxious and afraid and apologetic women? Heaps of them. But relaxed women? At ease women? Women who aren't afraid to take up space in the world? Women who prioritise rest and pleasure and play? Women who give themselves unconditional permission to relax - without guilt, without apology, without feeling like they need to earn it? I'm not sure I've ever met a woman like that. But I would like to become one. I would like us all to become one.


These words spoke to me. Maybe it's not just me? Maybe other women fill each second of their day with 'productive' tasks, pulled in every direction, while still feeling guilty about what they should be doing.

"With more attention than ever placed on a woman's value being based on her ability to juggle both professional and social environments, 'having it all', it seems to have come at a cost where what we are not having enough of, is rest," says mental health expert, Tracey Horton. 

"The average woman today still seems to pride herself in being able to give and do it all, often forfeiting rest and relaxation or using the pseudo belief that if she's not at 'work' then she is relaxing."


Generations of un-selfish women. 

Who doesn't want to be like their mum? Especially if we love and admire them, which most of us do. And even if we don't, many of us still follow their footsteps, eventually. 

"Many women watched their own mothers take care of others via working in the home, caring for children, without hobbies, interests or time for themselves. This legacy has been passed on to current generations of women," says Clinical psychologist Phoebe Rogers. 

"And then women battle their own guilt and shame if they consider prioritising themselves, saying 'no', and having boundaries. Others have called us selfish for daring to prioritise ourselves."

Making matters worse, says Phoebe, is that many women don't know how to relax, because they've never really tried. 

"Also, if a woman is partnered up with someone who works long hours, she may feel trapped and that she can't ask for help because her partner is stressed or busy. It's a vicious cycle of not reaching out for help, or not knowing how to."

Why rest and relaxation matters. 

Remember that old adage, fit your own oxygen mask first? It's a cliche, for sure, but cliches are steeped in truth, and this one applies to all aspects of life. Relaxation included. 

"Relaxation creates the release of stress held in our muscles, to not release this causes our bodies to become exhausted and our immune system then gets weak allowing sickness in," says Tracey. 


"We sleep better, we think better, we make better choices which all together lead us to being mentally strong. We can be great in our personal relationships and able to contribute well in the workplace."

Let's not forget though, as women, we matter too. You're allowed to relax. 

"I think one of the greatest benefits of relaxing is you don't resent everyone else and you are actually a more rounded, happy woman, and women like that change the world."

How to get started.

"Ask yourself each month this simple question: Did I look after myself as much as I looked after everyone else last month?" Tracey says. 

If the answer is no, ask yourself why.

"If you do not love yourself well enough, then no one else will love you any better - people always take their lead from us on how to treat us."

And if that fails, ask yourself this: do I wish a life without rest or relaxation for my daughter/niece/friend? If the answer is no, don't accept it for yourself.

If you're finding proper relaxation difficult, try these tips:

  1. Remind yourself that needs matter, you're equally deserving of rest as anyone else;

  2. Challenge your guilt about relaxing;

  3. Note what it costs you, and those around you, to not relax; you are resentful, unhappy, exhausted, and can't bring your best to others;

  4. Start small: sit for quiet periods and rest, and see how that feels.

  5. Write a list of things that you did when you were younger that brought you joy, fun, and pleasure, and start there;

  6. Think of your ideal day of relaxation: visualise where you would be, what you would be doing, would you be alone or with others?

  7. Remember, you don't need permission to relax; it's your human right. You do need support though, so ask for it. 

  8. Schedule it in, and stick to your commitment to relaxation;

  9. Learn to say 'no' when other things come up; they always will; if you have an appointment booked with yourself to relax, keep it.

Feature Image: NBC.

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