Wednesday, December 6, 2023

What a Wellness Retreat Taught Me About Surviving Change

Like the majority of us, Vanessa Marshall’s had a rollercoaster of a 2020 – but lucky for her, a wellness retreat came along at just the right moment to help her cope with Covid’s new normal

Remember working?

Getting stuck in traffic and the relentless grind of the 9-5 (make that the 8-8). Remember deadlines? Remember work outfits, choosing heels over trainers, dealing with a toxic colleague and how about all those demanding clients? Remember a time when you are so stressed you need to book a week away at a health and wellness clinic to reconnect with yourself? Every day, or at least some days, I lie on the floor on my yoga mat and I remember.  

Because getting onto the mat is a promise I make to myself during an early morning yoga session at Resolution Retreats in Cambridge. It’s back before lock-down and  day two of my week-long renewal package where I join women from all around the country who much like me have left their cell phones, their hang-ups and their worries inside identical luxurious cottages that dot a tree-lined path to wellness.

There is an actual path and we walk this several times a day from the dining area to the spa to the retreat room. We are cocooned from the outside world, and still blissfully unaware of the pandemic that will hit only a few weeks later. During a vinyasa flow moving meditation I vow to follow Resolution Retreat’s founder Joelene Ranby’s advice to practise “progress over perfection” not knowing how much I will rely on these words in the weeks that come.

Generally I find these cheery feel-good mantras go in one ear and out the other but Jolene is so down-to-earth and honest, sharing her own shaky journey from being a junk-food junkie to a health motivator and business owner, that  I feel a light bulb switch on in my head. 

For a bit of context, as a lifestyle journalist I’ve done a lot of dubious activities in the name of wellness. If it’s faddy, chances are I’ve tried it. Everything from being led blindfold around in the woods by a stranger, to drinking snake whiskey for vitality. I’ve done juice-fasts and ‘Royal-approved’ diets. Once I took ‘health’ pills that promised energy but really just bought out an itchy red rash and I wore a wig for a day to see if it improved my self-esteem (it didn’t.)

Everyone at Resolution Retreats gets a one-on-one chat with a wellness coach and during mine we figure out that I already know how to reach all my health goals but time and conflicting advice has made me doubt myself. I leave my session determined to return to my intuition and as Joelene advises, to “rig myself to win”.

This involves planning – my meals, my exercise and my non-negotiable time for self-care – something I will learn to rely on once Covid hits and I lose my job in the first wave of redundancies.  The daily workouts with Alison Storey of will come in handy once gyms start to close as will the cooking classes, especially the recipes we all receive on completion of the retreat. Of course none of us know this yet. We’re safe in our leisure wear and fluffy robes floating through our days from massage to pool session, riding a great wave of communal exhale. 

One place we don’t go to is to our cars. In fact a jaunt to the supermarket to analyse food labels is one of the only trips outside. A prediction of what is to come? Could these wellness wizards be onto something and more than a little bit psychic?

On it’s website, Resolution Retreats offers all-inclusive 3,4,7,10,14,or 21 day programmes run by women, for women, of all ages and sizes. They offer “real solutions for real people with real challenges who live in the real world.” That’s a big promise but one thing I do know is that no matter how real or unreal the world feels right now, the lessons I learn on my retreat set me up to cope with the changes ahead and are invaluable for both the highs and the lows. On days when I feel more than a bit hopeless, I still roll out my mat. Sometimes it just sits there and sometimes it, and me, get a damn good workout. I remember to write in my journal. I write the self-pitying drivel and I write out my ridiculous over-achieving dreamscapes.

I know that whether I have too much time on my hands due to redundancy or not enough from  the demands of a high-pressure job, what I need to remember is always within reach. It’s not a fad diet or a sleep hack or a new gadget to improve my feet/face/butt (although this sounds kinda fun). I just need to remember me. And thanks to Resolution Retreats and a pandemic I hope I never forget her again. 

Vanessa travelled courtesy of Resolution Retreats. Her opinion is entirely her own.

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