In October 2021, I co-facilitated a writing for self-care retreat with my colleague and friend, Jane Willis. Together with a small group of arts, health and wellbeing practitioners we gathered in a beautiful farmhouse in a secluded valley to rest, reflect and restore ourselves through writing and connection with each other and with the beautiful natural environment of Wales.
It’s taken me some time to find the time to reflect back on it and what it felt like to be part of such an amazing experience. As I type this blog post now, I am conscious of how particularly important it felt to me given the tumult of the times the world is going through. It was the first piece of work I have done in person since March 2020. That was personally quite a sobering reflection for me when I was on the retreat – to realise how long it had been since I had an in person connection with the people I work with. I love working online, it’s been incredible discovering how well it works and how it can make the support I can offer accessible to people who might not have been able to access counselling or my writing groups in person. But I have missed the physical presence of people in my counselling and writing room. The writing for wellbeing retreat was a welcome return to that physical presence.
The retreat was aimed at people working in the arts and health sector and carefully curated to provide a safe space in which they could explore how work and caring roles impact on wellbeing, how boundaries and values play into this and how we might care for ourselves in a meaningful way when we are at our busiest or most depleted. Although I was one of the facilitators, there were elements of the retreat that gave me too the opportunity to reflect and restore as I too looked back on what this last two years have been like. Being in the quiet of the countryside was balm to my soul as I wrote in my journal most mornings and evenings. It was a valuable reminder of how these two things, nature and writing, are essential to my own self-care. One of our participants wrote:
“Thank you so much for an oasis of calm, for carving out time to reflect and restore in such a beautiful environment. For holding a safe space.”
I think it was the same kind of space for me, an oasis of calm outside my everyday life where I took time to tend to myself as well as our participants. The rural valley itself felt like a welcoming, safe and containing space. I took so many pictures of the sky through the windows, trying to capture that sense of connection to the world and the safety of being held within the farmhouse where we wrote and worked together.
We plan to run more creative self-care retreats in 2022 and I really can’t wait to do it all again. And if you’d like to pre-register your interest in taking part in future retreats or workshops, please get in touch with me on email@example.com