Our Motoring Editor Phillipa Sage is used to living life in the fast lane but has learnt the importance of self-care and slowing down to take time to reflect and recharge. Here she writes about her great Greek escape.
I’m sure most of us can agree that we find it hard putting ourselves first and instigating regular self-care. Prioritising yourself over your work, over the cat, the dog, your partner and of course, most commonly your children doesn’t come easily. However, fuelled by the lack of escapism due to Covid restrictions, and with my own self-care at the forefront of my mind, I went all out and booked an idyllic Greek Island Retreat facilitated by the wonderful founders of Health Wealth & Wellbeing, Sarah Ilaria Northe and Rebecca Louise Kelly.
Upon coming to write this I realised the seed for self-care and looking after me was first sown whilst training as a reflexologist over 20 years ago. The book, “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay was recommended to me and I distinctly recall reading (then cringing and feeling incredibly uncomfortable) about how to learn to love yourself by repeating self-love mantras in front of a mirror.
Back then I found it hard to even comprehend that type of exercise, let alone put it into action. It’s taken all these years to recognise my self-worth and I can now really celebrate myself and all that I’ve achieved. I have finally learnt to put myself first regularly, although I do have to remind myself quite regularly, whilst knee-deep in dirty laundry, cooking, childcare and work buzzing round in my head!
It is true to say that you have to work at this self-care malarkey and keep practising. After a tough couple of years we’ve all had, you’d be forgiven for letting that practice slip but it is through periods of adversity that it becomes even more important. I am so grateful to these women I call my Illustrious Leaders, Sarah and Rebecca, who created this retreat package. It is from their incredible wisdom and teachings that I have been guided to finally commit to the practice of self-love.
I first met Sarah and Rebecca after hitting rock bottom at the traumatic end of a long-term relationship. I reached out to them for various therapeutic therapies and transformational coaching. They helped cement the importance of self-care and valuing myself enough to put my needs first before giving too much energy and time away to others.
Whilst in lockdown Rebecca and Sarah, like so many of us, had to adapt their working practises and came up with the idea of running a retreat on the beautiful island of Lefkada in Greece. Rebecca has been holidaying on the island for over 17 years, making her extremely well qualified to find the perfect venue. She found one of the most idyllic spots I have ever experienced in the world, and that is coming from someone who has travelled extensively and stayed in world-class hotels on work trips. The Mimosa Retreat was the luxurious, soul-nurturing setting for five incredible days of blissful restoration.
However, my self-care and self-worth commitments were tested! At first, I was actually cross with them and considered it irresponsible to encourage overseas travel in the middle of a pandemic. I was also broke due to the preceding 18 months as a self-employed therapist, writer, event manager and single mum. However, owing to their teachings and the reality of, “If I don’t look after me, I cannot expect to parent, run a house and make some money to survive effectively”, my commitment held strong.
In this crazy life, your own survival is paramount. There is nothing more obvious to highlight this than the safety briefing on an aircraft – fit YOUR oxygen mask first before assisting anyone else. I knew I needed that oxygen more than ever as the father of my child had just returned to America and would not be back for over five months. This meant I would not have any break from my intensive parenting as a mother to Alfie, who has severe learning disabilities and doesn’t attend full-time school.
I dug deep into my self-belief, set my intention to make this break happen and trusted that the finances would come. After all, I’ve never missed a mortgage payment and there’s food on the table every day because I always find a way.
And wow, did it pay off. Just knowing that I had secured my place on this retreat and that my well-earned break was coming gave me a huge lift. I felt strong enough to take on a work event that would effectively pay for my trip. I became more organised as I had focus and a goal. I became a happier, more effective mum and I coped with all the ridiculous hoops I had to jump through to travel safely in a world of Covid.
And all that was before I’d packed my bag. Sarah’s and Rebecca’s magic was already working! Myself and all the other retreaters were guided and supported through all the Covid rules and how and where to book flights. We also had a one-to-one pre-departure Zoom session with Rebecca or Sarah to discuss what we needed most from our time on the retreat, what our expectations were and to set our intentions for the trip.
For the first time ever, I mindfully packed my bag considering the planet and the numerous occasions I’d overpacked! I managed to fit all I needed into one cabin bag and a handbag. This also made my life easier – fewer decisions on what to wear and less hassle at the airport. However, as I packed, I suddenly panicked and thought what am I doing spending a fortune on being confined with Nine Perfect Strangers?
Cut to being welcomed by Rebecca and Sarah at the stunning Mimosa Retreat, set in the hills above the coast of Nidri, Lefkada and with the most beautiful ever-changing views of the Ionian Sea and surrounding islands. I was led to an idyllic wooden deck, where I was served a fresh fruit cocktail overlooking the infinity pool and the incredible view beyond. The smiles of the eclectic group of marvellous human beings, all seeking peace and restoration, were broad and the feelings of relief palpable.
Those perfect strangers became my soul sisters and brother (there was one brave and delightful man), my partners in crime pouring large G and T’s (drinking was not encouraged but not banned), my dancing queens, my belly laughing mates and my shoulders to cry on. This was the best money I’d ever spent. Without exception all of us experienced breakthrough transformation, shedding old grief, trauma and unhelpful behaviours.
We did this whilst being nurtured in our own or shared beautiful Balinese style villas, set amongst carefully planned and laid out gardens of fruit and olive trees, scented with lavender, rosemary, thyme and sage. The meticulously cared-for gardens were intertwined with intriguing paths leading to hidden meditation areas. A stunning yoga Shala was nestled in amongst Mediterranean shrubs and beautiful bougainvillaea. Whilst looking out to sea we were able to stretch our bodies with the heat of the sun on our backs or lie in the dappled shade of the surrounding trees.
We were nourished with locally sourced fresh food prepared by two talented chefs, who created a colourful array of delicious healthy delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sarah and Rebecca had created an optional schedule including mindful movement which involved the gentle stretching and opening of the body. Meditation and breathwork were also incorporated. To further deepen our healing we each had a one-to-one Body Wisdom Transformation session. This involved a combination of touch therapy (such as massage, reiki or reflexology) with coaching and Rebecca and Sarah’s unique and pioneering techniques.
My Body Wisdom session with Rebecca was incredible. The treatment was tailored to my specific needs and desired outcomes. The result was a life-long emotional and physical problem released and treated like never before. I made yet another huge leap towards true personal contentment and was relieved of the physical pain I had arrived with.
Alongside these experiences, we could also access further holistic treatments from local therapists, who took us to the deepest of relaxed states.
Rebecca’s and Sarah’s compassion, wisdom and ability to gauge our needs was unparalleled. They knew exactly when to allow the tears to flow, to support and nurture, to give space and when to turn the music up and dance! There was laughter and celebration running alongside powerful and silent moments of meditation or outpourings of grief and emotion. The end result was bliss and progress towards a more stress-free, happy, fulfilled existence.
I returned home from Greece feeling empowered, rejuvenated and ready to face the challenges of life with more energy and ease. I gained friendships that I never expected and didn’t know I needed. And I can confirm there is no better investment than the one you make in YOU!
Sarah’s and Rebecca’s therapy equip you with tools for life and their transformational work keeps on giving. Please don’t wait 20 years to try it!
For more information on their forthcoming retreats and range of therapies visit their website here.