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I went on an intense mental health retreat to overcome exhaustion - here’s what happened

Overwhelmed and unable to rest, HELLO!’s Bryony Gooch checked into a mental health wellness retreat

Bryony Gooch
US Writer
Updated: 12 hours ago
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I can’t remember the last time I didn't feel overwhelmed. Or the last time I had a lie-in and didn't feel guilty. I know I desperately need to rest, yet I can’t seem to let myself relax.

So when an invite to a mental health wellness retreat, hosted in rural Wales by the Chelsea Psychology Clinic dropped into my inbox, I knew I had to go. 

I’ve always been sceptical that wellness retreats would make a difference to my life. A weekend of pure yoga or meditation sounded like a rather flimsy plaster when faced with the rigmarole of a 9-5 job and the stresses of life, but that’s why this retreat appealed to me.

Dr. Elena Touroni, co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, agreed that most retreats tended to focus on one dimension of wellness, so she set about changing that, offering a stay that comprises a variety of modalities, with the programme bespoke to each individual attendee. 

Pilates instructors, motion release therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists, mindfulness experts, nutritionists and sleep doctors came together to provide a comprehensive, evidence-based response to your personal goals. 

And the bespoke, personalised aspect was essential. Ahead of the retreat I had an intense 90-minute session to ascertain what I needed to address, with the stay tailored to my needs - which turned out to be an overwhelming need to rest after four relentless years in which I graduated from university during a global pandemic, moved to London and started carving out my career.

My retreat experience

In some ways, the retreat was exactly what I expected. We'd get up at 7:15am and do pilates, complete group sessions together - such as motion release therapy, a mindful walk, and sound baths. 

It helped that the retreat took place in Charlotte Church's fairytale-like haven, The Dreaming, in the rolling hills of Rhayader. Not only were you enveloped in the greenery of rural Wales, with its moss-crested stream and waterfall among the trees, but there was no signal or Wi-Fi. Bliss.

The Dreaming, owned by Charlotte Church© PHILIPPA LANGLEY
The Dreaming, owned by Charlotte Church

Magical location aside, the experience sparkled in how deeply tailored it was to you. 

Between group sessions, I had one-on-one sessions to tackle my goals, and much of my experience focussed on how I had become emotionally exhausted.

INSPIRATION: 5 ways therapy can make you happier according to the experts 

In a one-on-one with a mindfulness expert, we reframed my discontent with my life to ask the question: How closely am I aligning with my values? Using a bullseye image split in four categories to assess my career, relationships, spiritual life and free time to mark where I am, and how to get closer to the centre circle and align fully with my values.

The peaceful set up for the sound baths© PHILIPPA LANGLEY
The peaceful set up for the sound baths

Perhaps you might have read this far and thought: "That sounds far too intense for me". You might not be able to imagine yourself adhering to a rigorous structure - but the schedule wasn't set in stone. Every day you would have a session with a psychologist assigned as your host to discuss whether you were getting everything you needed out of the retreat. 

Forcing me to rest

My host questioned whether - in the packed daily routine - I was getting enough rest. When I expressed guilt at not attending every session, she subbed out a nutrition session - discussing intuitive eating and the gut-brain axis - for two hours of enforced rest.

"Doctor's orders", she said ruefully.

RELATED: I was chronically busy – here's how I finally learned to rest

There was something radical about being forced not to be productive. In those two hours on my own, I napped and read my book. But I didn't realise how much I would learn about myself from simply taking a break. I had forgotten that the very act of rest could be restorative.

The stunning Welsh countryside of Rhayader© PHILIPPA LANGLEY
The Welsh countryside of Rhayader made the perfect backdrop for the retreat

This retreat might not be for you if you are essentially looking to do nothing for a weekend. But if you're like me - dissatisfied and looking for radical change, then the Chelsea Psychology Clinic's retreat just might help kick you into action.

The next Therapeutic Wellness Retreat will be taking place at the Six Senses Ibiza from the 7th - 12th October. Please register your interest with The Chelse Psychology Clinic here.

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