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Holistic Benefits of a Retreat

by Kay Zega(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 170 - May 2010

As politicians and economists hail the green shoots of recovery from what has been termed the deepest post-war recession since the 1930s Great Depression,[1] individuals, organizations and indeed countries have felt the impact of a financial crisis that's taken its toll worldwide in ways that have undermined basic assumptions regarding the fabric of society. 

The fallout from the banking debacle, unprecedented debt and the collapse of organizations large and small has resulted in loss of livelihoods, severe financial hardship and extreme levels of anxiety and stress in all walks of life.[2] As such, stability and sense of 'who can we trust?' has been seriously undermined, with anxiety and stress levels soaring.

Many people simply haven't been able to cope, and sickness absenteeism levels have rocketed. The Health and Safety Executive March 2010 statistics[3] show that in 2008/09, the total reported days lost through work-related illness was 24.6 million.                  

In my work as a counsellor, multi-therapist and wellness/positive life change specialist and personal/spiritual development coach, I've become aware of increasing numbers of people seeking help – not only in respect of dealing with anxiety and stress overload but also regarding sense of identity. 

Men and women alike are struggling with impossible workloads that compromise professional pride and self confidence, and with anxiety and associated confusion which serious strain relationships.  They are desperate to make sense of the mayhem yet find real difficulty relaxing and de-stressing in familiar surroundings.

Whilst there is no one panacea for all, so often in my work I find that clients have not taken even a weekend off, let alone had what might be termed a relaxing holiday. Many of my clients who have anxiety issues tend always to put the needs of others first and have a guilt complex about taking time to relax or to put themselves first.  They see it as 'selfish' rather than self care.

The recession has led to a complete re-evaluation of values, beliefs and lifestyle for many people, with consideration of a less materialistic approach to that which exacerbated the credit crunch, and to embracing a more natural lifestyle

In this column, I explore one of the natural ways to switch off from all the craziness that is seriously compromising emotional, physical and mental health – i.e. by going on a Retreat.

But What Exactly is a Retreat?

Retreats offer the benefit of physical, emotional and psychological withdrawal from the stresses and strains of everyday life: a chance to escape from the toxic effects of noise, information overload, unrealistic demands and the frantic busy-ness of 21st century living; to enjoy a safe haven in which to start to recover from trauma and to heal on all levels.

On retreat, life is simple. Every aspect of each day allows you to relax in a quiet environment in beautiful surroundings, often with walks and some form of meditation/quiet contemplation enabling you to go into a deeper, often ignored, part of yourself. They provide space in which to regain a sense of self, of calm, of sanity.

Whilst, in the main, a Retreat involves going to a place that affords privacy, peace and quiet, a true retreat is less about an actual place than about the energy. A personal retreat might simply be via a natural communing with nature in a beautiful, peaceful setting. However, most people prefer an organized Retreat.

Retreats have existed for centuries, usually linked with spiritual and personal development.

These days, one sees the term retreat used in connection with various relaxing breaks. The type and form of Retreat varies from purely religious ones, Buddhist silent meditation ones, sacred space spiritual ones, artistic/creative ones . . . plus those offering training workshops, complementary therapies, counselling yoga, meditation, spiritual development, life coaching etc.

The Corporate world too has embraced the term, although 'Corporate Retreats' tend to combine away time from the workplace with creative problem solving and time to relax, enjoy massages etc.

The popularity of Retreats of all types increases year by year, as more and more of us feel the need to escape temporarily to a safe haven, to quieten our chattering minds so as to make sense of our lives and the many demands made of us.

Benefits of a Retreat

The benefits of treating yourself to a Retreat are many and varied, depending upon the type of retreat chosen. In the main, they include:
  • Wonderfully rewarding on many levels
    A Retreat can be a life-changing experience providing true 'me time' to reconnect with your authentic self, to remember what brings you joy, and to achieve the clarity to start creating the means to have it;
  • Refreshing, rejuvenating, re-energising and re-empowering
    So often we are at the limit of our endurance when we take a break (and for many a holiday with 'loved ones' is far from a relaxing experience).[4] A retreat can recharge batteries on many levels and bring new insights for positive life change;
  • Deep relaxation and peace
    of mind bringing physical, mental and emotional benefits and also disconnecting you from all the demands, pressures, etc back home that pull you in so many directions. It is impossible to put a price on the profound benefit of being helped to connect with inner stillness and to find solace. The solitude of a retreat can provide a pause in the constant, unremitting demands of daily life. Time to reflect, renew and restore. Relaxing the mind is the natural complement to relaxing the body and to dealing with 21st century stressors;[5]
  • A shift in perception with a healthier perspective
    After a Retreat people tend to return to their busy, demanding lives with enthusiasm and clarity, with a fresh and healthier perspective – in effect, a sense of a 'new, empowered me' which changes their relationships with others, with life and with the world;
  • Sacred space and spiritual connection
    When you experience the profound inner connection with the Divine within yourself, all of life makes much more sense, and is much more fun!
  • Aid to recovery from illness
    The holistic benefits of a Retreat, especially one that includes complementary therapies,
  • can be truly therapeutic;
  • Transferable skills
    Those who treat themselves to regular Retreats find that the holistic benefits they derive creep into their every day lives, aiding clearer perception and balanced perspective, helping keep stress overload at bay. They learn to factor in healthy relaxation without feeling guilty about taking time out for self.
A Retreat can be a wonderful experience, a booster and an accelerator. Much can be realized in a short time in shifting perception and re-establishing what really matters. However the benefits achieved will be lost unless you take action on your return in respect of self-care to avoid a return to overwhelm and stress overload.  

Decisions to improve holistic wellness – healthy balance between mind, body and spirit – (including whether or not to treat yourself to a Retreat), are influenced by how you value yourself. Thoughts, emotions and beliefs have a fundamental impact on our basic wellbeing, our immune system and our innate healing mechanisms.[6]


We are each unique, with individual preferences and needs. No one Retreat can possibly suit all. And indeed, a Retreat as a way of relaxing, de-stressing regaining equilibrium may not appeal to everyone. However, after reading this column, you may be drawn to experience the delights of a Retreat for yourself.
I wish you joy in doing so and all of the holistic benefits that can be derived.


1  Allen P and Mead N, "Recession Britain" The Guardian, 26.2.10,  
2  Smith I D, "Things fall apart: the silent but pernicious effects of recession – In times of financial downturn the cancer of debt spreads through society, ruining adults and children as it goes" The Times Online 9.10.08   
3  HSE Stress Statistics, March 2010,  
4 Turner L, How to Survive a Family Holiday, Positive Health Magazine,  Issue 169  April 2010.  
5  Zega K, Touching Stillness to Assuage Stress, Positive Health Magazine, issue 144  February  2008.  
6  Bloom W, Feeling Safe, Piatkus Books, 2002.


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About Kay Zega

Kay Zega MA DMS CertEd Adv Dip (Couns) MCS (Acc) MBACP is a registered Angelic Reiki teacher, accredited counsellor, registered holistic multi-therapist, wellness and positive life change specialist and lecturer. She has a gentle motivational approach and a track record helping others to achieve empowering positive life change. She offers a range of wellness boosting workshops for individuals and organizations and assists companies to integrate counselling and complementary therapies into their wellbeing programmes and occupational therapy provision. Kay practises and teaches a number of holistic therapies (including Angelic Reiki®), in the UK and abroad, offers Retreats in Worcester, Glastonbury, The Netherlands and South West France, and has her own private practice in Worcester. She can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)1905 26002;


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