A writing, hiking, mental health retreat

A few weeks ago I spent a week in the Pyrenees with a group of writers – what I thought would be a week of writing turned into a bit of a writing, hiking, mental health retreat.

I signed up just as I was sorting out my redundancy, back in February. And at the time, I knew that I wanted writing to be a part of what I did next and decided that a week in the French mountains would be just the ticket to kick-start my creative juices flowing.

mental health retreat
Our group of writers outside the incredible French farmhouse we stayed in

So why was this writing trip a mental health retreat?

What I didn’t expect was how much it would push me out of my comfort zone. And how OK with that I would be. In fact how much I would actually enjoy it.

I am not a massive believer in any of those trite quotes about ‘the only place you grow is outside of your comfort zone,’ or ‘nothing good ever happens inside your comfort zone.’ BOLLOCKS.

My comfort zone is a pretty nice place thanks and I enjoy it in here.

To be honest, since my breakdown, I’ve been pretty scared to step outside of what is comfortable and achievable. It all comes down to that crippling fear of failure I have. That constant reminder in my head that I am a failure.

So the idea of trying something I might not be able to do scares me. It would just be another confirmation that I am a failure.

But on this six day trip, I pushed myself physically and mentally and I left feeling calm, positive and proud of what I’d achieved.

The physical side: hiking

I’ve never been an outdoorsy gal. I love nature and find it really calming. I like walks, but I’ve NEVER been on a hike before.

I knew I needed to buy some hiking boots for the trip, but hadn’t really clocked how ‘hikey’ EVERY OTHER PERSON on the trip would be. Or how mountainous it was. There was snow on the top of the mountains, for god’s sake!

I was definitely going to be the one lagging behind.

One morning, we set out on something like a four hour hike. So far outside of my comfort zone that if I’d looked back I wouldn’t have been able to see it.

I was worried I’d fall over, that I’d be way behind and everyone would have to wait for me. That I’d go as red as my coat as I got sweatier and sweatier.

I did do pretty much all of those things. No fall though!

But I also loved it.

mental health retreat
Mid-hike. Never thought I'd use that word to caption a photo with me in it!

I climbed a bloody mountain for god’s sake! I drank from a mountain stream! It was ace.

And it did something for my mind. It opened it up. Opened it up to the idea that outside of my comfort zone there might be something interesting. Made me feel less resistant to trying to step out of my mythical comfort zone.

The writing part

I went to the retreat hoping to come back with a load of blog ideas that I could get writing. I got that, as well as a crash course in SEO, some great tips on speaking and a walk-through the process of writing and publishing a book.

I also came up with the seed of an idea for a book…more on that to come (at some point in the distant future!).

We had a creative writing session, which I didn’t expect to go to. As you might be able to tell if you’ve been around here before, my style is pretty straight forward. Not particularly creative.

I did go. And again, I surprised myself. Stepped outside of the comfy zone and wrote something.

I wrote this piece, which I published last week. Which I’ve had some incredibly kind and generous responses to (thank you all for that!).

It was a new style for me, one that made me feel quite vulnerable. Not because of the content, but because of the way I’d written it.

But people liked it! Another surprise.

Then and now

Since coming back from the retreat, I’ve written a lot. I’ve researched searchable keywords, started a schedule and published lots of content that I’m proud of. I hope some of it has been useful for you too.

I’ve been featured in a few publications too – including Happiful magazine, where I was talking about the importance of seemingly small, superficial things to my mental health. And the IOIC’s Voice magazine, where I was asked about stress and overwhelm at work – one of my Mastermind subjects!

I’ve felt calmer. More motivated to write.

I’ve been on a few walks. And I’m looking into a hiking weekend.

Who am I? Where is that comfort zone?

mental health retreat

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