Anyone else feel like you’re limping over the finish line of 2022?
I realised back in early November that I was already running on empty. I was completely burnt out and in desperate need of a total reset. So I took myself off to a health retreat in Koh Samui for a week to focus entirely on my health and wellbeing.
No work. No emails. No cooking or cleaning. Just daily yoga and meditation, all kinds of fabulous therapeutic treatments and nothing but nutritious delicious (Thai) food.
So, for what it’s worth, here’s how I did it, what I learned and some of the healthy resolutions I’ll be taking with me into the new year…
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Don’t be afraid of change
I had a lightbulb moment during a meditation class with a Buddhist monk, when he reminded us change is inevitable, in all areas of life. It’s happening all around us, all the time: the weather, the seasons, our bodies, beliefs, friendships.
It’s easy to freak out when things shift, but the sooner you accept change is a necessary and inevitable part of life, the happier you’ll be.
Think twice about that morning coffee
The first thing I think about when I wake up is coffee. Specifically, when and where to get my fix. After a decade of working in breakfast radio and TV, I’d convinced myself I needed that caffeine hit to function.
“Self care is not a luxury. It’s not selfish to prioritise your own wellbeing.”
But on day one of the retreat, my Wellness Consultant gently explained all the reasons why coffee should not be the first thing I put into my body each day (eg. the acidity of coffee on an empty stomach plays havoc with my hormone levels; it messes with my cortisol levels, which is what’s making me feel tired, later).
She suggested a healthier way to start the day is freshly-squeezed lime in warm water, which stimulates the gastrointestinal tract and improves digestion.
I can’t imagine a day when I’ll ever give up coffee completely, but I’ll definitely be trying the lime water first in 2023.
The booze break
I didn’t have an alcoholic drink for seven whole days – and I survived!
I feared this would be the biggest challenge of the retreat, to be honest. I’m quite partial to my daily G&T ritual and I probably enjoy a few too many wines most weekends. But the benefits of taking regular breaks from alcohol sure are worth it.
Experts say it leads to better sleep, clearer skin, weight loss. After only one week off the booze, I already feel clearer and lighter, so I’m absolutely committed to more alcohol-free days next year.
The first step is the hardest. Over the last few years, I went from being reasonably fit and active to becoming an unmotivated couch potato. Peri-menopause also hit me like a sledgehammer and those hormonal love handles suddenly appeared around my waist.
Throw in a few lazy lockdowns and two bouts of COVID and I ended up in the worst shape of my life. I really hoped this wellness sabbatical would reignite my fitness mojo.
I was terrified of walking into that first gym class at the retreat, but I forced myself do it, and I’m so glad I did. That first step was definitely the hardest, but it was the kick start I desperately needed to recharge my exercise regime.
Yoga really is amazeballs
The daily yoga also reminded me just how good all that deep breathing and stretching makes me feel. It increases blood flow, builds strength, improves flexibility, sharpens concentration and calms the mind.
After my first class back, I wondered why on earth I ever stopped doing it. And yes, you better believe I’ll be doing alllllll of the downward dogs in 2023.
‘As long as you resist, it stays present’
Grief hit me pretty hard this year after a few painful losses, and I couldn’t seem to find a way to heal. I desperately wanted the tears to stop, and to just feel ‘normal’ again, so I met with the retreat’s resident Spiritual Healer, who gave me this advice: ‘As long as you resist, it stays present’.
“Pressing pause on the madness of daily life for even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference.”
The theory is, if you consciously resist something, you’re actually giving it more energy and more power over you. So instead of fighting it, he encouraged me to ‘sit in my grief’ and let the tears flow, for as long as it takes.
He said the pain of a significant loss often stays with you, in some form, forever, but you do eventually find a ‘new’ normal. So I’ve stopped resisting. And invested in the best waterproof mascara money can buy.
You can meet some wonderful people if you have the courage to say hello
I met some amazing people from all over the world at this retreat, simply because one of us had the courage to strike up a conversation over the breakfast buffet.
Everyone was on their own individual health journey, but one thing we all had in common was our commitment to self-care. It made for some fascinating dinner conversations and now I’ve made a bunch of fabulous new friends. I now also have personal tour guides in London, Vienna and Zurich.
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Self care is not a luxury. It’s not selfish to prioritise your own wellbeing. Pressing pause on the madness of daily life for even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference.
Meditate, take a bath, walk on the beach – whatever brings you that moment of peace.
Don’t do a breathing class when you’re bloated
I did one last Qi Gong class on the final morning. It felt like the perfect way to end to my seven days of zen, until the instructor came over to check my technique, put her hand on my expanding belly as I was breathing in, and asked me loudly enough for the whole class to hear, “Are you pregnant”?
I was mortified. Especially considering I’d just spent an entire week trying to lose that menopausal muffin top. I was also quietly amused she thought I was still of child-bearing age. Everything else at the retreat must have worked, because she obviously thought I looked a decade younger than I did when I arrived.
After assuring the instructor I was not with child, I joined my new friends at breakfast, relayed the story and we all howled with laughter.
So I guess the final lesson from my week of wellness was this: Never underestimate the healing power of a good belly laugh with new friends.
You can follow Sami Lukis on Instagram at @samilukis
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