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  • Writer's pictureRachel Airs

Chrysalis Retreats Newsletter May 2022

Hello from Caroline and Rachel at ChrysalisRetreats! This month, we promote walking for well-being, share how we manage stress, and offer some ideas for you based on how we work here, at Chrysalis Retreats.

We have a friendly walking challenge for you, as well as an opportunity to join us on our short virtual walks.

We hope you like our ideas on managing stress too - it's all about finding what works for you, so try a few experiences and add to your repertoire of ways to keep yourself calm and in a state of ease.


Walking for Wellbeing - The Chrysalis Retreats Way!

May is National Walking Month in the UK

We love walking and it’s an integral part of our retreat activities. Immersing yourself in nature and walking mindfully using all five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste has many health benefits. Although it is great to be in a place of natural beauty, mindful walking can be performed anywhere, so long as the walker remains present. If the walk is mindful, a busy thoroughfare is equal to an idyllic woodland setting. During mindful walking, our journey is less about the destination and, while avoiding ‘distracted autopilot,’ more about bringing awareness to this everyday activity. The good thing is that walking is available to most of us, wherever we live, and even 30 minutes a day is extremely beneficial and even life-changing. It makes us happier and calmer, less stressed as well as the physical benefits for our bodies - what’s not to love? Can you make this May your walk for wellbeing month?

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than (s)he thinks..” - John Muir


How we build walking into our lives and what we get out of it


I have always enjoyed walking and fondly remember family strolls around the village that I grew up in, collecting weeds and grasses to take back home for our guinea pigs to nibble on. As a teenager, I moved to a seaside town and started working in local hospitality jobs whilst at school and college. I would walk through the town at different times of the day for my shifts, always fascinated by what was happening around me whether that was tourists in the midday sun or birds and rabbits on the seafront at dawn. I would often meander home along the beach collecting shells and pebbles and unlike my friends, I had no interest in learning to drive as this was my happy place.

I spent my 30th birthday at the top of Kilimanjaro after a 10-day trek and this was a key moment in my life as a walker. The experience was life-changing in many ways and put me through my paces physically. When I returned home I remember noticing the ways in which I had become less active over the years, for example by always trying to park nearest to the door at the supermarket or taking a taxi to a meeting across town. I vowed to change these habits and began building more walking back into my daily life. Now I walk most mornings, even if just around the block as it helps me to wake up and think about the day ahead, I feel it sets the tone for my day.

On returning from Kilimanjaro I joined a women's walking group that meets each month to walk in the Peak District. This has been a source of great friendship and has kept me connected to my love of challenging walks and getting to places up high. There is nothing like being up high away from the every day to help with perspective and clarity. I feel a sense of freedom and connectedness to the earth that is unrivalled at ground level.

I have always loved walking in nature and spending time in my local parks and when I

became self-employed I made it part of my morning routine to get out first thing and do a lap

at least. I find that walking in the morning helps me to organise my thoughts and the day

ahead by helping me to gain clarity on what is most important, often choosing my ‘big 3’ for

the day. It motivates and energises me for the day ahead as the morning is so full of


During lockdown, walking was a way of staying connected with the outside world and friends

and family, whether walking at a distance in person or over a video call it was a great comfort

and joy.


I am not a fitness fanatic, I never liked sports at school, and shy away from competition. I started walking in my first grown-up job working with troubled teenagers and we used to take them away to the peak district for outdoor adventure. Always out of season, it was wet and cold, but I learned to love walking there despite all of this, bought my first walking boots and bright yellow cagoule and was hooked! Fast forward many years, and I have found walking has become a staple of my life, and I can’t imagine not getting out several times a week. A daily constitutional became a blessing during lockdown, and it was wonderful to discover walks on my doorstep instead of driving out somewhere, and it’s a habit I continue as much as possible.

I am a member of a local walking group and every Tuesday morning we walk 5-6 miles. It’s great to have companionship on these walks, and it’s an opportunity to meet new people.

I also enjoy long-distance walking over several days - I have done quite a number over the years with the same group of friends, and this month I am very excited we are doing our first one for three years - Hadrian’s Wall. It is 84 miles over 6 days. I love the challenge of walking from one place to another, not knowing what the day’s walk will bring or what it will be like at the end of the day. It’s a great feeling to arrive at the B&B tired and hungry - get a reviving shower, a good meal and chat, and then to bed for an early start the next day. The sense of a journey is very powerful, we do some great thinking and talking, and have been known to create a shared walk poem by recalling a word that expresses the day for each of us at the end of the day, and putting it together at the end! I recently attended a wonderful Masterclass on Coaching Outdoors with another fabulous coach Claire Bradshaw. It was a great opportunity to think about how I can combine my love of walking and nature with coaching. Claire asked us to bring a picture of somewhere we enjoyed being outside and what inspired us about it. This is my picture:

From the trig point at the top of Middleham Low Moor in Wensleydale - I go here a lot in the warmer months. There is a great sense of space when I get to the top, I feel free and love the wide-open views. Often I hear the skylarks and curlew, and the gorse is nearly always in flower. There are many paths to take from here, so it feels like a new journey every time.

Do you have a favourite place that inspires you? Do share where and what you love about it.


Chrysalis Retreats Walking Challenge for May!

Here at Chrysalis Retreats we really believe in the power of walking and being in nature to relieve stress and restore a sense of wellbeing. We are setting a friendly challenge for you to get out for a short 30-minute walk 3 times a week in May. We will be posting encouraging ideas and motivations to keep you going all through the month, and we would love to hear how you get on with this. We are also hosting some short virtual mini-retreat walks again, so you can join us on these too for inspiration and encouragement - we would love to meet you on these.

To kickstart our challenge we are offering a free virtual mindful walk next Wednesday 4th May at 11.00-11.30 - come and join us! - sign up here: After this we are doing them on Mondays at the same time, 11.00-11.30, so make a note of these in your diary and use the same booking link as above.

9th May

16th May

23rd May To really help you commit to this, we have created a walking calendar with some great ideas to keep you walking. You can download this here

Here is a beautiful mantra to take with you on any walk:

“Breathing in, I know Mother Earth is in me.

Breathing out, I know Mother Earth is in me.”

Thich Nhat Hanh


Managing Stress

As we are coming out of Stress Awareness month in April we know that stress doesn’t appear just for one month, and we need to develop our resilience to managing stress all the time. Here we share a bit about how we notice and manage our stress.

Rachel talked about managing stress in her recent blog and what follows is an excerpt from this: Time to Talk - the power of conversation Stress can affect us all in different ways and one of the first things I notice in myself and in those around me is that during times of stress my ability to effectively communicate takes a nosedive or does a disappearing act altogether.

Talking to others at times of stress helps me to gain perspective and often just hearing myself out loud can help me to better understand what I’m truly experiencing. Even thinking or preparing what I might say to a trusted friend or colleague can give me the space and time to explore my thoughts and feelings in more depth.

As talking and listening go hand in hand, finding the right person or people to talk to is often the first step. I am fortunate to have a number of trusted friends and colleagues and they all have a few things in common; they genuinely care about me and what is happening for me; they are excellent listeners; they encourage my thinking by giving me the space to talk out loud and they ask me questions that further stimulate my thinking. Priceless. When I’m stressed the way I talk to myself and others can change so I try to pay attention to this. Positive self-talk isn’t about being overly optimistic or unrealistic, it's about noticing the language we're using and reframing it so that it is more useful to us. For example, “I can’t do this, it’s too hard” could be replaced with “this is new to me, it's uncomfortable and challenging me to think differently”. This is more likely to open up opportunities for further self-coaching such as “How can I help myself to navigate this challenge? Who do I know that could help me with this?” When we reframe our language we can more easily play to our strengths and alter the weight of our challenges, helping ourselves to move forward. There are many ways to observe and notice your self-talk patterns. Here are a couple of my favourites;

Journalling - I have been journaling for a few years now and find it to be a really helpful way of noticing if my self-talk is off balance and leaning towards negativity. Morning streams of consciousness work best for me as my thoughts haven't yet been edited meaning I get my freshest purest thinking first thing.

Voice recording - When writing feels like a chore I like to take myself out for a walk to reconnect with the outdoors and it always broadens my perspectives. When I have a lot on my mind I like to record my thoughts on my phone as hearing myself out loud often brings me greater clarity or further questions that move me forward. I very rarely listen back to the notes as the value is in the moment, in the talking out loud. Just like journaling, this helps me to capture unedited versions of myself so that I can see where my thoughts are focused.

How have you talked to yourself recently and what impact has that had on your life? How do you notice and alter your self-talk patterns?

Caroline has this perspective on stress:

Actually, some stress is good – do you ever feel motivated by a goal or deadline? Or your work inherently generates issues and problems? I’m thinking back to working in ‘people’ services where every day is different, and always requires the resolution of issues there and then. This pressure can enhance clarity of thought, enable decisive action and challenge us in a good way. It is exciting and can lead to creative new approaches. The risk is that too much stress tips into distress and all the negative impacts that go with this. I admit there have been times in my life when I have been teetering between healthy and productive stress and distress. Even outwardly calm people feel stress!

Now, I am a bit wiser and have learned to be proactive to minimise unhealthy stress and have approaches to respond to stress when it does pop up. I know I am getting stressed when I am aware of persistent ruminating thoughts and worries. Or when I feel uptight in myself, my heart rate increases, my stomach feels tight, and sometimes I get very tired as a response to stress – maybe part of my flight response? The things I like to do to keep on the healthy side include:

Meditation – just a short time each morning clears my mind and sets me up for the day with positivity

Yoga – again a short time on my mat with the TV, and now I have found a lovely in-person class I go to every week with my daughter

Getting enough sleep – this is my current focus. As a natural early riser, I am trying to get to bed a bit earlier. It does make a difference, though I don’t manage this every night.

Regular walking and being outside - my garden calls me at the moment, and I find even a short walk is calming and refreshing.

Progress not perfection is my mantra with this and helps keep me motivated.


Resources to help promote calm and relaxation

Focus for short meditation – Go back to you

Find a comfortable position, somewhere you won’t be disturbed for a while. Close your eyes. If you feel your thoughts drifting because of too much noise or too much to do, gradually shift attention to yourself, away from your thoughts and things around you. Feel all your attention shifting to you. You can use a part of the body in which you feel safe and calm as your centre of attention, such as your heart space, or being aware of your natural breathing rhythm. The things outside of you lose their meaning. Stay this way for 5-10 minutes. Notice how you feel when you get up and start moving again.


Music and scent

At our retreats, we like to create an environment that is calm and welcoming and one of the ways we do this is by activating our sense of smell. Essential oils have been used for centuries for healing both physical and mental ailments. Among their reported benefits are improving memory and attention, creating a calming effect, preventing inflammation and illness, and more. Diffusers are a great way to use oils and we try to source organic incense and oils where possible.

Some of our favourites are; Lavender - The scent of lavender is associated with feeling calm, and for good reason. It can lower your blood pressure, calm your nervous system, and even improve your mood.

Ylang-ylang promotes calmness and reduces stress, making it a good option for unwinding and de-stressing at the end of a long day. Inhaling ylang-ylang can actually slow your breathing and your heart rate, helping you to regulate and relax. Sandalwood has many healing benefits and can help you to fall asleep more easily, and relieve anxiety. It can help to promote openness and compassion and enhance the benefits of meditation. Sandalwood is often used in combination with bergamot or lavender incense to help relieve stress.

Which scents help you to feel relaxed?

Recall your day in smells. What scent did you rise to? What ended your day? Don’t leave anything out..

In addition to scent, music is a key part of creating a calm and relaxing environment and we have some firm favourites that help us relax not only on retreat but at home too.

During the first lockdown His Holiness The Dalai Lama released a new album to coincide with his 85th birthday. The album mixes mantras, chants and Buddhist prayers with newly composed music. There is also an instrumental version and Rachel regularly listens to both in the evening before going to bed. Another favourite is Pellucidity by Yaima.

What are your favourite albums or pieces of music you like to relax to? Please share any recommendations below, we’d love to hear them.


Some questions for journaling on stress management

How do you know when you are getting stressed? Think about how this feels in your body, and your feelings as well as your thoughts.

What do you know works for you to reduce feelings of stress?

What gets in the way of you using what works?

What is one thing you could do to relieve stress next time it shows up?

What could you do to minimise tipping into unhealthy stress?


An invitation...Join us on our next retreat

Our next retreat in the beautiful Eden Valley in Cumbria is for the Spring Equinox next March 2023 - We know that seems a long way off so here are some good reasons to book your place NOW!

  1. You are making a conscious decision to care for yourself

  2. You have a wonderful experience to look forward to - just for you

  3. You will get to be with a small group of like-minded women - our maximum group size is 10

  4. We have a great early bird booking offer! (Discount and payment plan)

Find out more on our website

Here at Chrysalis Retreats, our vision is to support women to take a pause and reflect at key moments in our lives and clarify what’s important as we move forward. We recognize that women face specific challenges in life and in work that show up in times of transition or uncertainty, and we are here to guide and support women on their personal journey. Our retreats are designed to allow spacious time for reflection, learning from each other and experiencing the joy of being in nature.

If you enjoyed reading this newsletter, please share with others and spread the word. We are all about women supporting women and keen to connect with other like-minded women.

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