Over the past few months I have been thinking a lot about what it means to relax. I have a demanding full-time job, run countless freelance projects, and juggle personal responsibilities both in Wales and abroad. Although I love my life, there are always times when things begin to unravel and when this happens, I write. And, if that doesn’t work, I talk to my friends, take long baths, drink hot chocolates, and go for walks by the river.
I think, though, it is those days — when things become overwhelming and dark — that we feel most alone. Given this, I thought it would be a great to invite people to talk about these stressful times in a community environment. Bringing difficult experiences to light and sharing the burden – whether it relates stress or something else – makes things easier, at least for me.
So, I contacted my friend Charlotte – complimentary therapist and mental health campaigner – and set to work on developing a workshop that could provide a comfortable space for people to improve their stress awareness, take home some relaxation techniques and explore their creativity through reflective writing. After a few meetings over delicious food and wine we were ready!
We held our very first Relaxation and Reflection workshop at the beautiful Milkwood Gallery on a hot July day. We brought Yorkshire tea, carrot cake, and plenty of excitement. Charlotte and I split the day, with her discussing stress awareness and mindfulness in the morning and me tackling reflective writing in the afternoon.
Throughout the session, participants were encouraged to reflect on their own lives individually and through group work activities. We were so lucky to have had such a wonderful group of women who were looking to take some time out to relax, reflect and learn to manage their stress in an insightful way. They were kind, open, and supportive of each other and were a complete joy for us to spend the day with.
Together we talked about the stresses in our lives and discovered the places that made us feel most relaxed. We reflected and wrote too. It was great.
After the workshop, one our participants, Valerie, shared this piece. It was inspired by Joshua Bennett’s poem Tamara’s Opus and reflects a time when she felt courageous:
I talk to my mother
who is in pain.
You must, I say:
forgive your body.
when each wave comes, remember
when your babies came and you
lived on, we
lived on, breathed on, reached
the age we are today.
Later, women come, give me lessons, teach me
what to do.
with a trinket, a snippet, a flicker
of glamour: hair swept up
à la Maria Callas, lacquered curls,
floor-length dress of deepest black,
high heels, lipgloss reminiscent of plums, enough
to make tired eyes shine, tired mouths
stretch, amazed, into a smile for the first time
since they, the women, were last here.
So when it is my turn
to see to her, I will not don
surgical gloves, white plastic apron,
neutral ‘let’s get the job done’ face.
I’ll wear two bracelets on my right wrist. “Look”, she’ll say,
“how they catch the light”, and as
we ride each crest I’ll try
and fail to clean her, help her. I’ll try again: perhaps she’ll cry;
but then the light will split into rainbows,
fill our hearts. We’ll hold on to each other
remembering how the sun,
in Paris, long ago, turned raindrops
my strong, vibrant, capable mother,
lifted me above fever, above pain,
with visions straight from heaven.
When we asked participants what they were going to take away from the day we also got some lovely responses:
“It’s been a wonderful day and if others are run I will highly recommend them to friends. It was very nice to hear other people talk about moments of stress and depression and be able to see their experiences mirrored in my own. Mindfulness was fantastic and I will now look into other mindfulness workshops. Writing ideas and the 12 (identity) boxes were a great way to reflect on myself. Wonderful workshop.”
“A new poem! Real insight into how to relax and manage stress – really helpful definition of “bad” stress and an excellent breathing exercise. Great intro to reflective writing – I learned so much! Thank you Charlotte and Christina for loosening me up and nurturing me. I’ve learned a lot and want to take writing further and develop mindfulness. Thanks for the cake too!”
After the success of this session, Charlotte and I are looking forward to running more of these workshops. We are currently developing a four-part series that will begin in January and run through April. For further information or to book a place with us please email:
Until then, please enjoy a few photos from our very first Relaxation and Reflection workshop. What a thought-provoking and all around wonderful day. Thank you so much to everyone who came along.