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There's nothing Selfish about Self-Care

Taking time out to look after your emotional, physical and mental needs could be the most important thing you do all day by Emma and Matthew Pruen, co-founders of The French Retreat

What did you do for yourself today? Before you curl up on the sofa in shame, take consolation from the admission that my morning run fell by the wayside as I answered a quick couple of emails, updated my website, spent half an hour on hold to the doctor, dropped in on online lessons to find out why my child was laughing so uproariously during maths and made plans for their return to school.

We know that self-care is important for our mental health, so I’m going to support my own well being, and hopefully yours, with some ideas on transforming our good intentions to great habits.

According to the Office of National Statistics more than two-thirds of adults in the U.K feel worried about the effect Covid is having on their life, with 56% of people feeling stressed or anxious. Evidence shows that poor mental health is strongly associated with worse physical health, so whichever way Covid has hit you and your loved ones, we know it is impacting our ability to lead a fulfilling life.

Naming our feelings can go a huge way to moving them through our body. In the English languages it’s easy to mix thoughts with feelings. Feelings are body based and fall into a few broad categories for instance: Happy, Sad, Scared, Angry. They are indisputable. You are the only authority on your feelings. Thoughts on the other hand, are opinions or beliefs. Incompetent is a belief not a feeling. I think I’m incompetent therefore I feel anxious.

It’s not always easy to describe how you’re feeling. If you can’t think of one word, use lots. Here’s a few more to use as ideas: Adored Ashamed Alive Appreciated Cheerful Ecstatic Excited Grateful Glad Hopeful Inadequate Inhibited Inept Inferior Insignificant Jolly Jovial Joyful Loved Merry Optimistic Pleased Satisfied Tender Grateful Uplifted Warm Aggravated Accused Angry Bitter Cross Defensive Frustrated Furious Hostile Impatient Infuriated Jaded Offended Outraged Pestered Rebellious Resistant Revengeful Scorned Spiteful Testy Used Violated Blue Burdened Depressed Devastated Disappointed Discouraged Grief-stricken Gloomy Hopeless Lonely Heartbroken Melancholy Miserable Pessimistic Remorseful Resentful Solemn Threatened Astonished Curious Delighted Enchanted Exhilarated Incredulous Inquisitive Impressed Mystified Passionate Playful Replenished Splendid Shocked Stunned Afraid Alarmed Anxious Bashful Cautious Fearful Frightened Horrified Lost Haunted Helpless Hesitant Insecure Nervous Petrified Puzzled Reassured Reserved Sheepish Tearful Uncomfortable Embarrassed Exposed Guilty Sick

Moving the body enhances well-being through the release of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain which improve mood. You can even reverse stress-induced brain damage by increasing your heart rate. Exercise stimulates the production of neurohormones, which not only improve cognition and mood but improves thinking clouded by stressful events.

As life-long exercise avoiders we started using the BBCs ‘Couch to 5K’ app during lockdown and thoroughly recommended it. Jo Whiley is our favourite coach, as she speaks from experience, (unlike I suspect Sarah Millican). The most popular national coping mechanisms during lockdown was taking daily outdoor exercise, which has helped nearly half of the adults surveyed. I have just taken a break from my computer and completed my Couch to 5K for the day so feel wholehearted about recommending it for the mood enhancing properties.

If you want to start working towards a goal you could sign up for a yoga retreat later in the year as the nudge to get you to some online classes in preparation. We have five different yoga events at The French Retreat in 2021. For some very gentle yoga and lots of sacred rest: breath work, meditation, yoga nidra and Chinese Medicine wisdom, we have Rhiannon Griffiths for two separate weeks: 5th-9th July and 13th- 17th September. As well as being a yoga teacher Rhiannon is an acupuncturist and coach and she combines all three for the most nurturing week imaginable.

For fun with your workout Anna and Katerina are running a Yoga and Tribal Dance Retreat on 25th June - 2nd July. They are both Russian, so you could also use the week to learn another language. `we also have Kari, a senior Jivamukti teacher, mentor and health coach who will be returning to The French Retreat in September for a week of yoga, Ayurveda and more. And if you want to take your Yoga practice to the next level we are also hosting our first 200hr Intensive Teacher Training, which promises to be a rich foundation for teachers to be in the summer holidays: 19 July-2nd August.

Lockdown has brought social isolation to many, particularly people living alone or those who have been shielding. In addition to presenting new or enhanced stressors, the pandemic has diminished many of the mechanisms people typically use to cope with stress.

Our third tip for supporting your mental health is to do something you can lose yourself in. What creative activities did you enjoy when you were young or did you want to do but thought you weren’t good enough? It could be the obvious creative outlets such as making music, creative writing or art but allow yourself to broaden your options. We had a plumber at the French Retreat for whom sorting out our pipework was a creative outlet (as well as intellectual challenge), so it could be cooking, making a dress or trying out photography or even trying your hand at D.I.Y.

To kick start a new creative habit have a think about joining us for one of heavenly creative courses this year. We have Guitar Playing with celebrated guitarist Richard Durrant on 20-26 September; Art in Life with Brighton based Chiliean artist Johanna Berger 25- 31 August 2021 and Flash Fiction Writing 31 August-6 September. Remind yourself: enjoying yourself is not an indulgence, it can help beat stress and live a longer life. To find out more or book email

The year has take a toll on many of our relationships. Matthew and I continue to offer a series of relationship courses for individuals and couples, in a group or privately, online (24th April), in London (22nd & 23rd May) or at The French Retreat. You can see everything here.

Whether you're concerned about yourself or a loved one, you will find a list of mental health charities, organisations and support groups can offer expert advice, at the bottom of the page.

If there is any way we can support you from an informal chat with Emma about anything mentioned above to a coaching session with Matthew please do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

With warm wishes until we see you again,

Emma and Matthew

+44 7508 920583

Urgent help in a crisis

If you need help during a mental health crisis or emergency, NHS urgent mental health helplines provide:

24-hour advice and support – for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for

help to speak to a mental health professional an assessment to help decide on the best course of care

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline

A to Z

Anxiety UK

Charity providing support if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.

Phone: 03444 775 774 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm)


Bipolar UK

A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.



CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.

Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)


Men's Health Forum

24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.


Mental Health Foundation

Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.



Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.

Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)


No Panic

Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia or OCD.

Phone: 0300 772 9844 (daily, 10am to 10pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider's Access Charge

Website: Email:

OCD Action

Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.

Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm). Calls cost 5p per minute plus your phone provider's Access Charge



A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.

Phone: 0333 212 7890 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)



OK Rehab specialises in addiction treatment. This treatment is available via both inpatient and outpatient treatment providers. They also work with clinics that are able to facilitate treatment taking place in your own home, who are able to provide professional intervention and home detoxification.



Young suicide prevention society.

Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (9am to midnight, every day of the year)


Rethink Mental Illness

Support and advice for people living with mental illness.

Phone: 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)



Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)



Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.

Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most:

Peer support forum:



Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.

Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm)


ONS study: More than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. with 56% of people feeling stressed or anxious.

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