Rest, Reflect, Restore 

Writing for self-care retreat 2021

During October 2021, Jane Willis and Rachel Hawkins-Crockford hosted a writing for self-care retreat for a small group of arts, health and wellbeing practitioners, offering a creative and reflective space for participants to rest, restore and reconnect with themselves and others.

Aimed at those working in the caring professions – including artists, healthcare professionals and managers – the retreat provided a safe space in which to reflect on ways in which work and caring impact our wellbeing, exploring how we might better nourish and care for ourselves amidst such pressures.

“The opportunity to reflect on the interaction between personal/professional was very important and useful to me and timely, as there are considerable pressures in both areas at the moment.”  

Caring for ourselves impacts not only our own wellbeing, but also our ability to create caring cultures. When we are nourished and rested, we can better care for those around us, are more able to embed caring practices that support others and better able to challenge working practices and cultures that deplete and drain.

When we are tired, depleted and running on empty, it becomes increasingly hard to carve out time and space for ourselves. This means that we end up further depleted and less able to care for those around us.

“Thank you so much for an oasis of calm, for carving out time to reflect and restore in such a beautiful environment.  For holding a safe space.” 

Image of retreat participants

During the retreat, we explored a range of playful and creative approaches to using writing to support self-care.

“I came back feeling so rested and am continuing to reflect and journal on all aspects (personal and business).  We learnt such useful tools that will help in years to come.” 

“We were led through a range of reflection tasks using different approaches which we could adopt, adapt or ignore.  Each task brought out a different mode of reflection - all valuable.” 

We came away rested, restored and nourished by connection with ourselves and with each other.

“Being in nature with a lovely group of people, writing, walking, eating and connecting recharged my passion for society after a long period of isolation.” 

At the end of our final day, we reflected on what we will take away from our time together and wrote a collaborative Pantoum (Malaysian poetic structure) to remind ourselves of this experience in the months to come.


Learn to fall again…

Take Time. Be intentional. Come to Nature. Record everything!

An internal dialogue with all members of my mind and body

Faith in humanity


Take Time. Be intentional. Come to Nature. Record everything!

Space and time and distance

Faith in humanity

Seats, writing spaces scattered in the garden


Space and time and distance

Making time and space to stop and be in the moment

Seats, writing spaces scattered in the garden

To share is to be less alone


Making time and space to stop and be in the moment

An internal dialogue with all members of my mind and body

To share is to be less alone

Learn to fall again


We headed home with a deeper understanding of what it means to care for ourselves amidst the stresses of daily life along with a clearer sense of what nourishes us and how to consistently build this into our lives.

“I will come back in a heartbeat to do it all again. The lack of responsibility and the spaciousness in which to enjoy my own thoughts and connections with others was very delightful.” 

“Thank you so much, Jane and Rachel, for incredible days away with so much learning, lovely company and delicious food.”  

“Thank you for a wonderful experience.” 

We hope to run another creative self-care retreat in 2022. To pre-register your interest in taking part in future retreats or workshops, email 



Rest, Reflect, Restore was led by writer and arts and health producer, trainer and evaluator Jane Willis and writer and counsellor Rachel Hawkins-Crockford.

"Jane and Rachael both provided very safe and welcoming space. I do not think it could have been better"

Jane Willis

Jane is a creative producer, mentor, trainer and evaluator with more than 25 years’ experience.  Founder and director of arts and health consultancy Willis Newson, she has been a pioneer of the arts and health field since 1994, when she set up Vital Arts, the arts programme for Bart’s Health NHS Trust. Since then, she has worked with more than 32 NHS Trusts, as well as with universities, galleries, museums and health leaders such as The Kings Fund and The Royal Society of Public Health to produce award-winning arts, health and wellbeing programmes.

Jane has a particular interest in supporting those in caring roles through creative approaches to reflective practice. She has an MA in English Literature and as well as using writing to support her own wellbeing, has led writing for wellbeing programmes for NHS staff. More recently, she gained an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes through autoethnographic research into her own experience of using reflective and creative writing to support self-care.

Rachel Hawkins Crockford

Rachel is a counsellor and writer for wellbeing facilitator providing support to people to enhance their mental and physical wellbeing as they face the challenges in their lives.  She holds a diploma in psychotherapeutic counselling and a further qualification in creative writing for therapeutic purposes. She has experience working with a wide range of people, often using writing as a healing and developmental tool to help others find space to explore or move forward in relation to issues they are facing. 

She works in a creative, compassionate and person-centred way, believing that creativity is central to the human experience and can be the key to unlocking our own meaning and potential.  She has lived experience of the beneficial power of writing, is a member of a regular poetry workshop and facilitates a number of reflective writing groups. She expresses her own creativity through writing and sharing stories, particularly poetry, using it as a way to rest, to explore feelings, to enhance her professional development, and create connections with others and to the natural world.

She is committed to creating the space for others to experience the benefit of writing in an expressive and healing way.