I thought I was taking care of myself. My friends and my kids kept asking, “Are you okay? Are you taking care of yourself?” I always replied, “Of course.” But, did I really know what “not okay” felt like? Apparently not, because late one night I would call my daughter and tell her I was having a heart attack and that I need to go to the ER. The difficulty breathing, the tightness in my chest, the haziness. Four hours later, the doctor, after a battery of tests and hearing my personal situation, would proclaim that I was having a panic attack. That’s when I decided that embarking on wellness travel in Mexico might be a good idea.
One year ago, my mother suffered a brain aneurysm and for the past twelve months, my life has been consumed with her care. I left my home, and my husband, in California to move to Florida to be with her. When I wasn’t at her bedside, I was busy mothering my high-maintenance (but lovable) young adult children, serving PR clients, flying across the U.S. to see my husband, and apparently not taking care of myself.
So an invitation to experience wellness travel in Mexico caught my eye. I knew I needed to press the reset button on my mind, body, and spirit. Despite the daily schedule of events that started with a 7:30 am workout (I am NOT a morning person) and “light“ spa meals, I knew I needed to reestablish some healthy habits so I signed up for a solo adventure.
Twice a year, Villa del Palmar Beach Resort & Spa at the Islands of Loreto hosts a wellness week. It’s in a remote part of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where the desolate desert opens up to expose a beautiful waterfront resort. When I walked into my room, I was surprised to find a rather spacious one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen, living room, and oversized balcony looking out over Danzante Bay. But, the best feature just might have been the open-air soaking tub that looked out over the bay. (After living in a tiny Los Angeles apartment, I’ve come to appreciate the joys of bathtubs.)
First, those of us participating in wellness week would meet our team for the week — Claudine, the spa director; Chef David Fuertes (who would be preparing healthy, and in some cases, vegan meal)s; Rebecca Broxterman, a celebrity fitness trainer; and Beth Manos, a yoga instructor and wellness coach. I was excited for a little tough love.
Our first day started bright and early with a 7:30 HIIT workout in the gym with four stations of exercises. I thought I was in fairly decent shape going into this, but the circuits proved me wrong! It felt good to sweat, breathe heavy, and I actually embraced the post-workout soreness. After a light and healthy breakfast — and the requisite green smoothie — we headed off for a meditation and yoga class. I’ve been trying to get into a better meditation practice and I’m a true yoga junkie, so I welcomed this part of the day.
Read more: The Ultimate Meditation Guide
Our days would continue with the early morning workouts followed by meditation and yoga, mixed in with plenty of healthy meals, including some cooking demos. And yes, cocktails flowed freely – we were at a luxury lifestyle resort, after all.
But the best part of each day was certainly the spa’s hydrotherapy room. It generally takes about an hour to go through the seven stations, but I managed to spread it out to two hours every day, taking full advantage of the wellness and detox properties. It’s a mix of hot and cold experiences intended to get your blood circulating, detoxify your body and provide deep healing relaxation. Just what the doctor ordered! There are jacuzzis, a dry sauna, a steam room, a cold plunge pool, a salt bath, and an aloe bath.
We were encouraged to stay active during the day so afternoons were open for paddleboarding, kayaking, and biking. Villa del Palmar is home to one of the most scenic golf courses, TPC Danzante Bay, which, for non-golfers like me, offered great hiking trails with some spectacular views.
As my experience with wellness travel in Mexico came to an end, a number of people that were part of the wellness week commented how different I looked at the end of the week from when I arrived. I took no offense. I knew I had arrived looking tired, haggard, and disconnected. But I left with nothing but a renewed sense of self and the concept of “put on your own oxygen mask first.”
Read more: 7 Wellness Resorts You Need to Visit
On the plane ride home, I took up the task of reorganizing my day to make me a priority. I no longer wake up and check email or Facebook. I’ve always put off my workout until later in the day. And, too often, work or other responsibilities get in the way and it never happens. So, even though I’m not a morning person, I now make a workout part of my morning routine. And it feels good to get it out of the way. I take longer to drink my coffee, enjoy a long walk with the dog, and don’t let my to-do list get in the way of meditating and journaling. In fact, I don’t even turn on my computer until after I’ve fully savored my me time, followed by a visit with my mother. Thanks to that hydrotherapy room and a few purchases from the spa, I’ve turned my bathroom into a mini-spa — and my bathtub is certainly getting its own workout.
Sometimes, it just takes a jump start — like a wellness week — to reboot your schedule and your motivation. I figure I’ll be due for a tune-up in about six months. At another luxury wellness resort, of course.