In an era of experiential travel, Tucson’s Canyon Ranch was the first, and is still notably one of the best, wellness retreats in the world.

Inevitably there are times in life when everything is upended, when work-life balance seems unattainable. a time when life has thrown you so many lemons that heeding the age-old adage to simply “make lemonade” feels utterly impossible. It’s those moments in life that Canyon Ranch was made for.

For me, that moment, the one that led to my inaugural trip to Canyon Ranch, came five months after opening my first restaurant. As a newcomer to the industry, my life was turned upside-down as I worked tirelessly with my partners to manage a 40-person operation that was open 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Once the business was stable enough for me to slip away for a few days of rest and relaxation, it was clear that a simple “margarita by the pool” style vacation would not suffice. I needed to hit the reset button-and I only had four days at my disposal.

Located 40 minutes from the Tucson International airport, Canyon Ranch is a 150-acre Wellness Retreat in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona. The Tucson property is the flagship location for a company whose main goal (beyond providing a world-class spa experience) is to help guests in creating lasting lifestyle changes through a balance of activities that are both educational and experiential.

“What sets us apart is our vast scope of services, activities and consultations, as well as highly trained and experienced health professionals,” says Jim Eastburn, Director of the Life Enhancement Program at Canyon Ranch. “Only at Canyon Ranch can you have a complete health physical, including state-of-the-art laboratory tests, a cardio metabolic stress test or bone density evaluation, as well as receive daily therapeutic massages, body treatments and skin care services,” he adds.

Designed as a sprawling southwestern private estate, the ranch’s perfectly manicured grounds and impeccably designed interiors invoke visions of an illusory billionaire’s private hunting lodge in Texas. Dual indoor/outdoor functionality showcases Arizona’s arid landscape, connecting guests with the natural environment and encouraging outdoor activity.

Grouped in clusters surrounding the resort’s main lobby, Canyon Ranch’s guest rooms are designed for supreme comfort with high-end furnishings and original art inspired by the surrounding landscape.

The accommodations range from deluxe rooms to the exclusive Casa Grand luxury residences-spacious 2,700-square-foot freestanding homes that can accommodate up to six guests. During my stay at the resort, a famous Hollywood producer was rumored to have just checked out of one of the homes after completing his annual six-week-long reboot at the Ranch.

A visit to Canyon Ranch is personalized to accommodate the needs of every individual guest. The most popular program is their weeklong Life Enhancement program, commonly referred to as the “Heart of Canyon Ranch.” As described by Eastburn, “Our signature Life Enhancement program brings together a highly integrative team of physicians, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, behavioral therapists, spiritual practitioners and fitness specialists that provide a comprehensive body of knowledge, guidance and expertise. The guests say it is like camp for adults, but with a focus on living a more balanced and healthy lifestyle.” The center also offers more specific programs at the Life Enhancement Center, including the popular Weight Loss program and Executive program.

Given my time constraints, I chose to experience Canyon Ranch independent of a structured program. Upon check-in, I met with a personal concierge who asked me a series of customized questions to develop an itinerary tailored to my interests.

My mornings began outdoors with hikes through network of trails surrounding the property, followed by enticing group fitness classes (think Buff-Booty and Arial Hammock Yoga) in their expansive studio. I also enjoyed several private Pilates classes with their expert instructors in a beautiful glass-walled studio that overlooks the vast Arizona landscape. Every evening, after a late-afternoon spa treatment to relax my body and quiet my mind, I settled into a cozy chair in the lounge to enjoy a “mocktail” before dinner prepared by the award-winning Canyon Ranch chefs.

While this itinerary of exercise classes and spa treatments had all the makings to satisfy the personal reset that I was seeking, it was the consultations with Canyon Ranch’s team of nutritionists and a full body medical assessment by the staff ‘s preventative medicine team that really helped me connect with my whole being. It pushed me to dive a little deeper to educate and understand myself, rather than simply focusing on more general health benchmarks such as weight loss and external appearance.

“With nearly 1,000 guests participating in our programs each year, there are countless success stories. But it is important that we talk about how we define success” says Eastburn. “We focus on the whole person: mind, body spirit and emotions. We feel that in order for a lasting change to take place, we must make an emotional connection to our health.”

It was in one of the last consultations I had before leaving the ranch that I made my lasting connection. During a meeting with the resident PhD and organizational consultant at the Life Enhancement Center, he shared his trademark secret to finding true happiness, which is to avoid our natural instinct to focus on fear and instead, dive into life headfirst and uninhibited. For me, this tiny gem of advice, paired with the wealth of knowledge and wellness I had collected extended my experience at Canyon Ranch well beyond just four luxurious days in the desert, it changed my life.

Canyon Ranch, 8600 East RockcliffRoad, Tucson, Ariz., (800) 742-9000 or www.canyonranch.com