The Problem with Retreats

transitionI love retreats of all shapes and sizes. But I noticed for both others and myself a common problem that takes away some of the impact of a retreat.

See if this sounds familiar.

You work hard to be ready to leave. You spend the first part of your time off recovering, resetting your pace.

By the time the retreat is over you do feel better—more relaxed, more rested… You’ve practiced some new habits—regular exercise, healthier eating, not checking your phone every 10 minutes… You feel the benefits from just a few changes and you vow to continue these changes, this slower rhythm.

You return home. Now you have to work hard to catch up from being gone. A couple of weeks pass and someone asks you about your vacation. You have to pause and think about it to remember that you’ve even had time away.

Dang. You’ve lost that retreat/vacation vibe again.

The makings of a great retreat

The word retreat is defined this way: “move back or withdraw to a quiet secluded place.” When you do that you get a chance to slow down, to view your life and how you’re living it with fresh eyes.  You feel renewed, rested, maybe even invigorated.

Before and after

The problem with most retreats is that they occur in a vacuum. You go, you enjoy, and then you return to the same environment from whence you came.

I’ve found that people often have issues with transition. They return to their loved ones, their co-workers, the “regular world.” While the retreat participant may have shifted their ideas and habits the rest of the world is the same. While you were off relaxing by the pool, taking naps, or reading a good book someone was still at home scooping the cat boxes. Yeah, all that cat shit did not mysteriously disappear by itself.

Addressing the fact that you have a life pre- and post retreat can make a world of difference in how that transition goes. (We’ll be doing that as part of the  Purposeful Yoga Retreat.) It can help you reap the benefits of your time off at a deeper fuller level.

A couple of pointers:

  1. Have a plan. Think about how you will transition both before and after your retreat.
  2. Talk with those around you about this transition time. Listen to how it affects them when you’re gone (or how they think it might affect them.) What are their fears? How can you support each other?

Has the transition back to work and life ever been challenging for you? Share your challenges and solutions here.

Little Break, Big Reward

Sharon & SarahLast week my best friend from college visited. Even though I was in charge of showing her the beauties of Oregon for a few days I still felt like I was on vacation. Amazing what a couple of unscheduled, unhurried days did for my rhythm, my psyche.

 If you’re like me you sometimes crave LARGE chunks of time to unwind and restore. Yet I’m always surprised by the huge impact that can come from small moments.  

I just finished a coaching session with a woman who’s been working long, long hours. On top of a grueling schedule she’s been dealing with some stressful personal issues that demand her attention. Stuff that can be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Stuff that means she feels emotional pain over loss. Stuff to which she must attend.  

 Today was a brief respite from the intensity. While she was looking forward to a less scheduled day, she also felt the pressure (her own assigned pressure) to take some action, actually make that to push, forward on some of her awaiting projects.

“Down Days”

Actually she’d taken the last two days as “down days.” But as day three threw back the curtains she realized she really needed a couple of weeks of  “down days.”

She felt tired. A bit depressed. Weary really.

And yet her mind said, “If I take the day off from work, my pile will grow higher. My work flow will continue to suffer.”

Her belief was that to get relief, to renew deeply, she needed a significant chunk of time. And right now she doesn’t feel like she can take that time. She felt doomed to push forward, deeper into a place called “weary.”

Brief Respite

I invited her to do an exercise. She was sitting outside her home on a lawn chair in her rural yard.  Her trusty dog at her feet, she was enjoying the summer weather as we chatted via phone. The exercise took maybe two minutes. She was surprised that she felt a little better. Afterwards she said, “Oh, I guess I could allow small times of renewal rather than wait for the more expansive times off.”

I’m all for extended retreats. A weekend in the mountains, a week at a destination spa, a month in an isolated area…

But there are times where those types of getaways feel impossible.  You might have things that require your attention…family, work, home, animals, community.

Yet most of us can carve out small chunks.

Don’t underestimate the power of renewal that can come from these small chunks of time. Not only can they work to fill you back up when you’re depleted, I encourage my clients to integrate these types of renewal into their regular scheduling. That way they’re way less likely to get “ugly burned out.”

If the idea of a wee chunk of time focused on resting, filling up, or getting some significant traction on a project is appealing, then check out the upcoming virtual retreat.

Participants at the last event used the time for what they needed: rest, nurture time, play, and focused productivity. How would you use four hours of unscheduled time?