Confused… Cluttered… Exhausted… Worn Out… On Edge…
These words described me, at a point in my life, when nothing was working, efforts were failing and time was accelerating. There was too much on my plate, not enough in my tank and no margin in my daily calendar. A coach of mine suggested that I take some time for a Personal Retreat; to get away and rest, renew, and re-focus. My response was to let my coach know that I did not have the time. As soon as I said that, I knew that it was not so much that I didn’t have the time, but that I was not taking the time. So I did. I took time for a personal retreat.
When I felt confused, cluttered, exhausted and worn out, I was not alone:
- 75% of the general population experiences at least “some stress” every two weeks.
- Half of those experience moderate or high levels of stress during the same two-week period.
- Stress in society is so prevalent that the U.S. Public Health Service has made reducing stress one of its major health promotion goals.
- Three quarters of Americans experience symptoms related to stress in a given month:
– 77% experience physical symptoms
– 73% experience psychological symptoms
- One-third of Americans feel they are living with extreme stress.
- 48% of Americans feel that their stress has increased over the past five years.
- Money and work are the leading causes of stress (mentioned by three quarters of Americans).
- About half of Americans (48%) report lying awake at night due to stress.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- fatigue (51%)
- headache (44%)
- upset stomach (34%)
- muscle tension (30%)
- change in appetite (23%)
- teeth grinding (17%)
- change in sex drive (15%)
- feeling dizzy (13%)
Psychological effects of stress include:
- experiencing irritability or anger (50%)
- feeling nervous (45%)
- lack of energy (45%)
- feeling as though you could cry (35%)
Stress impacts lives in a dramatic way:
- About half of Americans say that stress has a negative impact on both their personal & professional lives.
- About one-third (31%) of employed adults have difficulty managing work and family responsibilities.
- Over one third (35%) cite jobs interfering with their family or personal time as a significant source of stress.
- Stress causes more than half of Americans (54 percent) to fight with people close to them.
- One in four people report that they have been alienated from a friend or family member because of stress.
- 8% connect stress to divorce or separation.
According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress costs more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and stress-reduction. Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and other illnesses in many individuals. Stress also affects the immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases. Lastly, stress contributes to the development of alcoholism, obesity, suicide, drug addiction, cigarette addiction, and other harmful behaviours.
The truth is that part of why we are stressed because we are not taking time for ourselves. Ovid said that, “What is without periods of rest will not endure.” I agree, and would only add that who is without rest will not endure.
Taking Time for Personal Retreats
Taking the time for Personal Retreats has been a part of personal development and growth for thousands of years. From early Buddhist monks, to Hindu priests, to spiritual shamans, to Christian monks and nuns, Personal Retreats have been practiced and celebrated through the years by people of every faith and spiritual orientation. Lin Yutang said this: “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials.”
Personal retreats have been practiced and celebrated over the years because they rest the body. Life can be hard on the body, with the constant demands on all of us to work harder and produce more and engage in more and more activity. Personal retreats give us the opportunity to rest our bodies and recharge our batteries.
Personal retreats enlighten the mind. An amazing thing happens when we pause and become still: Our mind is enlightened. Answers and solutions present themselves. The complex becomes simple. Captain J.A. Hadfield said it like this: “This art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of energy in our great men.” I love that! Resting the mind and dismissing from it all care and worry. There’s power in that! The power of rest is that it feeds and supplies the mind!
As a result of having a rested body and enlightened mind, personal retreats also nourish the soul. Our soul, like a tender plant, or even an infant child, needs to be continually nourished and cultivated. The power of a nourished soul is such that when properly nourished, we have the motivation, strength, and capacity to nourish and feed others. Once again, Captain J.A. Hadfield speaks: “Acquire inner peace and a multitude will find their salvation near you.” Being available to strengthen and support others is surely a part of our collective destiny. Personal retreats help us here.
Personal retreats heal the wounds. Life, work, business and relationships can hurt at times, and so we need to take time to pull away and heal. Perhaps society has so much visible dysfunction in terms of relationships precisely because we don’t take time to heal. The insecurity, fear, ego, and even anger others project onto us, we often unknowingly project onto others, simply because the time is not taken to reflect, renew and heal.
Personal retreats refresh the spirit. When our spirit is refreshed, we encourage ourselves more, bounce back quicker, and are more available to others for mentoring and accountability. We also live our lives with a greater degree of gratitude and less of a degree of entitlement. We become a source of refreshing and replenishment to others.
Lastly, personal retreats can clarify the vision. So many times, what was once clear to us in terms of vision and dreams and forward thinking becomes clouded and obscure. I once had a mirror which found a home in my garage, and inevitably became dusty, so that the image it reflected was not clear. Personal retreats are an incredible opportunity to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of daily life, so that our vision can again become clear, and so that they dust can be wiped away.
Ancient Hebrews share the story of the Divine as legislating periods of rest. After six days of work, their entire society was commanded to take a day of replenishment, rest, and renewal. After six consecutive years of working a particular field, they were instructed to rest the field in the seventh. As a result of not taking time to rest, they fell into unhealthy patterns of living, which, according to the story, led to them losing their land and inheritance. The point is that we always lose our potential and capacity when we do not rest.
Ovid, who lived way back around 40 B.C., said this: “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
You and I were born to yield a bountiful crop! This bountiful crop comes as we take time to rest and renew, and taking time for personal retreats is an important part of rest and renewal! Pooh’s Little Instruction Book tells us: “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Happy Retreating!