Retreat as Part of Your Self-Care Package

retreat self care wellbeing

Your retreat is not failure. It is an act of well-being.

Is Retreating a Sign of Failure or Wisdom?
The word “retreat” has caught my attention in these difficult times.  In the military context, we may associate retreat as a failure or weakness. Military experts may even consider the word synonymous with defeat.  However, nothing precludes having a comeback after a retreat.  (Disclaimer. I know nothing about miltary operations). It’s interesting that health care providers recognize the word retreat in a more positive way.  In the world of well-being, a retreat is an opportunity to replenish or restore typically by removing oneself from one’s everyday habitat to a place of respite.  Of course, some retreats are anything but restful with their endless activities, but that’s another story.

One might define today’s current crisis as fear and trepidation regarding COVID-19 combined with upset regarding the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on marginalized groups together and collective advocacy regarding racial oppression in its many forms. I know. That’s a mouthful that could probably be rephrased many times over. I wanted to convey the sheer…magnitude of what is affecting us now. It feels like one thing after another, right? One thing that is certain is that there is a strong spirit of urgency in the air and the tension is almost palpable.  As humans we are wired to sense and react to this energy in others.  Because the crisis has an element of the intangible, it’s likely that all manner of activity serves as a trigger to keep us in this state of tension. 

A retreat need not be a big move to Hawaii. Small ways in which we can withdraw include:

Retreat as self-care urimrecovery

“It’s no coincidence that the word ‘holiday’ suggests a holy day, or that the longest book in the Torah concerns the Sabbath. If you wish to advance in any sphere, the best way is to take a retreat.”

― Pico Iyer

Working Through Urgency
Retreating from the current state of affairs is a way of putting the world on pause.  This may seem obvious, but it is hard to do in the face of constant reminders that we are in crisis.  Retreating may well feel like failure.  There’s so much to be done!  In some circles or cultures, if we even look like we are retreating, we may well be perceived as weak or giving up.

Put the Brakes On
Urgency requires us to act now, but biology requires that we take a time out so that we can go the distance.  Now more than ever, we need to retain a sense of our own purpose, needs and identity.  Conceptualizing retreat as a way of putting life on hold while we restore our energies is consistent with our biological needs. If we keep pushing forward, our bodies are primed to react to restore equilibrium or homeostatis.  Our limbic system is designed to kick in when we refuse to address our biological limitations. You can only do so much.

Fighting Depletion and Running on Empty
If we are not conscious about staying within our limits, our body will address the situation by putting the brakes on.  We simply deplete our energy.  So, consider waiving the white flag while you have more of a choice about it, to selectively withdraw your energy from certain tasks while you recalibrate.  Your body will thank you for it.  Remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

You can find other soundbites related to well-being, self-compassion and healing here.

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