Why You Need a Mini Retreat, and 5 Ways to Take One Today

Everyone loves a vacation. But when you’re in career crunch-time, whether you’re a business owner or an employee, it can be difficult to set aside the time, money, and energy needed for a real respite from the daily grind.

We all have times in life when we get overloaded with work and feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I tend to be in ‘driver’ mode most of the time, so my inclination is to put my head down and try to push through it. Instead of taking a break, I’ve asked myself – why not work a little harder for a little longer and get everything done so I can take a real vacation? Have you ever said this to yourself?

As you may already know, it usually doesn’t work out this way – instead you overwork and get burned out, ending up no closer to a vacation than you were before pushing beyond your comfort zone. This year, I’ve resolved to work on righting this tendency in myself, especially after taking a much overdo vacation in January and getting huge positive return. (Next vacation I’m going to skip the part where I’m really sick for the first week.)

Investing in vacations can reap rewards not only in your job and home life, but in your health and well-being. A CNN.com article reported a study that showed women who did not vacation annually were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack. Men at high risk of coronary heart disease were shown to be 32% more susceptible to dying from a heart attack without a vacation. Ignoring our needs costs more too. Forbes reported that the cost of stress-related health care was an estimated $344 billion a year in 2012.

Besides benefiting your health, taking time for yourself can actually take your work to a new level. An article in The Atlantic on the science behind vacations summarized, “Overtime binges lead to bursts of output that exert a hangover effect in later days. Study after study indicates that short bursts of attention punctuated with equally deliberate breaks are the surest way to harness our full capacity to be productive.”

Stepping back from your work can give you a new perspective and inject a much-needed dose of creative energy into your life. You’ll get new ideas, and depending on the kind of retreat you need, you may learn new things that can rejuvenate your passion for your work and life. And connecting with other people in a different way than usual can help you see things differently.

When you’re starting to feel burned out but vacation isn’t an option, a mini retreat can be just what you need to get back on track and breathing again. For all you hustlers out there who want to just work through the work, think about this: if you could take a few small breaks and increase your productivity exponentially, couldn’t you get to that vacation a lot faster?

Here are five ways you can reap the benefits of a mini retreat today:

  • Sit in silence for few minutes. Whether you meditate or just calm your mind and concentrate on breathing, taking a few minutes can refresh your thinking for hours. When I’m working in an office building all day, I find a quiet conference room or go sit in my car.
  • Change your surroundings by going for a walk. Exercise is a fantastic way to take care of yourself, and even a little change of scenery and a few minutes of activity can really clear your mind and give your brain an oxygen boost. When I’m feeling stuck or overwhelmed by a project, a walk outside is all it takes for me to have a breakthrough in energy and clarity.
  • Listen to music. Did you know that we have 40-50 thoughts per minute? Help your brain to focus by using music to turn off the chatter and re-energize yourself. I find calm, spacious music without words (like Steve Roach) works the best to soothe and focus me. Find what works for you!
  • Meet a friend for lunch or a yoga class. Making time to be social, whether it’s catching a lecture or a happy hour, can seem like an extravagance. But adding a social element to your mini retreat can give you new perspective and help you to look at things in a fresh way. When work feels overwhelming, I make sure to go out for lunch with a friend to decompress and hit the reset button.
  • Pick something you love to do on vacation and do it. Whether it’s going to a museum, exploring a new area, eating an exquisite meal, or having a massage, taking care of yourself like you’re on a vacation will offer some of the same relaxation benefits without a hefty price tag. Instead of spending the whole weekend doing chores and catching up on work, I’ve been giving myself permission to play a little each weekend like I do on vacation—it’s amazing how much it refreshes me!