things keeping me propped up. I'm not alone: a recent study from the Pew Research Centre, found that more than a quarter of women constantly feel rushed. In a bid to embark on a lifesyle makeover, I reached out to the experts. “Work and life should be connected in that you bring your whole self to whatever you do. But when it's expected that employees attend events or have to work late, then balance is going to be more difficult to establish. I've found this to be the case in Dubai,” says Denis Murphy, an international life coach who recently gave a talk on Fearless Living at Dubai's BOLDtalks Woman 2015.
“All women, especially working women, have a lot of multi-tasking to do,” says Dr Tina Kormbach, a naturopathic and homeopathic practitioner with the DNA Centre for Integrative Medicine and Wellness on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island. “Women are balancing their family, a household, work commitments, a social life, and ideally ‘me time'. The latter is often cut down to the very minimum.” That ‘me time' Kormbach mentions? According to the same study, a whopping 91 per cent of all millennials now disregard the concept of relaxing entirely.
This can lead to a dangerous cycle culminating in a complete lack of work/life balance. “First, we don't have the energy we once did. Then we're wired but tired, constantly grabbing for sugar, coffee, carbohydrates, and stimulants to pick us up, and beverages to keep us engaged at parties,” says Holly Turner, a wellness coach at Phuket Cleanse in Thailand. All the caffeine and chemicals serve only to make things worse, unbalancing our bodies and disturbing our sleep. “The final stage is when you're gone, shattered. When you have no more,” says Holly. In other words: you're officially burned out.
Once things get this far, the road to recovery might be more complicated than booking a week on a sun lounger. “We see a lot of women with high stress levels who require treatment for fatigue,” says Kormbach. It's often because they are trying to take on too much.” If the sensation of being overtired, overwrought and over-caffeinated sounds familiar, or if you've actually reached burnout, what should you do about it? Simple: retreat. Or rather, go on a retreat. More than just a holiday, retreats emphasise an element of detoxification, rebooting and starting afresh. “They are about giving ourselves the gift of picking up and going somewhere to let go, and just giving your body a chance to heal,” Tuner explains.
“Retreats probably save lives,” says Murphy without an ounce of irony. “It sounds a little dramatic, but I am sure if some women didn't find a way to shut off from work, they would burn out or lash out.
But not all retreats are created equal. Before you start looking into retreats, get an idea about what you want out of one. Is it relaxing, detoxification, yoga or movement based? Sometimes adventure or doing something you have never done before can be the most relaxing and rejuvenating experience.”
Holly Turner recommends finding a retreat that concentrates on our minds, as well as our bodies, in order to help us re-learn our natural rhythms and signals. “Today everyone is striving to be better,” says the wellness expert. “They're working harder, trying to have that edge. They want great bodies, great social lives, everything, and this is fantastic. But it's important to pay attention to how our bodies feel. Our health is everything.” ■ Feeling exhausted and desperate for a break, I did just as Turner recommended; I took one. Landing at Phuket Cleanse, a Thai retreat that focuses on raw vegan food, high levels of fitness training, and a healthy dose of mental rebalancing, I found a relaxed oasis run by two passionate experts. On day one, I carried my phone around with me like a child. After hiking up a mountain to enjoy spectacular ocean views, then sprinting along the beach for some high intensity interval training (HIIT), I found myself sitting at the lunch table scrolling through work e-mails. The food was exquisite but I was distracted. Old habits really do die hard. But as the week went on, I started leaving my phone in my room more and more. Initially, this was due to logistics; there just wasn’t time to go online. Days kicked off with green juices at 7am. Then came some form of meditation or mental reflection, followed by several hours of fitness classes ranging from yoga to Muay Thai. At lunchtime guests sat together around a long table laden with an ever-changing menu of healthy dishes, discussing life’s big questions, ahead of afternoons devoted to yoga, beach walks or activities like learning to make raw, vegan chocolate. Exquisite dinners were followed by themed talks (covering topics like emotional eating and finding your life partner), massages, and finally tumbling into bed for a deep and satisfying sleep. The schedule changed daily, so it never became boring, and there was also no pressure to participate – I could attend everything or nothing, depending on how I felt that day. By day three I was sleeping eight hours a night, moving constantly, eating well and interacting with the most fascinating group of strangers. The absence of any stress allowed me to concentrate on some of the bigger questions we were being asked to discuss, and to remember that hitting ‘like’ on another Instagram post isn’t in my list of top life priorities. In an environment designed to help me reconnect with myself, I finally learned how to disconnect from my everyday life. On day four I deliberately locked my phone in the safe. It stayed there until I checked out. phuketcleanse.com
THE GREAT ESCAPE