Lo♥︎ing Legal Life: Why you should go on a retreat

This week systemic coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister James Pereira QC discuss the benefits of going on a retreat.

We live in a time of great disruption. More people than ever before are experiencing the effects of stress and anxiety in their personal and professional lives. Increasing numbers of people simply find they are unable to cope as sickness, absenteeism and presenteeism reach unprecedented new heights. The desire for profound professional, personal, social and global renewal has never been more pressing.

The number of people seeking help through counselling, therapy and personal development is on the rise, and it is not just for dealing with stress and anxiety: many are doing so in relation to their sense of identity. Both women and men in the legal profession are struggling with impossible workloads that compromise professional pride, self-confidence, sense of value, and quality of life. There is a huge contrast between how happy they are and how happy they could be.

The price that is paid in other areas of their lives takes its toll as personal relationships take up the strain of the stress. There is a palpable sense of desperation to make sense of it all as the guilt of really needing time to relax and engage with a modicum of self care, and put themselves first, is often outweighed by the insecurity of thinking that to do so would be selfish.

Why go on a retreat?

This age of disruption has led to many people really having to re-evaluate beliefs about mental and emotional well-being and embracing a more natural, holistic approach to balance the artificial constructions of life in a modern world. The most popular place to start the process of making these adjustments is to go on a retreat.

Traditionally there has existed a misguided notion that retreats are for willowy hippy types who love to hug trees and each other. In reality, retreats offer the benefit of physical, emotional and psychological withdrawal from the stresses and strains of everyday life: a chance to escape from the toxic effects of noise, information overload, digital addiction, impossible demands, unrealistic expectations and the sheer frenetic pace of city office life.

A retreat is a safe haven in which you can start to recover from the trauma caused by a demanding career, driven in a seriously demanding environment.

What happens on a retreat?

Retreats have been around for centuries and are associated with personal development or connecting more deeply and purposefully with self. When you go to a retreat life is simplified. You are able to immerse yourself in a relaxed, quiet environment in beautiful surroundings. There are often walks as part of the experience; quiet contemplation or meditation as an opportunity to experience clarity, discernment and peace of mind.

Allowing you to go deeper into the parts of yourself that are abandoned and neglected, a retreat provides a safe space in which you can regain a sense of self, of calm, of sanity and joie de vivre.

Typically a retreat involves going off to a place that affords you a sense of privacy, peace and quiet. A true retreat is less about an actual place than about the energy. One might take a personal retreat simply by finding a place in nature that is suited to your particular taste: a Caribbean beach or a Nordic pine forest far removed from the madding crowds. We recently went to a beautiful retreat in the heart of Northern Tuscany: three days of peace and tranquillity proved to be highly beneficial.

What are the benefits of going on a retreat?

Retreats are rewarding. A retreat can be a life changing experience as you immerse yourself in real ‘me time’. Real ‘me time’ is essential, if you want that instrument that is you to stay finely tuned. When you are reminded of what brings you joy, the results are heartening. Here are some of the benefits:

Rejuvenate, reenergise, recharge: usually people are at the end of their endurance when they do finally decide to take a break, and it is often the case that a holiday with a “loved one” is far from a relaxing experience. A retreat – as opposed to retreating – can recharge and bring new insights for positive life changes.

Deep relaxation brings mental, emotional and physical benefits. When you disconnect from the pressures and demands back home, you create space and time to regain your sense of self and to heal. There is no price that can be put on just stepping out of the boxing ring for a couple of rounds. The power of seeking and finding inner stillness and silence to soothe and heal is the best therapy money can buy.

Retreats can provide a shift in perception to a healthier perspective. After a retreat, people often return to life with enthusiasm, clarity, and focus; a restored sense of empowerment which naturally improves their personal and professional relationships.

Transferable skills: those who support themselves by going to retreats find the holistic experience derive benefits that improve their professional performance; they find the confidence to keep stress overload at bay. They learn to factor in healthy relaxation without feeling guilty about taking time out for self. They have a clearer perception, a balanced perspective and finely tuned mental acuity.

We are all unique, with individual preferences and needs. There is no “one size fits all” retreat. Once you find one that offers what appeals to you, go for it! Dive in, as though your life and livelihood depends on it – because it does.

The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles.

You can reach them at zita@lifetherapywithzita.com and on Twitter @LifeTherapyZita and at james.pereiraQC@ftbchambers.co.uk and on Twitter @JamesPereiraQC.