Relieve stress and cure burnout: Go on a solo retreat.

How women can heal themselves one solo retreat at a time.

Hiking alone on the inter-urban trail near Chuckanut Bay, Washington during my solo retreat.

The concept of escaping everyday life by signing up for a group retreat appeals to more and more women every year. Most group retreats provide experiences such as surfing, yoga, dance or exercise and promise that women will return relaxed and refreshed after spending a highly scheduled week in a tropical location, but do these group retreats actually help women relax?

As a psychotherapist who works solely with women suffering from burnout, I’m finding more and more that structured group retreats meant to beat women’s bodies back into submission or master yoga poses aren’t the answer to finding lasting healing or relaxation when women already feel overwhelmed with their everyday life and schedule.

So, if popular group retreats aren’t the answer, what is? After experiencing burnout myself when the stresses of going through a divorce, seeing clients and being a new therapist became too much for me to handle, I decided to take a week off and head up to Northern Washington to spend some time alone. I’d traveled alone before, but this trip was different. This trip was an intentional week-long solo retreat meant for reconnecting with myself, with nature and with something more than just the 9–5 boredom I’d been experiencing.

A solo retreat is all about finding purpose, inner truth and solace that only comes when we set out alone. There are no outside influences, no structured activities or schedules and a complete commitment to allowing ourselves to make decisions based on what we feel in the moment.

During that first solo retreat I enjoyed rainy days spent in my cozy cabin with a raging fire I’d built myself in the fireplace reading books, cooking nourishing food and journaling. I took long hikes through the miles of inter-urban trails and rarely encountered another soul. I ventured into town for breakfast and met tourists and locals over coffee and hot pastries. I screamed when I came face to face with a giant spider in the woodpile and had to find the courage to face him so that I could collect more wood for the fire on the chilly nights.

Mostly, though, with each step and each breath, I found myself letting go of the stress and overwhelm I felt back at home. I learned to tune into and trust my instincts and tapped back into the part of me that is free-flowing and creative.

I go on at least one solo retreat every year now, and I encourage my clients to do the same. Each solo retreat is unique to each person and the options of where to go and what to do on a solo retreat are unlimited. The only thing I ask of my clients when they are planning their solo retreat is that they go alone and that they are the sole creator and director of their experience. No asking advice from friends or getting a tentative schedule from a travel site.

The trip and experience are all up to them, and, in a world where I believe the cause of burnout is too much input from everyone and everything around us, being the director of your own experience is exactly what you need to truly cure burnout and rekindle your connection to yourself.