Burnout Breaks: How to take a clean break to re-set and transform your life

Feel like you need to escape your everyday life? That your work/life balance is out of whack, you can’t cope with minor aggravations, or don’t have a second to yourself? Are you completely and utterly burned out by it all?

Well, you’re not alone. ‘Burnout’ is one of the buzzwords of our times, leading everyone from Rihanna to Beyoncé and our own Mary Kennedy to take time-outs.

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But it’s far more than a passing fad. A 2016 study by the ESRI found that 18pc of absences in the Irish workplace were down to stress, anxiety and depression. “I definitely think, in all industries, and across all ages, that burnout is on the rise,” says Siobhán Murray, psychotherapist and author of The Burnout Solution (twistingthejar.com).

“It can be a mum at home, or a husband who tries to keep it all together but is actually just bloody exhausted. Men may not speak about it as much, but the physiological signs of burnout are the exact same.”

Her number one tip for recovery? Rest. “Take time out and actually go away, but then implement all of that good stuff [you learn] while away, so you can keep on top of it when you get home.”

Cornelius O’Shaughnessy is the founder of Bodhimaya (bodhimaya.com), which offers retreats that specialise in burnout, rejuvenation and detox at Cliveden House in Berkshire (Kate Moss is a fan). He also believes a clean break can help you to recover, gain perspective and re-set a tricky life balance.

“Retreats allow you to change a huge number of variables in the day-to-day that youmight not be able to change at home, either because you lack willpower or because of the demands of a regular routine,” says Cornelius. “On our retreats, we can help people make the changes they need and give them a mind and body routine that is restorative and something they can then implement at home.”

That implementation is key – if you’re burned out, you need to find a break that will not only prove restorative, but give you the tools to help you to cope back in the real world.

So where to start? Sure, you can jet off to a tropical island and spend a week cavorting in the surf, working out with top trainers and getting pampered by dreamy therapists. But you don’t have to spend a fortune. You can just as easily beat that burnout by taking yourself off to a little cabin in the woods, leaving the phone switched off, and focusing on number one.

What is burnout?

Sarah Doyle


Sarah Doyle is a life coach and mentor based in Dublin, who advises people through The Better Life Project (thebetterlifeproject.ie)

“Burnout is a special type of work stress, a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that’s a combination of both how we feel about our performance and the value of the work that we are doing.

“Usually, it’s time away from work that is the best cure. You need to look at your lifestyle and how you are thinking about work, how much work takes up your life, and your work-life balance in general.

“It can just be someone who’s experiencing a little bit of stress but never actually resolved it, or took steps toward managing it. Or it could be because they spend 10 to 15 hours in work every single day – they no longer have a weekend, and when they come home they’re not able to switch off. All of this has a huge impact on your life; your health, confidence, self-esteem and emotional state.

“Once we can identify the triggers for our stress, we just need to pause and take a step away. I think just removing yourself from the problem is always a good idea.

“Sometimes we’re so stuck inside our own heads that we do need to be able to move away from it and to get an outside perspective. There’s a popularity behind retreats at the moment, and it’s because they work.”

It cleared up my head, got rid of that fuzziness…

Jonathan Clark

Jonathan Clark is a Dublin-based writer who has been on three Complete Transformation Retreats with fitness professional Damian Hall.

‘I broke my back in a boating accident in Thailand and was in a cage vest for seven months. I was in pain all the time, and I was just… fuzzy. My wife had been on one of Damian’s retreats, and she said to me, ‘Look, if it was a terrific experience for me, you’d probably love it.’ So once my back was well enough to do more physical things, I thought, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’

“It was just incredible.

“When you’ve got a broken back, of course, you’re going to gain quite a bit of weight. I started to shave off all the weight, which is terrific. More than that, I gained a new way of thinking about food. It just cleared up my head, got rid of all that fuzziness. It helped me to really focus on what I needed to do, and what I wanted to do. It just worked wonders for me. I’ve been back three times.

“What’s surprising is that it’s a completely different experience every time you go. You’re doing pretty much the same stuff, but you’re with a different group of people, so you have a different dynamic each time. People who go to this aren’t just looking to lose weight.

“You get to know the people you’re with intimately, and help each other through things that they’re dealing with. People go who are dealing with family crises, or health issues, all sorts of different things. It just clears people’s minds and helps them to figure out how they can move forward in a positive way.

“Each time I’ve gone, I found that I could do more. My first time there, I discovered a particular yoga move that released all the pressure off my back and I literally cried when it happened. It was such a shock and a surprise to me. It was that emotional, because I’ve been in pain for two years, and it just released all that. I couldn’t believe it.

“You do lose pounds and inches and all that sort of thing, but there’s a confidence that you regain in yourself and your body, especially if you’ve been through a trauma like a broken back. It’s amazing how it can help you. Over the course of the year, I ended up getting a book deal in a very intense subject matter. Getting away on that retreat just helps me to refocus.”

How to do it: The next Complete Transformation Retreat in Lanzarote is running from November 3-11 this year, and costs from €1,799pp, including accommodation, meals and all training, life coaching and excursions (but not flights). A short retreat will also run in Donegal from August 21-24, at €599pp. See retreat.completepersonaltraining.ie.

It’s very practical… they’re not airy-fairy about things

Virginia Brownlow


Virginia Brownlow

Virginia lives in Ardmore, Co Waterford, and has been to the Tibetan Buddhist Retreat centre Dzogchen Beara numerous times. She explains what she gains from each visit…

‘I’m trying to remember my first visit… it must be 15, if not 20 years ago. I had always heard about how wonderful Dzogchen Beara (on the Beara Peninsula) is, so I went with my sister and fell in love with the place.

“What was I looking for? Some sanity, actually. I’m not a heavy duty Buddhist at all – I’m a ‘Buddhist light’ – but I’d heard the place was very beautiful. I was looking for some sort of equanimity and peace with my own confusion and struggles, like everybody.

“At first, I just went to their daily meditations – they do one in the morning and one in the afternoon, called Loving Kindness. It’s been very helpful to me. I’ve always loved the quote from the Buddha: ‘You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.’ Basically, it’s very difficult to love other people if you can’t love yourself.

“I’ve been through a major crisis recently, and the teaching and meditation have helped me immeasurably – it’s brought me peace in really quite difficult times. You meet a lot of humour and kindness too, which is the thing that I always love. Dzogchen Beara is very down to earth, and very practical – they’re not airy-fairy about things. I’m much calmer now when I leave.

“The other thing that’s great is there’s every sort of person, from every walk of life – it’s very inclusive, which is a thing I appreciate very much. It’s a very open place.

I mostly look forward to having the time to stop… to stop and be present. It’s a wild, beautiful place – I love the natural world, and you’re in the middle of it there. I love just being able to stop, and be in that environment, where people are wishing the best for each other.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to attempt to be present with whatever’s going on, good or bad, and not running away from it, or running towards it. Old habits do often assert themselves, but because I’ve developed more awareness of them, they dominate me less and I’ve acquired tools that I can use to help me. I have a daily meditation practice, which I learnt at Dzogchen Beara. I know that I’ll never lose what I’ve learnt on retreats. It’s become an integral part of me.”

How to do it: Join daily meditations, or attend a specialised retreat with focuses like Contemplative Walking or Facing Loss, Healing Grief. Hostel accommodation from €20; clifftop cottages from €95. Typical weekend retreats cost €230/€185pp. See dzogchenbeara.org.

So what if I can’t hear the phone? Or I let it ring?

Moira Byrne


Moira Byrne

Moira Byrne is six weeks into a 10-week spiritual sabbatical at An Tairseach Organic Farm & Ecology Centre in Co Wicklow.

‘It is very much a chance to take time out and find yourself, and to figure out where you’re going. We’re doing a whole variety of things – we’re studying the universe, evolution, the birth of the world, cosmology, philosophy and theology, art and creativity. We’re looking a lot at environmental issues and climate change, too.

“It’s a fabulous place. I couldn’t begin to describe it. There are 70 acres of organic farm, there’s vegetables, cattle, pigs, bees in the hives, a farm shop, and a wonderful conservation area. It’s quite a magical place.

“It’s a peaceful, tranquil way of living. We’re living in a rather special place, and living a very sustainable life – the food we eat is all grown on the farm, the building is powered by solar energy and wood pellets, there’s water conservation and harvesting, there’s absolutely no food wasted.

“I always said that when I retired I would go and do the sabbatical, to really find out where the rest of my life was going. That’s what I’m doing now.

“Before I came, I though… gosh, 10 weeks away from home is a lot. I really didn’t know how that would sit with me. But we’re six weeks in now, and the time has flown – I’ve had a wonderful time. I’ve enjoyed the company, and also the peace and quiet. But really, I’ve enjoyed the chance to be in my own company. For me, that is transforming.

“I didn’t realise that I would feel, coming up to retirement, the way I did. Like everyone else, I thought great, I’m going to relax for the rest of my life! But I’ve got loads of energy – I want to do things, and find out where my place is in the world.

“What I’ve been doing is turning off my phone, and it’s great to do that. You can just turn off the rest of the world. So what if I can’t hear the phone? Or I let it ring? Remember back years ago when we didn’t have phones with us… if you were away from your phone for five, six, eight hours, nobody could get you, end of story.

“I become a more peaceful person within myself. I feel like I can now turn off the world, whenever I like – I don’t have to be on sabbatical in order to do that. And that is a wonderful thing to be able to do.”

How to do it: The sabbatical at An Tairseach (antairseach.ie) costs €4,900pp for 10 weeks. The centre runs frequent retreats and workshops as well.

1. Best for luxury

Pine Cliffs, a Luxury Collection Resort, Algarve, Portugal

Whatever you want to address, chances are you can do it at this clifftop resort in the Algarve. There are five categories of wellness retreats you can sign up for – Detox, Weight Management, Yoga, Fitness Journey and Discover Serenity – each with holistic approaches incorporating nutrition, fitness and spa treatments. The location is an absolute stunner, too.

Details: Prices from €770 for a two-night retreat (ex. flights). See serenity-spa.com.

2. Best for insomniacs

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Whatever your health concerns, it’s likely you can find the answer at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Though it is, first and foremost, a gorgeous hotel and thermal spa in the foothills of the Alps, the full medical centre can address almost any concern. Troubles with insomnia? Check in for a sleep diagnostics programme, with full diagnostics and a video-polysomnography (a study used to diagnose sleep disorders) carried out in your room.

Details: Rates start at €500. resortragaz.ch

3. Best for solitude

Holy Hill Hermitage, Skreen, Co Sligo

If you’re in desperate need of a spot of solitude and contemplation, a self-led retreat at Holy Hill is just the ticket. You’re left to your own devices in this beautiful retreat, unless you would like spiritual direction. And while all people are welcome (regardless of their religious affiliation), Holy Hill is for people looking for spiritual experience. This is a place to enjoy the lack of TV and WiFi, cook up beautiful meals with the fresh produce provided, and take long walks in the foothills of the Ox Mountains.

Details: Single hermitage has a suggested donation of €75 per night, including food. See holyhill.ie.

4. Best for walkers

Camino de Santiago, Spain

Walk yourself to a better work/life balance? There’s nothing like the Camino if you really want to clear the head. What was once a Catholic tradition now attracts pilgrims who want to spend their days with no distractions or demands, other than putting one foot in front of the other. You can chat with other walkers or make your own way, free of the stress of everything back at home.

Details: Walking packages with specialist operators like Camino Ways, Magic Hill Holidays or Follow the Camino start from around €450pp (ex. flights). See caminoways.com; magichillholidays.com; followthecamino.com.

5. Best for freedom

Ard Nahoo, Dromahair, Co Leitrim

Sometimes, all you really need is to escape into the countryside and spend a few nights in a cabin, with no TV, no WiFi, and no hassles. The Personal Retreat at Ard Nahoo, an eco and yoga retreat in Co Leitrim, allows you to do just that – vegetarian meals are delivered to your door, you can soak in the outdoor hot tub and book into a yoga class.

Details: Two-night personal retreats from €295 midweek. See ardnahoo.com.

6. Best for menopause

&Breathe Menopause Retreat

The menopause is one of the biggest transformations in a woman’s life, as well as one of the most challenging. This week-long retreat is led by two women, one of whom experienced early menopause, and is designed specifically to improve the health and fitness of menopausal women. The fact that it’s held in a gorgeous French farmhouse (with wine at dinner) can’t hurt, either.

Details: A seven-night menopause retreat costs from €1,160. See andbreatheretreats.com/menopause

7. Best for immersion

Wellness India with G Adventures

If you’d rather go away as part of a group, the new wellness focused trips from G Adventures are the perfect choice. This break incorporates stays in Indian ashrams, guided meditations and, of course, plenty of yoga, all as part of a small group (12 people on average).

Details: Wellness India starts from €1,899pp per person for 11 days (ex. flights). See gadventures.com.

8. The blowout

Do you have a month (and €18,000+) to spare? The ‘Life Reset’ at Spain’s SHA Wellness Clinic includes a tonne of treatments, including neurocognitive stimulation sessions, sleep polygraphs and wellness therapies. The aim is to start a whole new life, from a physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and nutritional point of view. shawellnessclinic.com

NB: All prices subject to availability/change.

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