‘A WELLNESS RETREAT HELPED ME FIND JOY IN ROUTINE’

How do you feel about the word ‘routine’? For the free-spirited among you, the word alone might trigger a mild sense of claustrophobia. For the well-organised, perhaps it evokes a feeling of calm.

My personal relationship with scheduling is complicated, and I don't slot neatly into either camp. Repetitiveness isn't something I particularly enjoy, yet I tend to force it into my life – especially when stressed. When work problems or friendship issues arise, I'll desperately cling to a rigid morning process, exercise schedule and early nights, facilitated by giving up social plans, in order to cultivate a sense of order and control.

When the stress reaches a crescendo leading to a period of burnout, as it always still does, I'll lay low for a while. As I slowly begin to feel better the pendulum swings the opposite way, and I'll delight in random nights out, spending time at friend's houses and generally not focusing on those more 'productive' pursuits. You don't need to be a psychologist to know living in between these extremes is not the best idea, and I was well aware that I needed to recalibrate my relationship with routine.

It was during one of these stressful periods in which that an invite for a trip to BodyHoliday Saint Lucia turned up in my inbox.

BodyHoliday is an institution: one of the world’s first spa resorts, it’s been developed into a sprawling wellness and fitness destination with 40 different (all-inclusive) daily activities on offer to guests, ranging from Pilates and beach-front HIIT to holistic treatments and snorkelling trips.

Its appeal lies in well-balanced, curated itineraries. Want to dive into Ayurvedic wellbeing techniques with treatments, meals and wake-up times tailored to your constitution? Sure. Prefer sweating through high-intensity sessions before deep tissue massages to help you recover? Of course. Depending on what you're into, a member of the team creates a bespoke routine that melds your preferences.

Crucially, BodyHoliday believe that there’s a way to make routine fun – a skill I’ve never mastered. This trip just might teach me how to build a schedule that helps me thrive, I think.

Resetting routine

Naturally, as I spot Saint Lucia’s lush Caribbean greenery and sparkling oceans on the way into land, I was ready to ditch any form of formal schedule altogether. I wanted to drink margaritas by the pool and let my close-to-burnout brain forget words like ‘inbox’ and ‘deadline’. Instead, after the drive to the hotel where we were greeted with cloud-scraping palm trees, a ginger shot and a cool towel, I was handed my itinerary.

Thankfully, BodyHoliday’s routine was less rigid than that of other retreats I’ve been on. Firstly, as almost all of the activities are all-inclusive, you’re not stressed about missing out on a fancy hobby you’ve paid extra to attend, and all appointments are adjustable.

There's also no expectation to complete a 10k run, an educational workshop and an intense HIIT class all before lunch. Instead, the day was filled with pockets of movement, mindfulness and nourishment.

That was all easy to do from the villa I stayed in. Placed atop a rolling hill, the towering turquoise mansion looked over the ocean and jungle-esque foliage of the hotel’s surroundings.

There’s a pool, a terrace and, given the staff offer daily breakfast in bed, I could lounge here all day and feel well enough to approve BodyHoliday’s mission for wellness. But I don’t, because I’m here for routine – so back to that.

My schedule included around six appointments a day. The agenda spanned the blissfully relaxing, like a massage in which warm oil was kneaded into my skin, as well as heart-hammering sweat seshes. I scheduled in morning hikes and runs to viewpoints overlooking the other Caribbean islands, meaning an early alarm clock – but one set because I was excited to see the sun breaking the dawn sky, rather than because I felt I 'should.'

I did beachfront yoga and shook my hips (appallingly out of time) with the most rhythmic Zumba instructor I’ve ever witnessed. I spent time in the gym to ease some irritating hip pain because I had a free half an hour, rather than because I had to.

At resort restaurant I-TAL, BodyHoliday’s horticultural leader Damian Adjodha details the history of the Rastafarian religion as we tour the herbaceous gardens before we find our way to a wooden hut in which we enjoy a thoughtful and delicious five-course meal.

Maybe the pinnacle of the routine was the two-hour breathwork workshop scheduled every day. BodyHoliday is known for its themed weeks and guest speakers and our trip aligned with guest instructor Niraj Naik, founder of SOMA Breath.

From 11am, we found space in a treehouse to learn how to breathe to induce a sense of calmness or alertness by manipulating oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Typically, in all of my hardcore planning of intense routines back home, my mental health was never prioritised. I had never once factored in time for meditation or breathing, given my intense scheduling only came into existence during super busy periods. Now, here were two hours a day dedicated to nothing but myself.

At first, it felt unreasonable. My hand itched to move towards my phone and my mind drifted as I thought about deadlines and admin. Turning up day after day, though, I learned rapidly realised that learning the art of calming myself down had the potential to benefit me, profoundly, when I returned to my 'real life' of emails and strategising.

Supportive scheduling

Maybe it seems obvious that a routine that involves bouncing from massage to mindfulness class to workout is an easier route to joy than one that is designed around desk-bound work. But, honestly, I didn’t expect that to be the case. I thought that my life could only exist in the extremes of complete control and intense freefall. BodyHoliday proved a well-rounded routine can be liberating, too.

Of course, the real test only begins when returning home. And I’m genuinely very surprised to say that I’ve been much more aware of how I’m scheduling my days. I am not time-blocking my tasks from 7am-9pm but allowing myself slower, more joyful mornings. I find time to sip my coffee and eat my breakfast with no phone, rather than shovel it into my mouth because I’m meant to be doing something else.

My diary is also a much simpler affair: there is a list of things that need to be done but no pressure to fulfil it all in one go. And I have been able to recognise that my desk chair is likely not the best place for me when feeling anxious. I’ve started saying 'yes' to co-working spaces with colleagues and taking breaks with friends; more social activities that previously felt unwelcome in my routine.

While there’s no room for a two-hour breathwork session every day, I’m able to find time for mental health practices, whether meditating or shorter breathing patterns, when I can see that my days are looking a little overwhelming.

Knowing I have and need time for all elements of my health has become a vital part of my new routine, and have made my days much more fun. BodyHoliday really is to thank for returning my mind – and my schedule – to me.

2024-07-08T10:44:52Z dg43tfdfdgfd