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The Art of Retreat

"I need a vacation." It's a common declaration when we are overwhelmed with life's responsibilities. Work piles up, commitments to family and friends fill our calendars; the times we most need a get-away are the times it seems absolutely impossible to do so.

It's true that we may not always be able to physically escape to a sandy beach, a cabin in the woods, or a spa in the mountains, but getting away from it all can be a state of mind. Learning the art of retreat can be an antidote to all the stresses that bombard us each day. Add the following techniques to your self-care kit:

Practice saying "no." This isn't easy at first - our desire to please others, to not disappoint, can make us schedule more than we really want to. We pack it all in and then feel stressed out and resentful. Get comfortable with exercising your power to slow things down.

Set aside at least ten minutes a day for deep breathing and meditation. This is a great way to start the day and leads to clearer thinking, increased productivity, and less stress.

Set up a sacred space in your home, away from the hub of activity. Use a small table covered with a piece of fabric to build an altar. On it display items that are precious to you - photos, mementos of special times, collected seashells or stones, favorite flowers. Make time at least once a day to visit this space and focus on life's little pleasures.

Try a day of silence. Can you make it through the day without uttering a single word? You may be surprised at how much you can accomplish! At least avoid the phone and TV for a day once in a while, and cut back on incessant checking of email.

Take a bubble bath instead of a shower. Get a bath pillow, put your head back, and relax. Visualize your dream trip and savor the anticipation of a real vacation in the near future.

Practice the above tips until then and you'll enjoy it even more when you get there!

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