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WNC Business

Discovering work-life balance benefits creates new business

Mar 20, 2023 07:29PM ● By Randee Brown

Always being goal driven and busy, Heather Parmley and Lindsay Chewning said they both had  worked themselves to the point of exhaustion, past the point of productivity and were just getting burned out.

“When Covid first hit, I realized that we didn’t even know how to just be with myself,” Parmley said. “I had to make a calendar for myself with a list of things to do — walk the dog, read, make jewelry. Realizing that this was a need for myself, I thought it was likely a need for others also.”

Often working three to five jobs at a time, Chewning would go through phases in which she realized she had taken on too much. “I was giving too much of myself to the point of feeling depleted,” she said. “I felt a big transition out of Covid and took time off. This was the first time I gave myself the freedom to just be present and allow myself to do whatever felt good. That freedom gave me the motivation that I needed, and I actually became much more productive.”

Parmley compared this to something we all experience from time to time. Rushing out of the door, there are often times we can’t find something that we need. Parmley said that this used to really frustrate her, until she realized that when she slowed down, took a deep breath, and stopped looking for it, only then she would find what she was missing. She paralleled this to life in general, saying she noticed that when people slow down, they often discover what they are looking for in life.

Attending a yoga retreat in Sedona, AZ several years ago, these two friends witnessed a community of people wanting to improve their lives and coming together to heal. “I thought healing was something that had to be done alone,” Chewning said. “People had the opportunity to be vulnerable with others. This was a big turning point in realizing that I can ask for help and share my story.”

After that retreat, they felt spiritual openness in themselves and wanted to help cultivate that and be a catalyst for that in others. Finding a close, loving friend in each other allowed them to take a big healing journey together, spurring the idea and mission of their business — Awaken Wellness  Retreats.

Above photo by Perri Runion Photography.

“We shared a post announcing that we would be hosting our first retreat, and we received an outpouring of interest,” Chewning said. “We set the dates, booked an AirBnB, and it felt so good to realize that this is actually happening.”

“That reinforced the importance of speaking into existence what is happening,” Parmley said. “We took the leap without thinking about it too much, and through that process, we found our calling of creating a community to rest and heal together.”

Though the work of hosting retreats is inspiring and doesn’t feel like ‘work’, it requires energy, attention, and holding space for others. They leave each retreat with a flame reignited in their soul. 

While working with a goal of inspiring others can feel like their own mental reset, they have realized that they also need to take their own space for themselves and enjoy meditations, therapy, and self care.

“Leading retreats has helped reinforce the importance of having alone time and setting boundaries for that,” Chewning said. “Even just 10 minutes of alone time helps, and taking a day off at the end of the retreat allows us to process, rest, and rejuvenate ourselves.”

Chewning and Parmley have created rituals for themselves that help with the process of resetting, both after a retreat as well as during busy or stressful moments during a regular work week.

“It can often feel nice to lie flat on the earth,” Chewning said. “I realize that taking deep breaths at work because of stressful moments can be a signal to take space and pause in stillness. I love being in the sun, in nature, in the woods, I can tune everything out and just be. Even a few minutes can really make a difference.”

“Sometimes I take a bath or a shower to literally wash off the emotions,” Parmley said. “I notice changes in my body like tension and headaches or taking deep breaths with my shoulders moving upward, and then take moments to stretch, walk my dogs in nature, or sing in the car. I’ve always loved humming, and recently learned that it’s likely because humming and singing can help regulate the vagus nerve, which can help regulate your entire nervous system in general. I wish I would’ve learned that in school.”

Above photo by Jess Hopkins Photography.

Spiritually, the friends have realized how important it is to have a spiritual community as well as cultivate a spiritual home within themselves. They began to question themselves and their beliefs, and realized that their beliefs are malleable and can always change. They feel that as society has moved toward science and away from spirituality, there is a need to reconnect the two. Having an appreciation for and seeing the magic of what is instead of trying to understand everything reflects what spirituality is all about for them.

They have found the most important things to maintain proper balance are to slow down big time, taking breaks often. Burnout can still happen in a job you love, and it can become something you resent. Allowing time to pause and be with yourself helps to keep the balance in check; you still need space to reset and just be.

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