Reboot Camp: Raven Smith Battles Burnout at Clinique La Prairie, Switzerland

Reboot Camp: Raven Smith Battles Burnout at Clinique La Prairie, Switzerland

Tackling the millennial brag of burnout with a week-long detox at the Swiss retreat Clinique La Prairie.



Like
the puns you use on your selfies to soften the narcissism,
burning out is the new humblebrag of our times. We all secretly
want our lives full to the brim like a helium balloon, but we keep
pumping in the viscous gas of our busy lives until they start to
overfill and warp like Munch’s The Scream. We dash though modern
life like we’re late for all four weddings and a funeral. I like to
blame the London
smog for my ashy completion, but the truth is it’s self-inflicted.
I choose to burn bright at the risk of burning out. I somehow
embrace the hellfire of the tube with a stranger’s morning breath
at my cheek. Between the hustle of freelancing, I’m currently
renovating my house and have buried the rubble of my anxiety at the
back of a storage unit because emotions don’t lay floors.

There are numerous remedies to our compact schedules, including
the infamous wine o’clock. Most of us love a little tipple, but
something happens around the fifth glass of grog on a weeknight.
Time becomes a flat circle. The sky looks like a Van Gogh. You
delete important emails. You gobble chips in pitta. You voicemail
your ex. You find a mysterious dry-cleaning fee on your Uber
account. At least you forgot about work for a few hours.

With all the noise, staying well can feel like bunkum – too
controlled and faddy, bolstered by anecdotal benefits from online
preachers. The knot of wellness remedies includes homeopathy and
reiki facials and balneotherapy and drinking enough water to drown
Jonah. Wellness can be both everyday, like green tea, and
completely extreme, like sunbathing your perineum. However, an hour
offline for a colonic won’t even touch the sides when you’re
burning out. I don’t want a time out: I want a retreat. I want
extreme rebuilding from the ground up, like the Statue of Liberty.
I want a complete change of scene after clocking up slightly too
many air miles, a physical and psychological refuelling. I want to
remedy my burnout efficiently in order to burn even more brightly
when I get back home. In short, I want Clinique La Prairie.


The clinic is a mere 90-minute flight from London. On terra
firma we pass stunning Unesco-protected Swiss Riviera, bouncing
from the limousine straight into the clinic and the Master Detox
programme. Clinique La Prairie offers an
equilibrium of diet and movement to aid the purification of the
body, stimulating vitality and apparently “rebalancing my body’s
homeostasis”. For the Master Detox they rouse with heat and douse
with ice, blowing hot and cold like a university boyfriend. They
massage out toxins (the signature massage still stands out because
I’ve never had a vibrating bowl on my back before). They check your
chemical balance. They let you nap a bunch. They change your
diet.

I assumed that being on a detox diet meant consuming gruel like
Oliver Twist – or no solids at all and litres of watered-down
water. The food recommendations in my room read no booze, no meat,
no fish or shellfish. No eggs. Oh god, no eggs?! No caffeine. No
dairy. Even fruit intake is limited. I sense the “Clinique La
Prairie detox tea” mightn’t stave off the cravings for real food,
but I also feel like a teenage girl who’s just seen a Netflix
documentary on burgers and refuses everything her parents put on
the table. This is going to be extremely limiting. I plot an escape
route that might get me into town for a Toblerone.



But what the detox diet loses in animal protein, it makes up for
in flavour. A quinoa risotto topped with strawberries is a triumph,
as is a mango ceviche with a coconut foam. Each meal satisfies in
the way a steak can’t, because a steak is a product of death. Sure,
the chefs have slightly over-egged the presentation of the detox
smoothies by serving them in martini glasses like 1970s Angel
Delight, but they still taste great. The standout of my stay is the
chickpea tortellini filled with hummus in a cooling magma of
tomato-y goodness, which sounds soft enough for the toothless but
was perforated with shards of unknown-but-delicious crunch. A tour
of the kitchen – “where the usual garnishes have become the mains”
– also reveals the acute tailoring the clinic offers to differing
global taste buds. Any client can enter the space to speak
one-on-one to the chefs and ask them to personalise their meal
plan. It’s weirdly unbullying. They accommodate your needs, rather
than dictate restrictions.

My first evening meal is surprisingly buoyant, a ramen broth of
the kind I’d like to make at home. It’s vibrant and deep with
textured vegetables that fill me up, and I’m surprised that I’m
allowed a tangy little pudding of cacao mousse. The first night is
fine because I have that morning’s coffee tapering in my
bloodstream, but with dawn comes withdrawal, the comedown jaggedly
jarring against the picturesque surroundings. Turns out my triptych
of vices is saturated fat, refined sugar and caffeine. Coming down
from all three is like the worst jet lag I’ve ever had, as if
experiencing the world from behind those personal bed dividers in
business class. I don’t have a headache per se, just blanket
exhaustion without the constant keepy-uppy crutches I usually have
as props. The clinic serves hydrogen water with each meal, which
aids muscle recovery, but at this point I would sell a kidney for a
cappuccino.


Rather than a kidney, they ask for my hand, reading my palm for
heavy metals but not drawing any blood for screening, which I was
morbidly looking forward to. On to reflexology, which I doze
through before proceeding to take an intensely satisfying,
snore-filled nap midway through the seaweed wrap. I spin upside
down in aerial
yoga
, which I’m now certain is my new thing. When exercising I
often crave a good slapping about like a blockage in a u-bend, and
leave classes feeling beaten to a bloody pulp, but these are, on
the whole, gentle. The lack of extreme pushing is part of the
experience – I never feel near the edge, faint, truly stressed or
ravenously hungry.

The targeted medical examinations and bespoke treatments don’t
rattle the cage – toxins are politely invited out rather than
aggressively excreted. A couple of times I mentally retreat into a
world of pure imagination, but on the whole the experience is a
steady one. It’s odd to be peckish and fetishising food and then
eat something that doesn’t spike your blood sugar in the slightest.
It’s a life of no peaks and troughs. No adrenaline rush or sugar
rush. The experience is itself a pious high: I am ingesting good
things, I am absorbing dense nutrients.

I’m desperate to see the outside world, but when I finally find
time for a walk to a famed local Christmas market I discover that I
have contracted Stockholm syndrome and miss the clean comfort of
the clinic and the kind, massaging hands of the therapists. After a
couple hundred more massages, I accomplish the focus of a Jedi or a
cat ready to pounce. My mind is as clear as consommé after a
breakthrough in therapy. I’m un-burnt out. I’m reignited.

There is, of course, an inevitable crash back to real life. I
scull a black americano and am as high as a kite by the time I
reach Heathrow. Nevertheless, I’ve had full vegan days since
returning from the clinic. It’s balanced me out somewhat – that’s
kind of the point. Clinique La Prairie wasn’t a chrysalis to morph
from carb-y caterpillar to butter-free butterfly, and I didn’t
retreat to irrevocably change all of my behaviours. I went to
reboot my system and rethink commonplace habits. A little less
sugar, honey. A little more veg. A consciousness that’s not
extreme. I clinic-ed for personal renovation, and now I’m ready to
re-tackle my house.