There’s no denying that we live in an overworked, overstimulated, over- technologized world.
The $639 billion (2017 figure) and growing wellness tourism industry is proof that we are desperate to escape the burnout, isolation, and anxiety that saturates our daily lives. 2020 trends reports show getaways focused on everything from rewilding and death-positive retreats to sleep optimization are gaining serious traction.
The goal, for many wellness travelers, isn’t to simply check out for a week, but to come home enriched, rejuvenated and prepared to integrate their experiences into a better life.
Yet here’s the thing: What if you don’t want to (or can’t) spend the time and/or money on a wellness retreat but still want an escape with some structure, purpose and lasting benefit to your wellbeing?
That’s where personal retreats come in. They can fill the gap between expensive wellness retreats or travel and lying on the couch watching Netflix all weekend in a burnout fog.
Not sure how to start planning a DIY retreat? Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to creating your own.
In this Guide:
Benefits of DIY Personal Retreats
For the record, I don’t view do-it-yourself retreats as an equal alternative to a typical wellness retreat with teachers, healthy meals, spa treatments and beautiful scenery. Rather it’s a more accessible way of hitting reset and reconnecting with ourselves on a regular basis. Some benefits are:
Expense. Let’s be real, retreats can be pricey. Many of them are well worth the expense, of course, but it’s not always possible to swing the cost. A personal retreat can be as simple or as extravagant as you’d like, but the cost is within your control.
Time. You’ll also be able to control when and for how long you’ll be “away” instead of navigating the timelines and schedule of an organized retreat. This is great for new moms, caretakers and other busy folks who really need a retreat but can’t seem to make it work.
Personalization. In addition to cost and time, there’s flexibility around who you retreat with, your activities, sleeping conditions, and the overall intention or purpose of your retreat.
Frequency. Getting away once or twice a year is simply not enough to combat the incessant pressures we have in our lives. Quarterly, or even monthly, personal retreats can become a regular ritual incorporating more balance, rest, play, creativity and reflection into your routine.
How to Make Time for Personal Retreats
How to find the time? This is always the million-dollar question, right? Time is the only non-renewable resource and it’s something in which we’re all chronically in short supply.
This phrase is a cliche in the age of self-care, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. A lack of time really means a lack of priorities, in this case, making your wellbeing a priority. And when you’re at a healthier place, mentally and physically, you’ll be able to show up for others in a more present, sustainable way.
For the time-starved, I offer a mindset reframe. Instead of finding the time, make the time. Easier said than done, I know. If you’re really struggling to find any time for yourself, try this:
- Track your time from when you wake up to when you go to sleep for a week. Don’t rely on your calendar for this. Track what you actually do, including how much time is spent scrolling on your phone, getting dressed, commuting, eating, etc.
- Take a look at your time tracker and be brutally honest with yourself. Are there habits or moments that are taking up time but not adding true value to your life? How can you let go of those things?
- After removing obvious time-wasters, take a look again and categorize your list by the 4 D’s of time management: delete, delegate, defer or do.
- If your plate is still too full after combing through your list, try another strategy: ask for help. Can you hire a babysitter or a home nurse for a day or two? Is there a relative, co-worker or friend who can step in to help you out?
The Anatomy of a Personal Retreat
Before you start thinking about all the things you want to do (or not do) during your retreat, take some time to set the foundation: the why, when, where, what and who.
Why: Set Your Intention
Think of your intention as the North Star of your retreat. It’s why you want to take the time and space to fill your own cup. When you’re clear on this, it’s easier to plan a retreat that’s perfect for exactly what you need right now.
Try this mad-libs exercise to get clear on your why.
My biggest challenge right now is ____________________________ and I want to create a retreat to help me _________________________________ so I can feel _________________________________ .
Where + Who: Create the Space
Creating space is important both figuratively and literally. Decide how you’ll set boundaries with others during your personal retreat. Will you be completely unplugged? How should they contact you if there’s an emergency? Now’s also the time to figure out who can help support you with childcare, work and other responsibilities.
Your physical space is important too. In addition to choosing a clean, calming and comfortable space, thoughtfully select a few items that help center you, cultivate your curiosity or support your retreat intention.
What + How: Brainstorm Your Itinerary
Now that you have the framework of your retreat in mind, let’s talk about how to actually spend your time. Try coming up with a theme for your retreat that supports your intention. Then make a list of the elements you’d like to include to help you fulfill that theme.
Tip: Don’t feel like you have to pack your schedule, either. Carving out time to do absolutely nothing is powerful (and necessary) too.
Here are a few ideas to start:
- Take a restorative yoga class
- Have a solo dance party
- Go on a long walk
- Eat foods that bring you energy or joy
- Indulge in luxury
- Self-reflect with guided prompts
- Write in a journal
- Sit (or walk) in silence
- Do guided meditations
- Take life-inventory and decide what’s working and what’s not
- Read books that spark inspiration and joy
- Go on outdoor adventures
- Explore a new-to-you part of town
- Visit a museum
- Try a new type of cuisine
- Make something with your hands
- Take a class or learn a new skill
- Dream up goals and plans
- Practice a creative hobby
Related: 9 Books for Self-Discovery
Related: Summer Self-Care Bucket List
Returning to Daily Life
Finishing your personal retreat is just as important as the experience itself. Dedicate some time at the end of your retreat to think about how you’re going to integrate your biggest takeaways into your daily life.
Here are some questions to think about:
What did I learn during my retreat?
What activities made me feel good, alive or inspired?
What can I do to bring this activity into my everyday life, even in a small way?
Commit! When and where will I do it?
Ready to Retreat?
Whether you have an afternoon, a weekend or a whole week, I hope you feel inspired to plan your personal retreat at home or away. You deserve this time to reset, reconnect and rejuvenate…on the regular!