What exactly is a self-care retreat? Simply put, it’s a wellness getaway to help recharge batteries that run low from dealing with the stress of everyday life.

woman sitting on gray couch with coffee

Who can benefit from one?

A self-care retreat is not as indulgent as it may sound. Performing at our best means we need to replenish our mental and physical energy stores on a periodic basis. Here are just a few who could benefit from a little tender loving self-care:
• Parents who are always on call
• People at transitioning points in their lives
• Anyone with a high-stress job
• Anyone with low creative reserves
If any of the above sound familiar, chances are a little self-imposed TLC is just what the doctor ordered. You could spend thousands on a wellness retreat put together by professionals at exotic locations, but that’s not always an option. Here are some ideas to plan a close-to-home (or at-home if necessary) self-care retreat designed to soothe your soul, rest your mind and restore your energy.

How do I prepare?

calendar

Here are basic steps to follow when planning your retreat:
• Schedule your retreat and let others know you will be unavailable in that timeframe.
• Plan your activities by clarifying what you want to accomplish during this special time.
• Think about your meals ahead of time so you can nourish your body.
• Be prepared to disconnect from your phone and other electronics.

How long should the retreat last?

Depending on your schedule, your personal retreat could encompass anywhere from a few dedicated hours to several days. If you’re blessed with an entire weekend to yourself, mark your calendar from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. If that length of time is not possible, mark off a morning or an afternoon, as even just a few hours of conscious self-care can yield beneficial results. No matter how much time you dedicate to this, treat these precious hours the same as you would any other retreat or engagement and let others know you are not available.

Where do I go?

Ideally, find a place close to, but away from, home. Maybe a vacationing friend will let you use their home. Maybe you have a favorite camping ground or cabin. You could rent a hotel room or an AirBnB overnight. If none of these are possible, you can still plan a beneficial retreat in your own home. Choose a time when family or roommates are out of the house and go from there.

Prepare to disconnect

Part of your pre-planning is to ensure that you have the freedom to go dark – even for a little while. Let everyone know you will be out of pocket for a certain length of time and will only be available during times of real emergencies. Let them know you will check in with them at pre-set times if absolutely necessary.

What do I do during my retreat?

Move

stretching on pink mat
Incorporate an activity to get the blood flowing, making it as vigorous – or not – as you like. Your activity could be soothing like a long contemplative walk, yoga or tai-chi, or intense like running.

Create

person painting
When’s the last time you created something just for the sake of it? Write, paint, sculpt, play music or do anything else as long as it engages the right side of your brain. This is your sacred time to speak to your inner muse, no matter what form she takes. If your activity requires a laptop or tablet, just make sure you are not connected to the Internet.

Contemplate

hands of someone facing outdoors
Set aside time for meditation, prayer or just quiet time. Taking a moment to feel grateful – to appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t – is proven to increase neurotransmitter serotonin levels and make us feel happier. Consider crafting a gratitude statement, making it as simple or complex as you’d like. Write it down before your retreat (or use this exercise as part of your creative activity) and repeat it to yourself.

Read

someone reading book with coffee
Forget the business journals and newspaper. Focus on books you’ve been meaning to read that will aid your self-improvement journey. Before your retreat, decide what aspect of yourself you want to work on and find a book or two that will encourage growth.

Nourish

fruit in bowl
Because you’re doing this at home, you most likely won’t have the luxury of having someone else create healthy meals to eat during your retreat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pamper yourself. Just plan healthy meals in advance. Prep as much as you can and keep them simple to reduce fuss (and dishes).

For meal preparation, we like the idea of packing salads in a jar. Here’s a basic recipe from www.thekitchn.com.

How to Pack the Perfect Salad in a Jar

salad in a jar

Makes 1 salad
Ingredients
• 1 to 4 tablespoons salad dressing
• Mix of raw and cooked vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and other salad ingredients
• Salad greens
Equipment
• Wide-mouth canning jars with tight-fitting lids: pint jars for side salads, quart jars for individual meal-sized salads, 2-quart jars (or larger) for multiple servings
• Large bowl, to serve
Instructions
• Salad dressing: Pour 1 to 4 tablespoons of your favorite salad dressing in the bottom of the jar. Adjust the amount of dressing depending on the size of the salad you are making and your personal preference.
• Hard vegetables: Next, add any hard chopped vegetables you’re including in your salad, like carrots, cucumbers, red and green peppers, cooked beets and fennel.
• Beans, grains and pasta: Next, add any beans, grains and/or pasta, like chickpeas, black beans, cooked barley, cooked rice, and pasta corkscrews.
• Cheese and proteins (optional): If you’ll be eating the salad within the day, add a layer of diced or crumbled cheese and proteins like tuna fish, diced (cooked) chicken, hard-boiled eggs or cubed tofu. If you’re making salads ahead to eat throughout the weekend, wait to add these ingredients until you’re ready to eat.
• Softer vegetables and fruits (optional): Next, add any soft vegetables or fruits, like avocados, tomatoes, diced strawberries or dried apricots. If you’re making salads ahead to eat throughout the week, wait to add these ingredients until the day you’re planning to eat the salad and add them to the top of the jar.
• Nuts, seeds and lighter grains: Next, add any nuts or seeds, like almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds. If you’re making a salad with lighter, more absorbent grains like quinoa or millet, add them in this layer instead of with the beans.
• Salad greens: Last but not least, fill the rest of the jar with salad greens. Use your hands to tear them into bite-sized pieces. It’s fine to pack them into the jar fairly compactly.
• Storing the salad: Screw the lid on the jar and refrigerate for up to 5 days. If you’re including any cheese, proteins or soft fruits and vegetables, add these to the top of the jar the morning you plan to eat your salad.
• Tossing and eating the salad: When ready to eat, unscrew the lid and shake the salad into the bowl. The action of shaking the salad into the bowl is usually enough to mix the salad with the dressing. If not, toss gently with a fork until coated.

thankful on plants

What not to do

While personal retreats are just that – personal – there are a few basic things to avoid during your self-care retreat. Remember that your goal is to look inward, not elsewhere, to find entertainment or escape:
• No alcohol or other substances – the goal is to embrace your inner self, not escape from it.
• No movies, novels or TV shows – try to avoid seeking meaningless escape.
• No phone or Internet – If you must check in from time to time, bring an old-fashioned clock or watch to keep track of time and call or email at a pre-determined time. Whatever you do, avoid the rabbit hole of social media during this time.

Next step

Congratulations! You made it through your first self-care retreat. Now what? Take time in the next few days to think about what you learned about yourself. Hopefully you journaled during your retreat so you can reference your notes.
And then, schedule the next one.