As I’m sure so many of you can relate to, I feel saddened that I cannot go on vacation, or even take a break. For me, a day off means going out into the world and exploring something new. I’ve never been the kind of person that would take a day off just to relax at home — not, I want so much more. But Covid-19 has forced me to stop and assess that notion. The purpose of annual leave is to give you a chance to rejuvenate, rest and focus on something else for a little while. There’s no reason you can’t do this at home. You just have to reframe your way of thinking. I was uninspired for weeks as I tried to come up with a fun “vacation” for myself at home. But, after reading up on ideas online, I finally started to plan for my very own at-home retreat. I picked a 3-day weekend that was not surrounded by any major work commitments or exams. And, I planned out my itinerary for weeks so that I wouldn’t have to think about the plan at all while on the retreat.
Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? Well, read on to see how I planned each aspect of my retreat. Hopefully these ideas give you inspiration to plan your own!
The first thing you need to think about is: why are you hosting your own retreat? Is it to relax? Perhaps give yourself a chance to learn something new? Or maybe it’s just to treat yourself to activities you already like doing. Regardless, I think it’s really important to set an intention for your day. This doesn’t mean setting yourself a goal per se, but really it’s encompassing your day with a phrase or word that you want to feel. For me, I chose a different word each day and created an itinerary relating to each word. I chose: Healing, Gratitude, and Exploration.
Yoga & Meditation
With your intention in mind, you can set out on your retreat. I planned a yoga session every morning to kickstart the day and also a session in the evening to wind down. I’ve been using Yoga with Adriene for months now, I cannot recommend her videos enough. She really is the online guru of at-home yoga practice. Her videos are incredibly accessible, and can work for all levels. She has over 7 years worth of videos, so I guarantee there more than a couple that are right for you!
After each yoga session, both morning and evening, I also set aside 10 minutes to meditate. Now, meditation does not come easily to me because my mind is really a pinball machine. But this retreat really gave me permission to explore meditation and work through the difficulties. I highly recommend trying meditation at least a few times. If you stick with it, you’ll really reap the benefits.
Meals & Snacks
You can’t have a retreat without giving some thought to what you eat. Ultimately, what you eat is how your body is going to be able to do all the things you want it to do! I love granola and yogurt, which I normally have each day, but I just made sure to plan my breakfast bowls to mix it up a bit. For example, one day I made a blueberry superpower bowl with loads of blueberries and also shaved coconut for a different flavour. Looking for other good combos? Try strawberry and kiwi, or a triple berry bowl.
Snack-wise, focus on light, refreshing and small snacks. I relied a lot on my blender as I made lots of lovely smoothies including: Orange-Carrot-Ginger, Matcha-Mango-Banana, and Strawberry-Banana-Chia Seed. Smoothies are a great low-calorie but highly satisfying snacks. The other type of snack I adore is Deliciously Ella’s nut butter balls. They’re gluten-free and vegan, and made with just 5 ingredients! I love them and I find they’re great as a before-workout snack. My favourite flavour is raspberry and cashew nut butter, but I also love the apple, cinnamon and almond butter one too.
For dinners, I looked to Pinch of Yum’s bowls. She has so many variations, and they’re all so yummy! Just head to her website and search ‘bowls’ and you’ll see all the options. I picked three, including: Healing bowls with turmeric sweet potatoes, poached eggs, and lemon dressing; Roasted vegetable bowls with green tahini (pictured to the left below); and Dynamite plant power sushi bowls (pictured to the right below).
And the best thing is that if you roast enough veggies, or prepare enough protein, you can just use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Easy peasy!
After breakfast, I made a cup of coffee and allowed myself at least 15 minutes each morning to journal. Now, I’ve had a difficult relationship with journaling because I find myself too lazy to write my thoughts down or do not have faith in the exercise itself. You might be asking yourself too, why journal?
If you can’t come up with what to write about, then have a look online for tons of suggestions for journal prompts. I used such prompts in my retreat, taken from here. One of my favourites was this one:
It’s not too late. You aren’t behind. You’re exactly where you need to be. Every step is necessary. Don’t judge or berate yourself for how long your journey is taking. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. Give yourself credit. And be thankful you made it this far.
How far have you come? How much have you grown? Think about the specifics of your recent and long-term growth. What have you not given yourself enough credit for?
Do give it a go! The most difficult part is actually sitting down with pen and paper.
I chose to include a fitness class each day in my retreat, but of course that’s entirely up to you. I’m not a huge fitness person, but I do understand how keeping the body moving is incredibly important to your wellbeing.
I relied on POPSUGAR Fitness for my workouts. I love how they always have someone in the video that does the modification workouts. That way if you can’t do the main workout for as long as the main trainer can, you can always switch around.
Every retreat has a nature component! If you google wellness or yoga retreats, there’s also a hike in some beautiful place like Bali. Well, I’m definitely not able to do something like that here. But! I held my retreat just when a few restrictions were lifting in the era of COVID-19, so I was able to take walks each day. I still think it’s so important to get outside and explore nature. There’s something so peaceful and calming about the great outdoors.
I usually take a walk everyday, so for the retreat I looked on a map for new places to explore. I decided to walk even further from home and explore the various marshes and wetlands nearby. It was such a treat! I was given binoculars for Christmas and I finally tried them out to go bird-watching! I highly recommend looking at your local and picking an area that you haven’t explored in depth yet. You won’t regret it.
For me, a retreat is also about self-reflection and self-awareness. By focusing on yourself, you might realise that you want to improve or develop something. I love to learn, but I find that I often do not have enough time to do all the things I want to do. I took advantage of this retreat by enrolling in some free online classes. What you choose will be probably quite different to what I chose, but I’ve listed them below in case you need some inspiration!
- Art lectures — honestly, there’s always so much more we can learn about art. I actually have a major gap in my knowledge because I didn’t take Part II of Art History in college! Consequently, I chose an art lecture series on the European renaissance. Check out edX for loads of free online courses.
- Blog courses — perhaps you’re a budding blogger too? Well, there is a plethora of resources out there but a course is much more in-depth. My partner has LinkedIn Learning, which you might consider as they have a lot of unique courses by amazing experts.
- Mobile photography class — I also took this on LinkedIn Learning. It’s so interesting to see a world full of photographers that only use their phone. I have converted myself. I used to lug my camera around, but now I find that I prefer to truly enjoy my experiences and spend a bit less time on photography. However, a mobile photography class can give you loads of tips of how to get the best shots in the best lighting.
Above are just some examples, but obviously every course you can think of probably exists. Why not spend some time learning something new, or developing or what you already know?
One of my biggest activities during my at-home retreat was an at-home spa afternoon! I planned this meticulously weeks before to make sure I had everything I needed, from beauty products to scented candles to face masks. Ambiance wise, I did the following:
- Prepare robe and slippers
- Light scented candles
- Turn off lights
- Play mellow music
- Drink herbal tea
- Have plenty of cold water to drink available
From there, I did the following treatments (in this order):
- Bath treatment
- Body scrub
I left a hair treatment for another day, but you can always incorporate that into one full on spa day too. For nail treatments, make sure you have all the right tools like a nail buffer, nail brush, tea tree oil to apply to cuticles, cuticle tool, and nail clippers.
Enjoy sweet, sweet relaxation!
Each evening was a movie night. I love movies, and I was so excited about my selections for the at-home retreat weekend. I tried to pick quite light-hearted, but moving films including:
- The Secret World of Arrietty (Gratitude)
- Tokyo Story (Healing)
- The Grand Budapest Hotel (Exploration)
I’ve watched all of them before, but I felt like I could connect each of my intentions to the films.
Finally, after an evening yoga session and meditation, I would wind down for bed by reading. I made sure to allocate at least 45 minutes each evening to reading. I would say choose a book that will not stress you out too much, but perhaps enlighten you a bit. It’s up to you how you interpret that, but for me it means picking something that I feel brighter after reading.
If you do decide to host your own at-home retreat, let me know! After my own retreat I felt rejuvenated and also quite motivated to get on with things that I had time to think over those three days. It truly did feel like a vacation, even though it was from the comforts of my own home. Perhaps I’ll host another at-home retreat sometime very soon.
If you need more ideas or inspiration, do let me know! I would love to help you come up with your own at-home retreat.