Create Your Own At-Home Wellness Retreat
Discover five simple steps to plan a healthy escape—when COVID-19 prevents you from getting away.
I love going to retreats, and I’ve been to them all over the world. In an average year, I go to two or more week-long retreats and multiple weekend retreats.
There was that fantastic nude yoga retreat with YogaNu in the South of France, the life-changing ayahuasca retreat with Apotheosis in the jungles of Costa Rica, the memorable magic mushroom retreat with Synthesis outside of Amsterdam, the blissful men’s yoga retreat at Kalani on the Big Island of Hawaii, the steamy men’s sexuality retreat at Easton Mountain in upstate New York, and the soulful winter wellness retreat at Kripalu in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
It’s been over a year since I’ve been to a retreat, and what a year it’s been. My stress and anxiety levels are through the roof. The pandemic has robbed me of my favorite way to travel, relax, manage stress, focus on my physical and mental health, and make new friends.
There’s nothing like going to a beautiful destination and walking into a safe space filled with like-minded people who are all there to open their hearts and go on a journey of healing.
Retreat spaces require openness and vulnerability, which often scares the shit out of me, but I love them. They are the medicine that provides stress relief, lowers my blood pressure, improves my mental health, and allows me to be at peace in the world.
As 2021 begins, and as I reflect on the overwhelming sense of heart rate increasing burn-out that was the gift of 2020, I realize that I can no longer wait for the end of the pandemic for my next retreat. It’s time to make my own.
1. Decide on a time frame.
I’m opting for a Sunday alone at home while my boyfriend is out of the apartment. Perhaps you can wrangle two or more days for your retreat. This will be more difficult for full households, in which case it may be better to select a single day or even a few hours.
Do whatever it takes to negotiate some time alone or get your household on board with doing the retreat alongside you. If they aren’t willing to go along, and you can’t get the whole house to yourself, then negotiate a single room.
Once you’ve selected your time frame, block it off on your calendar, and prioritize it. When someone tries to schedule you for something else during that period, it’s your job to defend your time block. Blocking and defending your time is as essential to your self-care as the retreat itself.
2. Plan some activities — but not too many.
Think of the things that relax you most, or some things you’ve never tried before. Just keep it simple. The idea isn’t to fill up every moment of your time but to do a few activities that help you relax and disconnect from the world.
Here are a few of my favorites.
- Hot baths
- Chocolate meditation
- Tai chi
- Continuum movement
- Gratitude practice
- Laughter yoga
- Facial masks
- Mindful tea time
- Bread baking
- More napping
3. Plan some healthy meals.
When I’m on retreat, I like to eat healthy organic homemade food. I’ll stock my kitchen with fresh vegetables, homemade bone broth, herbal teas, fresh bread, fruit, smoked salmon, and dark chocolate.
Your meal plan is up to you, but avoid trying to do something that will increase your stress levels. I happen to enjoy cooking, and I find it very relaxing. If that’s not the case for you, then explore an alternative approach where you can eat healthily and stay sane.
4. Prepare to disconnect.
Many times when I go to a retreat, I’m asked to hand over my phone and other digital gadgets. My experience at those retreats versus my experience at a retreat where I stay connected is night and day. When I keep my phone on during a retreat, I finish the retreat feeling as though I haven’t had a break at all. But when I hand over my phone and engage in digital detox, I leave feeling refreshed, at peace, and ready to face the world again.
6. Set up your space to soothe the senses.
A clean space: There’s no way I can feel relaxed and blissed out in my home if the place is a mess. So before I start my retreat, I’m going to tidy my home. I’ll put things away, minimize clutter, and make sure it’s clean.
Sound: Create a relaxing playlist for yourself, and download it because you’ll be disconnecting from the internet. You don’t have to listen to new age music if you’re not into it. Relaxing piano, soft strings, native American flute, Gregorian chants, thunderstorms, or ambient bird sounds will all work if they relax you.
Scent: Smell is an undervalued component of any space. I enjoy sage incense or essential oils like lavender, sweet orange, or eucalyptus.
Lighting: Lighting is another not-to-be-forgotten component. My home is filled with multiple warm-colored dimly-lit lamps, fairy lights, and lots of candles. I also prefer natural light when it’s available. Whatever you choose, the lighting should be conducive to your own relaxation.
Your home retreat
When it’s time to begin your retreat, these simple steps will help you transition from overwhelmed to ready-to-relax.
- Turn off the phone and all screens. Disconnect from the internet.
- Adjust your lighting.
- Introduce a relaxing scent.
- Play relaxing music or ambient sounds.
- Close your eyes and take a moment to sit still in silence.
- Inhale and exhale, focusing on your breath.
- Scan your body from head to toe. Pay attention to how you feel without judgment.
- Set an intention for your retreat.
- Continue to sit in silence or select one of your activities.
- Do only one activity at a time — giving all of your focus to that activity. This is not a time for multi-tasking.
- When one activity is done, take a few breaths, and then select another one.
- When your retreat time is complete, sit in silence once again.
- Give thanks to yourself for this gift of self-care.