woman standing outside in a blanket enjoying nature

Plan your own DIY Retreat

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This weekend, my husband and kids are going camping. I could go, but I made the hard (Mom guilt) and exciting (women’s empowerment) decision to let them go on their own so that I could get some much-needed self-care time. I’m going to plan my own DIY retreat.

I’m not going to a fancy spa, and I won’t even be drinking wine (can’t with these migraines). Instead, I’m planning a weekend of soul searching, soul-filling self-care that I really, really need after the last two years. All at as low a cost as possible.

If I can get an appointment for a massage or a haircut that will be my one indulgence, but for the most part my retreat will be the low-cost DIY version that only requires a quiet spot and a few online or physical resources.

A DIY retreat can be just as invigorating, mindful, and helpful as paying for a retreat. Just remember to keep a good sense of your own mental health and limitations. That means being honest with yourself – what do I need right now” should be the question, not “what SHOULD I do?”

Here’s what I’ll be doing this weekend:

woman reading a book on her retreat

Part 1: Reading

I’m going to choose two books for this weekend – an inspirational “self-help” type book (I’ll be using “Rock your Midlife by Ellen Albertson) and a “beach read” (I’m buying myself a copy of Book Lovers by Emily Henry). The point here is to make sure that both books will feed my soul but in different ways. If I were at a different point in life, I might choose a classic or a book that would challenge my thinking, but right now I need books that simply give me time to escape and to think about what I want to welcome into my life.

Here are some other inspiring professional books you might choose from.

rolling out a yoga mat for movement on a DIY retreat

Part 2: Movement

I don’t expect to run a marathon this weekend, and to be honest, exercising is something I’m not always motivated to do. But I do know that exercise makes me feel better and so I’m going to choose the exercise that I love. I hope to do at least one Yoga with Adriene video as well as one more intense weight-bearing exercise video on YouTube (a friend recently recommended the “Epic” series by Caroline Gervan). These exercise options remind me that women can be strong in mid-life, and that’s something that I want to foster in myself as I remember how important it is to take care of my body in my 40’s.

walking in the forest

Part 3: Nature

I’m not the type who thrives on 10-mile hikes, but I do know that taking deep breaths on a short walk in nature is food for the soul. Forest Bathing is a term that was first coined in Japan to express the importance and benefit of reconnecting with nature. I’ll be doing at least three walks in the woods during my retreat weekend. Maybe one will be more rigorous and one will be more mindful, but both will be quiet and calm “ecotherapy” as it has been coined. You don’t need a huge forest to get the benefits of forest bathing – even a short moment in a public park can be enough to refresh and recenter you.

healthy grain bowl for dinner on DIY retreat

Part 4: Nutrition

I have recently set a goal for myself to eat 90% plant-based foods (including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) with the other 10% coming from dairy, meats, and sweets, inspired by a book called Fiber Fueled by Will Bulsiewicz . This weekend will be an opportunity for me to recommit to that goal and to bring a boatload of gorgeous colorful veggies into the house to serve as my menu. I’m not going to make things complicated – fresh soups, grain bowls, and fruit smoothies will offer enough variety for 2.5 days of delicious and nutritious snacks. And yes, I will include at least one chocolate snack, because this is not about deprivation.

woman meditating in comfortable clothes with a candle on a DIY retreat

Part 5: Meditation

Meditation doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to mean clearing your mind or sitting for hours on end. Meditation can simply be a 5-10 minute breathing exercise to focus your mind on the present. I’ll be trying a few of my favorite meditations this weekend between activities. For example, I’ll be using the body scan to fall asleep, and I will probably do a guided imagery meditation to imagine myself in one of the beautiful places I have visited in the past. These are what I consider “self-care” meditations to simply make me feel better. Here’s a FREE LINK to me leading a Guided Imagery Meditation just for you!

going to a movie with a friend

Part 6: Social Engagement

While silent, solo retreats are amazing, this weekend for me is also going to be about filling my bucket with a few social engagements that make me happy. I am going to try to plan one or two outings with other mom friends who will understand where I am at and what I am hoping for. Maybe I go for a walk with a friend, or play pickleball (my new passion) with my best mom “partner in crime.” Maybe I’ll even go see a movie (I think seeing the new Top Gun with one of my friends is in order). Maybe I’ll reach out to some friends from the past and just find a time to talk without a child breathing in my other ear or a to-do list yelling at me. The point is, what kind of social engagement will fill my bucket without over-extending my energy – what is my “easiest” social outing?  

relaxing on the couch watching tv

Part 7: Simple Pleasures

Some people call watching TV, shopping, or indulging in an ice cream cone a “guilty pleasure.” I prefer to think of it as a simple pleasure, because there is nothing wrong with doing something you like that is simple and doesn’t ask too much of you (see my note about a beach read above). In addition to my reading, I’ll make time for a TV show or movie that is simply fun to watch. It doesn’t have to be productive, thought-provoking, or intelligent (unless that’s what you love, in which case do it). It can also just be something that doesn’t demand too much of your energy and helps you wind down. I’m open to recommendations, but I also recently started re-watching Modern Family and that might just be this weekend’s choice.

My DIY Retreat Schedule

Here’s a possible schedule for me, if I choose to follow it (and I won’t pressure myself to do so if doing something else works better):

FridayAfternoonMassage or Haircut
  Strength Exercise
  Reading & Reflection
 DinnerGrain bowl with quinoa, arugula, avocado, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and dressing.
 EveningMovie with a Friend?
BedtimeBody Scan Meditation
SaturdayBreakfastFruit Smoothie & Pleasure Reading
 MorningForest Walk or Yoga
  Pickleball or Walk with a Friend
 LunchTossed Salad with Pumpkin & Hemp Seeds & Roasted Sweet Potato
 AfternoonThrift Store Shopping
  Reading & Reflection
  Dark Chocolate Treat
 DinnerBlack Bean Burger on a bed of spinach with a side of roasted cauliflower
 EveningTV or a Movie
BedtimeGuided Imagery Meditation
SundayBreakfastFruit Smoothie & Pleasure Reading
 MorningForest Walk
  Journal – What do I want to take with me from this weekend?

Remember, this is my retreat schedule, designed BY me and FOR me – it may speak to you and your needs, but it may not. What would YOUR retreat schedule look like?

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