As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season closes upon us and the end of the year draws near, it is the perfect time to consider planning a Personal Retreat. I have been going on a Personal Retreat every January for the last several years. I usually plan a year in advance, and budget ahead of time. My favorite place to go is a local bed and breakfast, namely the Glasbern Inn. It has many of my favorite things: a fireplace, jacuzzi, comfy bed, good food and places to walk in nature. It also is close to home, in case the winter weather arrives, which my husband is happy about. I use this time to not only get alone with the Lord, and spend time in prayer, but also for personal reflection and to set goals for the new year. This time refreshes and recharges me and is a sweet time I look forward to every year.
This year my retreat plans may end up looking a little bit different for me. My favorite place did not offer the Groupon I usually use to get a good rate. Did I mention we just bought a new house? So this year I may need to get a little creative too. You can too. No matter what your budget is or what time you have available, you too can plan to take a personal retreat.
Step 1: Pick a Time
The first thing to think about is what time do you have available for your retreat? Do you work full time but have a few days off between Christmas and New Years? Maybe your kids are in school and that week they are home and would not work for you. Maybe you need to pick a date later in the year, or an evening or two after your husband gets home from work. Are your kids out of the house or are you a single gal? You may need to get a coworker to cover your shift or be intentional about your schedule to make it happen. Maybe none of the above works, and you literally need to plan an “at home retreat.” You can do this too by planning easy meals, easy homeschool lessons and special movie times for your kids. Perhaps, you do have the budget and flexibility for an overnight trip. The point is to think about what time you have and schedule it on your calendar.
Step 2: Decide what you will do
Now that you have the time scheduled, ask yourself, what do you want to do on your retreat? What do you need to feel refreshed, happy or joyful? Do you need an extended time in prayer and reading your Bible? Do you want to take a long walk in a scenic park? Maybe you just really want to browse a bookstore with no one needing you or visit thrift stores and piddle all day? Maybe you would rather bask in nature and visit the seashore or a quiet cabin? What is that one thing, that you would most like to do when you take this retreat? Define that one most important thing and then you can build other things that will complement it, around that. For my “Planning Retreat,” the main thing I want to do is reflection and goal planning, but I also know that I like to be in a quiet place, around cozy things, at a beautiful place surrounded by nature. What will yours look like?
Step 3: Choose a Location
Now that you have your time frame and know what you want to do, you can plan where you will go for your retreat. The options are endless. Some great places to go for an evening or a day are libraries, coffee shops, and even some grocery stores that have café seating, like our local Wegmans. When my kids were younger, I used to go to the local supermarket once a week, after the kids were settled in with my husband for the night. I would visit their café and enjoy a couple of hours of quiet reading or working on a project. If you have an entire day, you can visit some local parks, or go for a long walk. You could grab a bite to eat and eat alone while reading a good book. Think about what location recharges you. If you have a little more leeway and can spare an overnight trip or a few days longer, check out a local bed and breakfast or a nearby hotel. Maybe you want to head to the seashore or even to a secluded cabin. Not up to being that alone? Bring a friend, spouse, or daughter and enjoy some quiet time together. Have any relatives in another state? One year I took my daughter to her Grandma’s house. While she enjoyed a week doing fun activities with Grandma, I had a personal retreat at her house. They planned fun activities together and I took long bike rides and scrapbooked during the day, and then we met together for dinner. Can’t afford to go anywhere and have no nearby relatives? Do you have a place in your home you can retreat for a few hours? The bathtub? A Guest bedroom? What about asking a friend to bring her kids to your house and she watches them all, while you go out for a few hours, then you can do the same for her the following week. There are many creative options. Think about what will work best for you!
Step 4: Plan your agenda
Now that you have your time, what you will do and a location picked out, you need to think about how you want your actual day to flow. You may want to consider scheduling a few set points in your day. You can be totally scheduled, not scheduled at all or somewhere in between. If you go into the day overly scheduled, then you may not have the relaxed pace you were hoping for. However, if you don’t schedule the day and you really like somewhere to go and knowing what you will do, then you will feel like you are wandering around aimlessly. When I have gone away for a few days, I plan specific wake up times, mealtimes, and a bedtime. I also like to plan activities like reading and going for a walk around those set points in the day. Since I retreat locally, I also have scheduled a special dinner with my spouse or one of my kids to have some meaningful time alone together. Find your flow and write out your own agenda.
Step 5: Prepare your home for time away
Now that you know what your retreat day will look like, you need to prepare for your time away. If you have family you usually cook for, you will want to plan for some easy meals while you are away. Do you have any important meetings or dates on your calendar that need to be rescheduled? Is your family’s laundry overflowing? Are you planning to unplug from social media or go completely off-grid? Be sure to share your location and itinerary with someone you trust.
Step 6: Plan to return to an easy schedule after your retreat
This may seem like a silly thing, but after all of the planning for your retreat and the easy peaceful few hours or days that you will spend away, you will want to think ahead to the time you return from your retreat. This may not apply if you are only gone a few hours but after a few days, it can be pretty hard coming back. You feel relaxed, refreshed spiritually, and often it can be hard to come back to real life. Can you plan to have a free calendar the week after to ease yourself back into the rhythm of the everyday routine? Maybe you must return to work or school, but you can at least plan to keep a low key social calendar. What kind of things will make this transition easier for you?
Step 7: Plan the supplies you will need
You also need to think about what you will need to bring to your retreat. Do you need to find that new journal? Maybe you need to print some goal planning pages. Maybe you need to dig out your bathing clothes or a few good books to take along. Don’t forget to pack some comfortable clothes or other comfort things. I like to bring my favorite mug, chocolate of some kind, my pillow and a cozy blanket, a few good music CDs, bubble bath, a jug of good water and some meals and healthy snacks depending on if I have a fridge or microwave. Think about where you will be and make a list so you can be prepared too.
Step 8: Get rid of your expectations
Another important thing to remember is to release any expectations you may have. Sometimes things will not go as planned. Not every wandering through a bookstore will be magical. Not every stroll will be as romantic as you imagined it would. You may at times, lose track of time and feel like you are wasting your time and doing nothing. Sometimes your retreat may not even leave you completely refreshed. That is Ok. Expect the unexpected. Last year, I went away looking forward to a quiet time and a few nights of dinner with my husband at the local bed and breakfast. When Covid hit our family, my husband ended up at home in bed, and then a few days before my retreat was over, the covid bug hit me too. I still enjoyed the quiet, and extra rest. I even planned my goals for the year. It just did not look the way I hoped. Things may not turn out the way you imagined they would and this is Okay.
Step 9: Release the Guilt
Finally, you need to not feel guilty about taking a night or a few hours or even a few nights away. It is often easy to feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. Our souls need rest and our bodies do too. This is normal. Do not get stuck in the mindset that you need to earn a rest day or prove your reason for doing it. You do not have to be falling apart or to require it. Our soul needs rest. This is a beautiful normal thing and it’s important.
Step 10: Evaluate
Lastly, I want to encourage you to evaluate after your retreat. What worked and what did not? Do you need a new location? Do you want to try some new activities next time? What would you ideally like to change? Would budgeting a year in advance help? Maybe you realized a quarterly retreat would help you instead of a yearly retreat. Put those dates on your calendar now and plan for it!
Through the years I have personally taken many retreats. Here are some of the ones that either myself, or someone I know has taken. Do any of these spark your interest?
*a Scrapbook Retreat: working on memory keeping and preserving my pictures
*a Homeschool Retreat (with your spouse, shopping the homeschool convention and brainstorming materials for the coming school year.)
*a Beach Retreat (quality time with another family or your daughters).
*a Goal Planning retreat (reflecting on the year and setting goals and intentions for the new year)
*a Pamper Me retreat (with a manicure, time at the gym and a massage.)
*a Writing Retreat (time spent working on that book you started but never had time to finish.)
*Weekly Bubble Bath Retreats (a time to sing and pray and reflect on the week)
*Monthly Financial Planning Retreats (a time to check in our your finances while enjoying some yummy coffee at a local cafe)
Will you consider planning a personal retreat for yourself?
Want to Dig a Little Deeper? Check out these resources.
*The Lazy Genius Podcast- Episode #240- “How to Plan a Personal Retreat” by Kendra Adachi
*Your Retreat: A Guide to Giving Yourself a Personal Planning Day by Erin Odom- The Humbled Homemaker
*Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity by Saundra Dalton-Smith