INSIDE: A personal retreat is the perfect solution if you’ve been yearning for some me time and you want to rediscover yourself and recharge your mind, body and spirit. This is the ultimate guide to planning a self-reflective vacation that will change your life.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like I want to run away.
Not because I’m unhappy, but because I just feel like I need some “me time.”
That’s kind of an understatement actually.
It’s more of a deep longing inside of me. My inner spirit feels like it’s calling out for some soul-searching and self-reflection.
I’m the lonely estrogen in a pool of testosterone in my house – it’s me and my fiance and five boys.
You’re feeling my pain now, aren’t you?
So yeah, I need some time away.
I need to not be a mom for a few days. I need to get away from the stresses of a blended family. I need to discover the parts of me that I’ve lost. And I need to immerse myself in girlie, self-care pleasures.
I am fortunate to have the opportunity to take what I call a self-reflecting vacation in a little over a month. You might call it a personal retreat. It’s just time away by myself for me to do all the things my soul is yearning for, the self-reflective stuff I haven’t had time to do and that my mind, body and spirit is calling out for as a result.
As I’ve started to plan out my trip, I realized this is the perfect topic for an article. I’m sure every mom could use a self-reflecting vacation, and I hope you carve out time to do it for yourself!
If you give yourself this amazing gift, this article will provide you with everything you need to make it the best use of your time, so that you get the answers you seek, the relaxation you need, and so that the yearning in your soul is filled.
Preparation Steps For Your Personal Retreat
Preparation is the key that will make your time away so beneficial. Here are the basic steps you want to take to prepare for your self-reflecting vacation. We’ll look at each of these in more depth later in the article.
1) Choose Your Theme – By having a theme for your personal retreat, you will be able to stay focused so that you get the most value out of your vacation.
2) Set Your Intention/Mantra – Once you have your theme, you can set an intention or mantra that you can repeat to yourself to help you stay focused throughout your retreat.
3) Choose the General Activities You Want to Engage In – These activities should be things that you feel will help you achieve your intention.
What Not To Do: Don’t schedule your activities by hours. You just want to go to your retreat with a list of general activities you want to accomplish. If you try to schedule your time down to the hour, you won’t leave any room for the real magic that happens when we are engaged in the openness and freedom of a self-reflecting vacation.
4) Choose Your Journaling Prompts – One of the most important activities to engage in during a self-reflective vacation is journaling because it helps you come to realizations you otherwise wouldn’t. By choosing some journaling prompts ahead of time that you want to answer on your retreat, you’ll help yourself stay focused and get the answers you seek. I’ve included some journaling prompts at the end of this article to get you started.
5) Plan Your Packing List – What you choose to bring to your retreat should be very much in alignment with your theme and your intention.
6) Plan Your Home-Coming – Know that coming back home probably won’t be easy, and you might experience a range of emotions that will make you question whether you’ll be able to continue with any of the changes you put into place on your retreat. This is normal, but you can plan for the best home-coming possible.
7) Make a Plan For Re-engaging in Everyday Life – One of the most difficult things to do is to blend the clarity and peace you get from a personal retreat into the chaos of everyday life. That’s why you want to have a plan for it.
Choosing Your Theme
The most important thing you can do in preparation for your retreat is to come up with a theme because it will set the tone and determine everything else about your retreat.
In order to determine your theme, you’ll need to ask yourself several questions. Start with the following questions and then allow others to come to you as you see fit:
- What questions do you want to be answered by the end of your trip?
- How do you want to feel when your retreat is done?
- What does your mind, body and spirit need the most lately?
- What changes have you been wanting to make in your life for you to feel fulfilled?
- If you’re feeling too overwhelmed or unsure to even answer these questions, consider making your theme about finding clarity.
Once you work through these questions and any others that you feel are fitting for your current situation, you should start to see a theme (or several themes) arising.
You’ll want to narrow it down to one theme. If you try to focus on too much, your results will be diluted, and you’ll feel scattered and unable to de-stress and get what you want to get out of your retreat.
There is an exception to this rule, however: If your retreat is really long (say, a couple weeks or dare I say a month), then you could devote one week to each theme.
As you start to narrow down your theme, you’ll want to look for the over-arching thing that you want to get out of your vacation, but you might still end up with several. In this case, you can probably accomplish two or three seemingly unrelated goals by looking for how they relate.
For example, if you want to have some time for relaxation and stress management, but you also want to come up with a plan for happiness, you can accomplish all of those things. You could make your theme “Happiness,” and come up with activities that will allow you to de-stress and discover your happiness all at once. Just make sure you aren’t trying to get away with too much and that you are sticking within the boundaries of your theme.
Here are some theme ideas. Your theme might be one of these, but it might be something entirely different, so don’t limit yourself.
- Health & Healing
- Acceptance/Letting Go
- Intuition & Inner Guidance
- Stress Release/Relaxation
- Self Care
Setting Your Intention/Mantra
Your intention is like the elaborated version of your theme, and it will trigger the proper emotions to do the work you need to do.
Here are some examples of intentions:
If your theme is Authenticity, then your intention/mantra might be: “I am discovering the deepest parts of who I am so that I can bring them to light.”
If your theme is stress management, your intention might be: “I am engaging in and setting up the consistent practices that will help me reduce my stress and feel more peace on a daily basis.”
Choosing Your Activities
The activities you choose for your personal retreat are completely dependent on your theme and intention, and they are what will give you the outcomes you seek.
For example, taking the theme from above (Authenticity), some activities you might engage in include journaling about self-discovery topics, creating a dream board, meditating about what your purpose is, and reading a book about authenticity.
If your theme is Health & Healing, you might spend your time doing yoga, dancing, creating healthy meal plans, doing a healing meditation, and getting Reiki.
Here is a list of some activities you might consider engaging in during your vacation:
- Dream board creation
- Writing poems
- Bubble Baths/Spa Showers/Foot Soaks
- Planning & Researching things that will help you make the changes you want to make
- Taking an online course that will help you achieve your intention
For more activity ideas for your personal retreat, check out my article called 53 Simple Pleasures for Lasting Happiness.
Creating Your Packing List
This isn’t really the time to pack lightly unless your goal is simply relaxation. You’ll want to make sure you have the supplies with you that will help you get the results you want.
What you bring will, of course, depend on your theme and the activities you have planned for your retreat.
Here is a list of some things you might want to consider bringing with you:
- Journal and your favorite pen(s)
- Adult coloring book and colored pencils, markers, crayons
- Dream board materials (poster board, markers, magazines, scissors, tape, glue, embellishments, stamps, stickers)
- Candles and a lighter
- Essential oils
- Yoga supplies (yoga DVDs, yoga mat, yoga clothes, etc.)
- Meditation supplies (headphones, meditation music loaded onto your phone)
- Healthy meals and snacks
- Wine (and don’t forget a wine glass and corkscrew)
- Herbal tea
- A personal growth book that is relevant to your theme
- Comfortable clothes and outfits you feel most “you” in
- Self-care items (lotion, body scrub, facial products, nail polish, grooming kit, etc.)
- Uplifting movies
Plan Your Home-Coming
Lots of emotions will come up when you return to your normal life after a personal retreat. This is normal because most of us don’t have the opportunity to slowly ease back into our lives. Instead, we are faced with all the same old stuff that bothered us before we left. By understanding this, you can plan ahead to make the transition easier.
Consider what things have made coming home from a vacation in the past difficult. For example, if coming home to piles of dishes and laundry after a vacation has set you off in the past, ask your husband to have those things done before you return. If having to go to work the next day makes you depressed, plan for a day off at home after you return.
Make arrangements to return from your retreat at a time of day that will help you re-engage in your everyday life in the best way possible. Perhaps it’s the middle of the day when no one is home? Or maybe you’d rather it be the opposite.
Do what you can before you leave to ensure that your return is as peaceful as possible. For example, if you pay to have your house cleaned each week, plan to return the day after it is cleaned. Make sure all bills are paid before you leave so you don’t have to worry about them when you get back. Have your meals for the week of your return planned out before you leave so you’ll have one less thing on your plate.
Planning For Re-Engaging in Everyday Life
You want the results of your retreat to be lasting, but it can be difficult in the midst of your everyday life. That’s why it is so important to have a plan so you can blend your retreat experiences into your normal life.
Start by making a list of what you want to change in your life. This is likely to transform as you go through the activities of your self-reflecting vacation, but having an idea of what you want now will help you more successfully re-engage in your normal life when you return.
Once you have your list, take responsibility for your part in those issues. It’s easy to think that it’s everyone else’s fault, but the fact is we choose how we respond to people and situations, and we can usually choose a better way.
By entering your retreat with the mentality that you are willing to change yourself in order to bring about the changes you want in your life, you are already entering a place of empowerment. When you aren’t the victim, you are empowered!
Decide that you will come back from your retreat without blame and without a list of how you want others to change. Instead, you will come back with the courage to change only yourself. You will find that by changing yourself, and how you react and interact in the world, everything around you will change as well. That’s the power you have, and that’s the best way to get the most out of your retreat and to make it a part of your everyday life.
Creating Your Personal Retreat Outline
Now that you’ve mapped out your theme, your intention, the general activities you plan to engage in, the supplies you are going to bring with you, and how to re-engage in normal life after your retreat, it’s time to create an outline that you can loosely follow during your retreat.
I said “loosely” because, again, you want to make sure you aren’t planning everything down to the minute or even the hour. By having a general idea of what you are planning to do on your retreat and then leaving plenty of room for flexibility, you will notice that your retreat will take on a life of its own – one you couldn’t have planned even if you had tried.
For instance, you might think you are going to meditate for only 10 minutes, but you get so lost in it that you end up enjoying it for an hour and then writing about your reflections for another hour. You simply can’t plan for things like that.
I’ve created an outline for a self-reflecting vacation below. Yours will likely look different based on your current needs, but this will at least provide you with some guidelines to follow.
1) Center Yourself & Enter the Space – Make a conscious entry into your self-reflecting vacation by imagining yourself physically entering that peaceful, self-reflective space. During this time, you’ll also want to speak your intention while asking the higher power in your life to help you achieve that intention.
This could be done before you leave your house or as you enter your hotel, or whatever makes the most sense for you. It could also start well before you leave. For example, if you take a shower before you leave, you could make that shower all about washing away negativity and toxic thoughts, preparing your body for all things positive.
Whatever activities you choose to do at the beginning of your retreat, make it like a ritual that you would see ancient tribes engaging in. By this, I mean make everything symbolic and intentional.
For example, you could put lotion on your body after your shower and imagine you are rubbing positivity all over yourself. Then, follow that up with five minutes of yoga, ending with your hands in the prayer position and saying a prayer about what you want to get out of your retreat as you meditate for a few minutes.
2) Retreat – Now that you’ve entered the retreat, it’s time to follow your planned activities while allowing your retreat to unfold naturally.
3) Each Night – End each night with a calming ritual that will help you bring closure to the day and set you up for a restful night of sleep. This might include something like 20 minutes of light yoga, 10 minutes of meditation, and reflective journaling about your day.
4) Each Morning – Begin each morning by welcoming in the new day and what it has in store for you. Be open, flexible, and excited. Set up some activities that you know will help you feel that way, such as reading an inspirational book while you sip your coffee, writing a poem about how blessed you are to have this self-reflective time, and doing some sun salutations or going for a walk outside.
5) Before You Leave To Go Back Home – Create a closing ceremony for yourself. Consider writing one last journal entry, meditating on your experiences from your retreat, and setting an intention for how you would like to proceed as you move back into your everyday life.
One thing that can help you re-engage in your everyday life when you return is to create a new mantra based on what you learned about yourself and your life on your retreat. It should be something that will help bring you back to the positive feelings you experienced on your retreat.
Let’s say that your theme was Authenticity and you discovered on your retreat that you are stronger than you thought you were. You could create a mantra that helps you remember that, such as “I am a strong woman, and I am now using that strength to take control of the energy that I put out into the world.”
6) On Your Drive or Flight Back – Listen to some music that inspires you and take some time to reflect on your retreat. Think about what you enjoyed the most, what you will do differently in your everyday life, and offer gratitude for your experience.
It’s very important that during this time you also start mentally preparing yourself for getting back to your everyday life. If you feel stressed or anxious about it, try to release it with deep breathing, and by reciting your new mantra.
Instead of getting yourself worked up thinking about coming back to things, people, and experiences you don’t want to deal with, find the strength within yourself to keep the positive outcomes of your personal retreat alive within you.
Remember, the energy around you will transform based on the energy that you put out. Decide that you will carry the energy within you that will make your environment what you want it to be.
There will be moments when you feel like meshing your new insights from your retreat with your normal life are impossible. Just know that those moments are simply moments. By continuing to work on yourself and holding the energy you want to experience within yourself, you will see refreshing changes in your life.
7) Before Entering Your House – Take a deep breath, put a smile on your face, ask the universe, God, or whoever you pray to for assistance with the changes you want to make in your life, and visualize yourself being a vessel for the energy you want to experience in your life.
Tips for a Successful Retreat
Be Open – When you are on a self-reflecting vacation, the most important thing you can do is remain open. Don’t close your mind to anything. Allow in all possibilities and ideas. Just let go and let things flow. That is when the magic happens!
Stay Flexible – Don’t plan and intend so much that you don’t leave room for the natural progression and wonder of allowing your retreat to unfold. It needs to take on a life of its own. You are simply guiding it while allowing it to transform into whatever comes.
Accept & Release – Be willing to accept what comes to you, even if the answers that come to you aren’t what you expect, and be willing to release the things that are holding you back from having what you want.
Be Empowered – If you find yourself playing the victim, remind yourself to come back to a place of empowerment. Take responsibility for your role in every situation and relationship in your life. If you want to play the victim, you will never be able to change the situation, but when you realize your reactions to people and situations determine their outcomes, you then have control over your life.
Don’t Be Disturbed – When you are on a personal retreat, you want to minimize all distractions. Hang up a do not disturb sign right away when you arrive if you are staying in a hotel. Only use your phone to check in once a day with your family. Only use the TV to play yoga videos. Don’t let yourself go on Facebook. Just plan to be with yourself.
Journaling Activities to Consider
Consider dedicating one journal to your personal retreat experience. Write in it frequently during your vacation, and use it as one of your self-reflective tools.
Journals are an important part of self-reflection because they help you work through your thoughts. They are also the best way to document your feelings and insights so you can reference them later.
Here are some journaling activities you might want to use during your self-reflective vacation:
Reflective Journaling – This is simply writing about your feelings and allowing yourself to come up with important insights throughout the writing experience.
Mind Maps – Mind maps are a more visual representation of ideas and insights. They start with a word or phrase (usually in a circle), and then you draw lines from that word to other words that relate to it. Then you can have other words come from those words. It’s a fun and visual way to get your ideas onto paper.
Brain Dumps – A brain dump is a way of getting your thoughts and ideas onto paper quickly, and it can be in any format you want. It could be bullets, phrases, or even mind maps and drawings. When you quickly dump your thoughts onto paper, you don’t judge what you are writing – you just let the thoughts come out quickly.
Flow Writing – Similar to brain dumping, flow writing means that you are just letting your thoughts flow onto the paper as quickly as possible, but it is usually in the form of sentences or phrases.
Check-In – Check-ins are a great way to document your retreat. You’ll write a paragraph a couple times a day about what you just did, how you feel, any new insights you have, and any other reflections you want to share.
Feeling Maps – These are fun! You simply start with the overall feeling you’ve been experiencing lately. Write it down in the middle of your page. Then let the next thought come and write it in a spiral around the feeling. Keep flowing with thoughts and letting them spiral out. Then reflect on what you learned.
Question & Answer – Write down a question you are seeking an answer to. Then either flow write the answer or meditate and write down your reflections.
Answer Journaling Prompts – This can be a great way to get to some really deep insights because it involves answering prompts that are made to encourage deep thought. I’ve included some journaling prompts for you below that you can try out.
Journaling Prompts for Self-Reflection
Go to your retreat armed with several questions related to your theme that you will reflect on and seek an answer to while you are there. Here are some examples that you can either choose to use or to inspire your own questions.
- What do I love about myself?
- What do I not like about myself and why?
- How am I most like the people I can’t stand?
- In what ways am I stuck? How can I free myself?
- What are my secret shames?
- What are my greatest successes?
- What do I value most in life? How is my life congruent with those values? How is it incongruent?
- When and why do I feel powerful?
- We see what we are focused on in life, so what have I been focusing on in my life? In what ways would I like to shift my focus?
- How have I turned off my inner light? How can I relight it?
- How can I be more content with my current life even if nothing were to change?
- What do I need to stop resisting and start accepting? Remember, what we accept transforms; what we resist persists (That’s what Matthew Ferry says!).
- Am I ready to change? What would it take for me to be ready?
- When I was at my best, what was I doing differently than I am doing right now?
- What is missing in my life?
- How can I welcome more peace and balance into my life?
- What do I love about my life right now?
- What do I hate about my life right now?
- How can I be more loving?
- In what ways am I judging others? How can I let go of judgment?
- What did I used to love as a child that I have left behind as an adult? How can I bring that into my life?
- I feel most like me when I _____.
- What does my authentic self look like?
- How have “bad” things in my life led me to incredible blessings?
- In what ways am I attached to certain outcomes? How can I release those attachments and allow my life to unfold?
- What am I trying to control in my life? What problems is that causing and how can I let go?
- What decision am I pushing off? How can I make up my mind?
- What habits are not serving me? What good habits need to replace those bad habits?
- How can I allow more love to flow through me?
- How can I make more connections with others?
- Do I have my priorities straight? What needs to be adjusted?
- In what ways am I abandoning myself? How can I nurture myself instead?
- What do I fear the most? If that fear came true, what would I do?
- In what ways am I allowing my fears to hold me back?
- What support do I need to help me make the changes I want to make in my life?
- Am I worthy of my dreams coming true? Why or why not?
- What beliefs do I hold that are limiting my growth?
- In what ways am I not being true to myself?
- What relationships in my life need healing? How can I start healing those relationships by accepting my role in those relationships?
- What energy am I bringing to my environment and my relationships on a regular basis? Is that the energy I want to be responsible for?
- How can I make sure the transformation from this retreat is lasting once I get back to my everyday life?
Enjoy Your Retreat
The last thing I want to say is that the ideas in this article are what work for me, but they may not work for you. Don’t limit yourself to this plan. Instead, use it as inspiration and ideas of how you can create an even better plan for yourself.
I hope you make a point of taking a self-reflective vacation at least once a year!
I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below!
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