Category Archives: Health

Winter Survival Guide (10) ~ Stretch it Out.

Sitting around a lot, or staying indoors more than usual during the colder seasons when life tends to become a bit more sedentary, can lead to achy muscles, and tension in our body. Take some time every day to do a few simple stretches, even if it’s just for five minutes a day. It will help you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and supple and will ease away some of that tension that we hold in our bodies throughout the day, especially when those days are spent curled up on the couch indoors!

stretching white cat
Photo by Tamba Budiarsana on Pexels.com

Winter Survival Guide (8) ~ Eat Well.

We all need that reminder, don’t we? Most people have some kind of struggle, even if only a minor one, in their relationship with food, and obviously what we put into our bodies affects our health, wellbeing, state of mind, energy, mood and so forth on so many different levels.

It’s important to fuel our bodies well for the winter, to remember to eat, but also to be aware of the temptations towards over indulging, comfort eating, or eating too much unhealthy foods. By all means enjoy what you eat, but keep things in balance. Don’t neglect to eat enough, for you’ll need the energy, but also don’t over eat, and try to eat healthily and do all things in moderation.

I know for many people this seems too ‘glib’ and it’s not easy because of your deeper struggles. But remember you are important and worth taking care of, which includes in how you treat your body and in what you eat, so stay well, warm, healthy and happy. x

sharing cherry tomatoes
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

‘Lunch Bites’ – Bite-sized inspiration on your lunch break…

Which of us doesn’t get the ‘munchies’ during our work day? It’s all too easy to grab an unhealthy snack because it’s the easiest thing to find, and I know that I certainly have done this while at work. However, today’s inspiration for your lunch break is to spend a little bit of time the night before prepping some healthy snacks to keep you going throughout the day, and also to prep some healthy lunches. You’ll be amazed at how a few simple ingredients can go a long way, save money, and be better for your wellbeing, not to mention your waistline too! You can bring things into work and make up a lunchtime snack while you are there, and store your ingredients in the fridge – or you can do a little bit of cooking or putting things together at home and bring your lunch in. That way you know exactly what you’re getting, you’re not left with the only option of a calorific unhealthy meal, and you have a bit more change in your pockets.

For quick and easy vegan and vegetarian meal prep ideas, see my main page and click on the relevant ‘tab’ on the menu. Also, keep an eye out for some new recipe and snack ideas coming soon. Today I am enjoying a home made healthy pasta lunch, and for snacks I have been happily munching on cucumber sticks and vegan mayo which are surprisingly filling and much better than grabbing a chocolate bar from the vending machine or filling up on biscuits. Happy munching – if you have meal prep ideas, be sure to share them with us 🙂 x

adult cutting daylight facial expression
Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Please Help this Night Owl become a Morning Lark (or at least be able to fit in a bit more with society’s ‘timetable’)!

‘Life as it happens to me’ has me at a point where I am attempting to climb a proverbial mountain. I am by nature a ‘night owl’. I love the idea of being a morning person, and the few times I have been able to have a good stretch of time in the morning has been really good. I know that there is research about people’s circadian rhythms that mean some people are more inclined to being either ‘larks’ or ‘owls’, and it’s hard to fight against it. Hard perhaps, but maybe not impossible…I’m sure it has been done. I am also a very creative person, and so it is not easy for me to turn my thoughts and ideas off and have a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to go in the morning. 

The thing is, for me, there are extra dimensions to this ‘problem’. I went through a period of time when I was not able to have a full night’s undisturbed sleep for three years. It was exhausting, frightening and just a horrible time for me.

Additionally, I have anxiety, panic attacks and complex post traumatic stress which means night time can be difficult and if I get to sleep early I might still have nightmares, be unable to settle into a good sleep and wake up at various points during the night. So in the morning, I am not able to get up with my early alarm, and added to that I have the anxiety of getting ready and out the door, and am very rarely on time for things because of these added challenges to my  body and brain. However, I have overcome so many other things in my life and this although I have tried time and time before is on my list. And friends, I need help!

I have read things, watched videos and sought advice on how to overcome this aspect of my life, but it is not something I have ever been able to sustain despite my efforts. Some aspects of healing of my conditions take time, but I am determined to get on top of things but it can get discouraging. 

I need help to keep me accountable, to help me get on track in the first place, then stay on track, and although I’ve probably heard most of it all before, I need advice and helpful tips and tricks. I wish there was a switch that could just make things work, but there isn’t and society has its framework geared towards ‘morning people’. Any help, advice or stories from your own experience if your natural rhythm is more nocturnal would be so welcomed. I share a lot of advice on other life issues, but this is one I have no expertise on, so please help this frustrated little owl! 🙂 Thanks friends. xx

bird animal owl wisdom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lunch bites – bite sized inspiration on your lunch break…

Step it up!

If most of your working day is spent sitting at a computer, then it is important to be intentional about being active, even if that activity is simply short and regular walks along the corridor, or gentle stretching, for example arm or leg stretches which you can do while sitting at your desk. If you think about your health in the long term, then a sedentary lifestyle can be very detrimental on a number of levels. Even if you are already fairly active, it’s beneficial to keep moving throughout the day and not just waiting until the end of the day or the week to go to a gym, or for a run or some other type of exercise.

Find ways in which you can ‘step it up’ in your office environment, and you can be subtle about it. Walk up and down the stairs if you are able to – this is good for the body, mind and heart as well. Take a short walk at lunchtime. If you are going to a meeting within your building, and have the option of using stairs or a lift, take the stairs where possible. Do some simple leg stretches under your desk, or whatever movement you are able to do with your physical abilities. Your body will thank you for it in years to come, and you will be fitter, more focused and healthier to also be more productive in your work tasks. And one last thing…ladies, if you wear heels, remember to keep a pair of flat shoes at the ready! 🙂

woman walking on brown stair
Photo by Ricardo Esquivel on Pexels.com

Retreat Reflections – Day 3 (Part 3) ~ Moving Forwards…

If you read part two of day three’s retreat reflections, you’ll know that after spending several hours over two +  days sitting on my couch and working on writing my book, I was creating space and time to get out of that creative (and mostly immobile) state of being, to doing some of my usual light exercise. However, I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ for some reason, and the easy exercises I usually do seemed like something I was just not going to (or too lazy to) manage at that moment. So I did some light stretching, and then found this on YouTube… it is a virtual treadmill walk in Palm Cove, North Queensland, Australia.

This for me personally was amazing! I don’t have a treadmill at home, but you can still do this while walking on the spot (yes, you’re not allowed to just watch it while still sitting on the couch! 🙂 ) and I have just walked the half hour, also using hand-weights and jogging a bit on the beach. It has given my body and mind a boost. Of course, actually going outside for a walk would be great, but if you have been indoors, being a recluse for a couple of days, and are perhaps still in your pyjamas 😉 or if you don’t have somewhere to walk outside, or the weather isn’t great, or you just. don’t. want. to. engage with actual human beings, and traffic and noise and outside stuff right now, then this is really great, or at least I found  it to be so. So thank you to whoever made the video, you have made the internet a little brighter. 

Also, it terms of creative head space if you have been intensely working on something, this is a good way of still getting moving and having the chance to mentally engage, explore, be curious about what’s around the next corner, and enjoy some beautiful and relaxing views somewhere you may never have been before. I feel refreshed and relaxed at the end of this and ready to do 5 or 10 minutes of cardio before a bit of a cleaning / tidying up session to get organised for a more relaxing evening. Another thing is with this particular walk, is it is so relaxed, and there are people passing by, but you are still in your own personal retreat space. If like me you experience anxiety and panic attacks in crowds or public spaces, this can be really helpful for your mind to prepare from going from relative (or total) solitude on your personal retreat, to actually beginning to prepare for re-joining community, and reminding yourself that you will have to engage with people shortly while still being relaxed and calm right now. Preparation is key if you have anxiety – and maybe also if you just happen to be a bit of a recluse. 

Psychologically I found it fascinating. Sometimes when we exercise, we struggle mentally to persevere and have to push ourselves. This of course is very light exercise and not really challenging for most reasonably healthy people I would assume, while recognising for others it is an accomplishment which is great. However, my mind was so engaged in the ‘story’ of where I / we / go-pro? was going next, of looking around, listening to the birds, the waves, seeing people of different walks of life, reading signs, enjoying the view and wondering about other people, that I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that I was walking, jogging and using hand-weights, because mentally I was engaged and it was an enjoyable experience. Also, probably quite helpfully, while ‘passing’ people during the virtual walk, my mind started making connections about the people I would have to engage with whether at work, or during my commute, and kind of preparing for that while still enjoying my ‘me time’ and without the stress of the contrast of a social situation after having my creative head buried in a personal writing project. If you don’t have these issues, then this may seem a bit strange, and that’s great if you don’t struggle, but it also might help provide a little bit of an insight into people you know who may have anxiety. 

Anyway, all in all I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it really has helped me to shift gears into the next part of day three of this three day writing / personal retreat. Daydreaming…maybe someday I will go there for real 😉 

If you could go for a (virtual or real) walk in any part of the world, where would it be? 🙂

How exercise has helped me press through trauma and experience ‘mental gains’…

woman girl silhouette jogger
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d like to add a disclaimer that this isn’t advice for sufferers of eating disorders or others who have negative relationships with exercise and / or body image. These are simply my own thoughts for things that have helped me. 

There have been times in recent years, and even months where I have felt like my brain, my mind was exploding, deconstructing, self-destructing, and taking my nervous system with it. There was a point in my childhood at school where I was on a daily basis experiencing emotional, psychological, verbal abuse and on a few occasions physical attacks from my peers. This was mainly in the first two years of high school, and so the friends that I made after that either did not really know what was going on for me, and I didn’t know how to articulate it, so people assumed I was just quiet, shy and studious, which I was but a lot of the lack of speaking and problems socialising was because I was walking around severely traumatised. But something in me broke. The damage in those two years had been done, I was in such pain I didn’t want to live, I hated myself and had a distorted self image, and didn’t care anymore whether I lived, but this remained unexpressed so no one really knew, and I just quietly kept my head down, got good grades, got on with things, and tried to keep it together but the pain never went away and I never felt even moderately ‘ok’ inside even though appearances on the surface might have told a more positive story. The trauma had no where to go, I can only say that it felt, including physically with chronic pain that I couldn’t really explain to people, like my brain had ‘broken’, and was malfunctioning and this as an adult manifested as complex PTSD. Because I am a smart young woman, people didn’t really consider that this was the case, until several medical health professionals and consultants provided a diagnosis to this silent daily suffering. Eventually I just wasn’t coping and had to reach out for help and the help I have had over the past few years has enabled me to see a way forwards although some of it was gruelling work at the time. Your brain is not ‘broken beyond repair’ – it just sometimes takes a lot of incredibly hard work and support to get to a point of breakthrough.

I was never much of a person for being into exercise, and still I am not a fitness fanatic, but I do try to do something a few times a week, even if for a short amount of time. I have learned that exercise isn’t just about keeping the body fit, or boosting those ‘feel good’ chemicals. It also, importantly, helps to retrain the mind, in a positive direction, and helps keep mind and body ‘in step’ if you’ll pardon the pun, and I think helps to rewire new neural connections. I have noticed that people, even your ‘average’ person, who engage in some kind of fitness often become focussed, determined and press through their personal limitations even if this is on a modest and moderate level. When people reach a personal best there tends to have been a psychological barrier that was broken that enabled them to persevere, well before crossing  a ‘finish line’. I don’t exercise as an escape or as a ‘fix’, but I do know that it is something that over time is improving my mental agility and speeding up my recovery from severe childhood trauma. This needs to be a balanced for some people though, who might take exercising to an extreme – I can safely say that I’m a bit too ‘lazy’ for that ever to be a problem for me.

There are times when I can sense aspects of the trauma ‘getting to me’ again. And I am reminded that what ‘broke’ within my mind as a child doesn’t need to stay in that irreparable state of heightened fear, pain, helplessness and distress. I no longer have to be in a psychological ‘free fall’ unable to stay grounded or to cope with the explosions in my brain that make no sense logically in my adult life where things aren’t an actual threat to me. There is a verse in Scripture that admonishes one to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:2). Scripture also elsewhere talks about the importance of physical exercise (but in the context of training ourselves in godliness and righteousness as even more important). There are also several passages that use analogies of spiritual discipline being like running a race, preparing for battle, being ready, focused and alert.  I believe that although renewing our minds with Truth is the most important thing for us mentally, exercise also has an active role to play in moving towards psychological breakthrough. You are proving to your body and mind that you can do it, even when you feel you are otherwise malfunctioning. You are training your mind to persevere, to push through barriers, and to succeed. Even when I feel that sense of things resurfacing, like this evening, I don’t necessarily have to engage in exercise to know that it is there for me and it has already been of benefit – I can remember the times I have persevered physically and mentally, I have pressed through I did overcome, and what seems insurmountable psychologically in relation to trauma is put in its place as I take my thoughts captive (as the Bible says taking thoughts captive ‘ in obedience to Christ’) and exercise my mental agility to push through and take control and work towards recovery, mental strengthening and over time, a better quality of life.

 

 

 

Hug deficiency…

I just read an article shared by a friend about the importance of hugs (whether from a parent, partner, spouse, child, friend or pet) for our physical, chemical, mental, emotional and psychological health. 

It was a very interesting piece, explaining how the hormones and chemicals in our body and brain produce stress relieving or producing effects that are directly impacted by positive, reassuring, physical contact. such as hugs, or lack thereof. Hugs for maximum wellbeing should be around 20seconds long, but on average they are much less. 

I won’t go into the science, but you get the point, and I’m sure you can relate to the sense of wellbeing you have had when holding someone or a pet, or being held by a loved one. 

Perhaps you are blessed to have an abundance of hugs so that your general wellbeing is boosted and in stressful times your stress response is lessened. I am very blessed to have a particularly huggable mum who is also an incredibly enthusiastic ‘giver of hugs’! I think my mum probably goes a long way in making up for my ‘hug deficiency’ if it is possible to ‘store up’ the effects of hugs, I’m not sure 😉 Ok, so I’m being a bit tongue I cheek, but the article mentioned a piece of research on the number of hugs required for wellbeing and different levels of wellbeing. And despite facts and figures being what they are, and clearly you have to take this with a pinch of salt, the number of hugs required for ‘survival’ is 4 a day. It sounds a bit like your fruit and veg intake of ‘5 a day’.

Perhaps ‘survival’ can be interpreted in terms of wellbeing and quality of life. As a single young woman who lives alone, and works a full time job, and sees my parents around once a month, my general ‘intake of hugs’ on an average day is….oh, let me count…..um…..’ZERO’. 

However, I am still alive….survival rate is 100% so far….yet, quality of life and wellbeing? I do suffer from depression, anxiety and complex PTSD…..however, I am an overcomer, not merely a survivor. I have grown from feeling broken and needy and alone, to growing into somewhat of a ‘girl boss’….and as I stand alone, I am learning to stand tall. But, yes we all need hugs, not that we always want them….I have grown used to my solitary space, it’s what I know. Unless I truly loved someone and felt loved by them, a 20 second long hug would just feel….AWKWARD to me….and I don’t have a pet, so I guess writing is maybe a bit of a ‘wellbeing intake’ for me in a way 🙂 

The point of this rambling post is that if you are also ‘hug deficient’ it is important to think about how this might be affecting your wellbeing, and how you can take care of yourself in other ways. Yes, physical contact and connection helps us grow and enjoy life and promotes wellbeing, however connection and contact can come in different forms, and a variety of friendships, relationships and even in solitude we can boost our wellbeing by taking extra care of our bodies, our minds, and making time for ourselves….so you might be lacking in hugs, but you are an amazing human being, capable of experiencing the blessings and gifts of Peace, stillness and wellbeing….even if in solitude….let ‘self care, self kindness and compassion’ (and most importantly to me, connection with God in His Love for me) be your own hug to you! 🙂 That way, you will have more to give to others from a place of strength and not neediness, whenever those hugs do come your way! xx

smiling woman carrying dog near tree
Photo by Lauren Whitaker on Pexels.com

 

Planning a personal retreat

 


For the past three or four years, I have taken a few days out of my regular work schedule and usual weekend routines to set aside a short amount of time for personal retreat and reflection.

It is something I encourage everyone to do, and to build in to their lifestyle so that they can enjoy this specific set aside time at the very least once a year, and furthermore to take what they learn and incorporate it into their day to day lives somehow.

I don’t know what comes to mind for you when I mention the word ‘retreat’. Perhaps you think of robes, sandals, fasting, spiritual practices, tie dye shirts, frolicking in a field full of sunflowers, hiding out in a log cabin, being immersed in nature, traveling somewhere exotic and getting far, far, far away from it all and the ‘madding crowd’ around you. 

Maybe you think of something organised by a group or retreat centre, with other people teaching and contributing, of workshops, group discussions, flip chart paper and permanent markers, or something that will take time, effort and money to organise, and something that is just too far from your reality to really have any of the above resources to indulge in. Maybe you think of spas and wellness centres and relaxation, or maybe you think of something entirely different.

Whatever comes to mind for you, in terms of thinking of a personal retreat, I’d like to demystify some of the fuss and fanfare that might go along with the notions that a personal retreat may be out of your reach. All of what I share is from personal experience and figuring out what works for me as I went along, so as unique as each of us are, we will find a way to personalise our own experience and meanings of retreat.

Purpose

photo of assorted letter board quote hanged on wall
Photo by Mikechie Esparagoza on Pexels.com

An important place to start if you are thinking about planning a personal retreat, before you even begin to touch upon any of the logistics such as location, duration or cost, is to think about why you are embarking upon the idea of a retreat in the first place. 

When I first set about planning a personal retreat a few years ago, I began with brainstorming ideas, and visions and hopes of what I wanted to get out of the time and what it would involve, and what it meant to me. As I have grown more familiar with the process, and as I know myself and my dreams and values better, as well as my practical talents and limitations, this takes less time to navigate as I am more familiar with what is important to me and how to inhabit this kind of creative and reflective space.

I am the kind of person who needs a lot of time alone to think, ponder, reflect and be. Therefore, ‘retreat’ is kind of in my DNA, as it were. Even before thinking more specifically about retreat, I have always sought out set aside time throughout my life. For instance at times that took the form of going for  drives to the beach when I was still living with my parents and had use of a car, putting my music on and finding a quiet spot away from people, watching the water, writing down my thoughts, praying, thinking. When I was studying in University, during lunchtime or between lectures I often wandered and pondered down by the riverside so that I could be alone to think about deeper things. Now that I have a place of my own, and live alone, retreat can in some ways be a lot easier, but in other ways it takes effort to be intentional about it and demark specific set aside time rather than merely letting my alone time melt into one unfocussed experience. Writing has always been an important part of self reflection and learning to understand the world, for me. So too have other creative means of expression, and perhaps you also gain insights through art, music, literature…..

I think certain personality types, like myself, actually crave retreat on a regular basis, and as much as we also need human connection and companionship, we have an innate way of creating those deep and solitary opportunities for ourselves, in a way in which we are left richer for it in our experience of ourselves in the world, in contrast to others who might find such pursuits and practices quite lonely and isolating. Yet, to some extent we all need that quiet, set apart ‘me time’ to reflect, recharge and redirect our lives. 

So how do you find your ‘why’?

Like I said earlier, ‘brainstorming’ is a great place to start. It helps you actually discover more concretely what you have been mulling over in your own mind, and begin to translate those thoughts into something more tangible to pursue. When you express your thoughts whether verbally, through writing and / or pictorially, you have the chance to articulate what you need from a personal retreat and to begin to hone your focus.

For example, I might brainstorm ideas of what is important to me for a retreat, and come up with something along the lines of: 

Relationship with God, prayer, rest, relaxation, writing novel, creative writing, nature walks, self reflection, peace, time out, calm, health, well being, quiet, reading, exploration, growth, spiritual discipline, photography, art, music, food, slow living, getting in touch with myself, finding purpose and direction, slower pace of life, meaningful living, attentiveness, awareness, living in step with God and nature, knowing God’s plan for my life, watching the clouds go by, being a child again, finding joy in simple things, trying something new, adventure, know myself better, self care, healing, overcoming personal pain, finding joy, ethical living, self development, exploring my gifts, giving back….

And the list could go on and on. The great thing about personal brainstorming is that there aren’t any limits, and it gives you a chance to just get your ideas out onto paper, and make more sense of them later, and even if at first things seem a bit jumbled, chaotic or unconnected, there will likely actually be a thread of connection running through your different ideas.

Once you have a better idea of ‘why’ this personal retreat and set aside time is important to you, you can begin to establish a plan and a focus. You might like to categorise your ideas, discard some, specify others, create a vision board, or begin to explore what other people have done in related areas to add to your personal inspiration. 

Ok, so that’s the ‘why’ but what about the ‘how’? From purpose to vision. 

adult art artist blur
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Let’s say you have done some brainstorming, and find that although many of your ideas are deeply important to you, perhaps one or two resonate with you more than others at this particular time and season of your life.

For example, let’s say that what you really want is to simply slow down the pace of your life so that you can feel better, more connected, and be refreshed for when you have to ‘go back’ into your day to day life, which hopefully will actually be a moving forward purposefully by incorporating some of the lessons you learn while ‘on retreat’. 

By focusing on this one aspect, you can begin to plan for a richer retreat experience, however short or long a time you may have for it. You can think more deeply about what slowing down means to you and explore these as you prepare for your retreat. (This can apply to any specific focus that you choose, whether it be for example: creative writing retreat, slow living retreat, self care retreat, artistic retreat, faith retreat, etc).

Exploration of your ideas about slowing down, prior to even embarking upon your retreat and while still in the planning and ‘ideas’ stages, might take the form of journaling your own thoughts, finding out what other people are doing, and taking inspiration from a variety of sources which may include talking to people, searching the internet, reading books (and blogs! 😉 ) and connecting with the pace of nature. This process can in itself be a lot of fun, and can get those ‘creative juices’ and inspiration flowing! 

From this you might be able to more clearly establish a ‘vision’. That vision might take the form of what you’d like your life to look like, how it could better reflect your core values, how to be the person you’d like to be in your day to day settings, or how you would like to feel, or a combination of these and more. 

Maybe your vision for exploring a slower pace of life will bring to the fore a couple of related aspects that you’d like to also be part of your focus. 

Embracing a Theme

musical composition on wooden stand
Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

As well as having a focus and a vision, it can really help if you have an overall theme that all of your activities and reflections will centre around. Last year, I focused on the theme of my identity in Christ and as a daughter of God, and asked a close friend if she wanted to be part of it, and we together gained so much from it that I’m sure she as well as I continue to benefit from spiritually, creatively and practically day to day.

Bringing our attention back to the idea of exploring a slower pace of life, you might have a theme along the lines of “Finding ways to slow down and live more attentively in my day to day life”.

The Logistics

Once you have established the key focus of your retreat and the ideas you’d like to explore, the next stage is more practical in formulating a plan.

You will need to think of the following: 

Dates / Time / Duration

Location or Locations

Cost

Activities

Setting Boundaries to Safeguard Your ‘Set Aside’ Time

Duration:

writings in a planner
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

As to duration, you can start small and build things up gradually. You might not be used to setting aside a lot of time to explore specific aspects of your life, and that’s completely fine, sometimes less is more.

Added to that, we all have a variety of commitments whether they be employment, family, helping others, home keeping or whatever they may be for you. 

Choose a time frame and stick to it according to what will work for you. 

You could have a two hour retreat, half a day retreat, a day retreat, a weekend retreat, a week long retreat, just work out what works for you.

Location – the fine art of the ‘Staycation’:

black and white ceramic mug
Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

As to location, I’m a big fan of the ‘staycation’. I have written posts on my experiences of my staycations earlier in my blog and you can find these be searching my main page or looking through the tabs and sections at the top.

Staycation incorporates the ideas of staying at home and having a vacation at the same time.  Once again, there is flexibility in how you approach this. Some people staycation by staying at home, and making their experience of home like a restful holiday. Others might take time to explore what’s on their doorstep for example by visiting museums, tourist attractions and cafes or natural beauty in the city or town where they live. Some may ‘staycation’ by booking into a hotel in their own city whether by themselves or for a family ‘holiday’ and enjoy the niceties of a hotel such as the food, spa and relaxation facilities, sports, massage, swimming, room service, etc without spending money and time to travel somewhere else, and perhaps also minimising or even eliminating some of the hassles involved in traveling on holiday. 

For the purposes of a ‘staycation retreat’, I like to prepare my home and create an environment and atmosphere that is conducive to rest, relaxation, and creativity. It’s important to feel happy and comfortable in your environment so it feels special and a place you can relax, so maybe you’d like to set aside specific areas in your rooms for a specific retreat ‘activity’. You could have a ‘quiet reading corner’, a place for writing or journaling, a colouring or art table, and pampering corner, and so forth. Just make it as lovely as you need it to be. For some people this might feel like quite a ‘tall order’, so if you can’t prepare your home, maybe you could find one little space that you can prepare and use for quiet retreat and reflection. And if that is also too much of a stress, think of alternatives – if you want to treat yourself and have the means to, maybe you’d like a change of scene and to book a room or a hotel, a cabin or guesthouse somewhere for your retreat. But if not, there are plenty of things you can do on a budget or totally free such as going to a park, a beach or some other natural ‘beauty spot’ depending on the weather, spending time in a quiet coffee shop, a library, a bookshop, maybe even a friend’s house if that is mutually convenient if they are away for a short time, or a picnic spot somewhere. Find what works for you, but make sure that you do have somewhere that is comfortable, safe, practical, pleasant and quiet so that you can actually retreat, reflect and relax without too much distraction. 

Cost

animal animal photography blur close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

As cliched as it is, there is some beauty to the saying ‘the best things in life are free’. For a personal retreat, this can certainly be the case – I have had some wonderful times ‘staycationing’ at home, and using the opportunity to read, walk in the park or by the riverside, visit free museums, and spend time in prayer, writing, and doing a variety of creative things, all of which cost nothing. 

However, depending on your own personal tastes and circumstances, it can be nice to treat yourself to something special, especially if this is in place of a holiday for example, rather than in addition to it. 

Try to be aware of your budget from the start, and try your best to keep things in line with the purpose of your retreat. Even on staycations I might like to have some money set aside to spend on a takeaway, lunch in a coffee shop, a train trip somewhere near that is beautiful and quiet, or a yummy cake or some art supplies. Because I have the luxury of living on my own and really liking my place, I don’t have to worry about the cost of going somewhere, but maybe it is something you have to think about for example if you have a family and you need to go somewhere else to get some time to yourself, there could be scope for you to have a few relaxing days away by yourself. Sometimes this can be difficult, especially I think for mothers, but I personally feel that a good dose of ‘self care’ actually helps us to be better in our relationships with others, and is not always a selfish thing, whereas never giving ourselves time can leave us feeling depleted, stressed out, frustrated and unable to really be our best for those we love….just something worth thinking about if you feel a bit ‘guilty’ in giving yourself that much needed space and time. 

The main point is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a rich and satisfying retreat experience. It is afterall more to do with what’s going on inside of you than the external trappings that require a lot of money. But these thoughts may in themselves be part of your own journey of self discovery, so I’ll leave the rest with you…

Activities / Itinerary:

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Pexels.com

With what is quite possibly a rare, short amount of time, it is important that you make the absolute most of it and stay focused.

I personally find it helps prepare me inwardly by doing some nice things like creating an itinerary or a retreat pack and adding some creative touches. 

It also helps me to appreciate and value the time that I have for this special and purposeful time that is not the usual daily routine. 

Try to do all of your planning and preparation before your actual retreat time. You can do this gradually and over some time so as not to get stressed, but to instead enjoy the process and lead up and anticipation of your personal retreat. 

You don’t want to be using precious minutes, let alone hours, of your retreat time with tidying up, trying to figure out what to do, or eradicating distractions. Do all that beforehand so that your mind is free to explore and savour this precious experience as fully as possible. In this respect, preparation is key, for example not only do you need to know that you will have a calm environment, but also it could help to do some meal prepping beforehand or know that you have set aside a budget for buying food or eating out so that that is all taken care of and doesn’t take away your attention or time. 

Your itinerary will vary depending on the logistics of your retreat and whether you’ll be staying at home, traveling somewhere and for how long your ‘set aside time’ will be. Remember that if you are going elsewhere to have your preparations in place including in case of emergency so that you don’t find yourself in unprepared in a difficult situation. That’s why I personally like ‘staycations’ because there are certain things you just won’t have to worry about in comparison to if you are having to organise a lot of additional practical things. 

Let’s turn back to the example of “Finding ways to slow down and live more attentively in my day to day life”.

Your itinerary, and bear in mind you can be flexible with the framework you use, might include time set aside for activities such as:

  • Deep breathing and relaxation.
  • Journaling session.
  • Cloud watching.
  • A mindful walk in nature paying attention to 5 senses.
  • Slow and attentive eating (walking, listening to my environment, etc).
  • Slow stretches and exercises.
  • Gratitude thoughts.
  • Creative time: crafts, writing, something that takes focus and attention.
  • No technology time. 
  • Pampering and self care time. 
  • Food preparation.
  • Prayer or meditation time.
  • Nap time.
  • Reading.
  • Recreation, inspiration or cosy film time.
  • Before bedtime reflective writing – thinking of lessons to take forward into day to day life. 

Setting Boundaries to Safeguard Your ‘Set Aside’ Time

grass hd wallpaper lake landscape
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

My last point is perhaps one of the most important things to factor in when preparing for a personal retreat. Distractions can come from many sources and can eat into our opportunity for an enriching and focused experience of retreat. Many of these come from ourselves, from allowing our attention to wander, from being insufficiently prepared, overly preoccupied or not honouring the time we have chosen to set aside and allowing other competing influences to creep in. Of course, there will be times in our lives when we are unable to take a lot of time away for ourselves, we may have to care for other people and perhaps the only time we can have is a few minutes at the end of the day….but even so, ringfence and honour that time. 

Also, your personal retreat as personal as it is, may need to be something you share with other people in your life. Try to let friends and family know that for this particular weekend for example, or during those specific hours, you won’t be answering or making calls, texts, or visits. Managing expectations and boundaries through clear communication will help you to relax and make the most of your time without thinking about everything that might be going on around you. If people care about you and if it’s not an emergency, then they should understand. Simply turn the technology off for a while, if you’ll be off the radar for a few days let people know so that they will respect your space and won’t be unnecessarily worried about you, and make the most of it. 

To conclude, it’s also a great idea to factor in some kind of ‘follow up’ for yourself by having time for reflection to ask yourself what you have learned from your time and how practically are you going to take forward the most important insights into your day to day life, to enhance your experience of life and also of those around you as you allow yourself to thrive. 

black and blue plastic pen non top of black covered notebook
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Take care, and take time for yourself dear ones. xx