Planning an Affordable Mental Health Retreat
Have you ever thought of going on a weekend mental health retreat? Unfortunately, most weekend stress relief retreats cost thousands of dollars. Plus, if you’re a mom like me, you might not have the ability to just take off for a weekend.
But, what if you could plan yourself a DIY weekend mental health retreat that you could take part in FROM YOUR HOME? How awesome would that be?
It’s actually not as hard as it sounds. While putting together some guidelines, I scoured the Internet to figure out what most retreats involve. If you follow my tips, you can assemble an at-home DIY retreat that will rival what you find at top resorts—all at a fraction of the cost.
Why a Mental Health Retreat?
First, let’s back up a minute and consider some reasons why you may want to do one of these DIY retreats in the first place. Do any of these reasons resonate with you?
- You feel constantly stressed out
- You are facing a stressful situation that you can’t change, and want to change your mindset instead
- The state of the world has got you down
- You have lost the ability to focus or stay calm
- You feel like you have little work/life balance or are thinking of a career change
- You never take any time to look after yourself
- You can’t seem to get perspective on problems in your life
- You never feel relaxed, always drained
- You have lost touch with friends or begun isolating yourself
- You never make time to exercise
- You feel like you need a restart
If any of these descriptions sound like you, it could be that a weekend DIY mental health retreat could be just what you need.
Where to Plan Your Mental Health Retreat
First things first. IF you have the funds and ability to travel somewhere, that would be your best option for your DIY weekend retreat. Being in new and unfamiliar surroundings forces us to be more mindful and aware.
Choose a place about an hour away from your home that is close to both nature (like the beach or forest) and businesses (like restaurants, yoga studios, gyms, spas, etc.). Ideally, you want to be able to walk to everything.
Failing that, if you are not able to get away for the weekend, you can still plan your DIY retreat at home! If you have young children, ideally you will want to arrange for someone else to look after them for the weekend. You can still try to do it with them at home, but it will be much harder to relax and escape from your usual duties.
Components of a DIY Mental Health Retreat
Most weekend wellness retreats incorporate each of the following elements into the schedule for the weekend.
Fitness should absolutely be part of your DIY weekend mental health retreat. However, you won’t be pumping iron or running any 5ks. Instead, consider gentle, mindful activities such as Tai chi, yoga, hiking, biking, kayaking, etc.
Depending on the activity, you may be able to do it at home or will need to find a location close to your house where you can participate. If possible, try to find a unique location such as practicing yoga at the beach. You could also choose a special time of day, such as sunrise or sunset.
Investigate drop-in classes or check out online programs such as Yoga with Adriene on Youtube. If you want to incorporate a social aspect to your weekend, go on Meetup.com and look for hiking or yoga meetups in your area.
Mindfulness should play a large part of your weekend retreat. This most often will be in the form of practicing meditation or doing mindful activities such as coloring mandalas.
Meditation might sound hard but it’s really not. It involves breathing in an intentional way and being focused and aware of your surroundings. Find a local meditation group or look up meditation practices on Youtube. Again, try to choose a unique location to meditate, such as the beach or a forest.
(The following video is an example of a meditation from Youtube that you could incorporate into your retreat)
It may sound cliche, but spa treatments are also often part of weekend retreats and could be part of your mental health retreat as well. Activities outside of the house might include going for a massage, sitting in a hot tub or sauna, acupressure or Ayurveda therapy, etc. Inside the home, you could do simple things like home spa facials and soaking in the bathtub.
Journaling should also be a component of your mental health retreat. This could be in the form of a dedicated gratitude journaling practice (using a journal with gratitude prompts), or just by keeping notes throughout the weekend about how you are feeling and what you have learned.
Yes! You need to do a digital detox for the weekend, as hard as it may feel at first. Ideally, you will tell everyone that you will not be responding to calls, emails, or texts. Set up an autoresponder if you have to. Enjoy nature instead of technology. Focus on the view around you instead of the screen on your phone.
The only exception is any planned meditations or Youtube videos that you have incorporated into your weekend schedule. Don’t cheat and check your email though!
Be sure to incorporate aromatherapy into your mental health retreat. You could put some lavender essential oil on your pillow or diffuse frankincense for healing. When you meditate, wear an eye mask with a drop of lavender.
Most wellness retreats involve workshops or seminars on various topics. Sometimes, they also incorporate wellness assessments and goal setting practices. You can do this too for your DIY retreat.
Look up experts on Youtube on various topics such as mindfulness, and add them into your schedule, or find a local workshop. Hire the services of a life coach or other wellness practitioner to evaluate where you are in life and help you set some goals. You could also purchase a workbook and DIY your own life coaching session.
Meals for Your Mental Health Retreat
You don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove during this weekend! This is where you will need to do some planning. Create a meal plan for the weekend that incorporates whole, organic foods, freshly squeezed juice, anti-inflammatory meals, tea, etc.
Examples from higher-end retreats include coconut porridge, matcha tea, fruit-infused water, and fresh smoothies. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and sugar.
To avoid washing dishes use eco-friendly plates and cutlery. If you are traveling to a different location and staying at a hotel, eat in restaurants, but make healthy choices. Even if your retreat is at home, you could consider eating at a restaurant for some of your meals.
Whatever you do, practice mindful eating and focus on your food. Set a beautiful table or eat under the stars. If you want to make it a social event, eat at a restaurant with a friend or have them over to your house (but not if it will cause you stress!).
Mental Health Retreat Schedule
What should your schedule look like for your retreat? That’s up to you, but ideally, you will wake up at a relatively early time to get your day started.
If you can, block off the whole weekend from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, and put it on your calendar. Tell your friends and family and make a commitment to yourself. Make sure all household chores are done ahead of time so that you are not distracted if you are spending the weekend at home.
Next, you will want to create an agenda with a schedule of the activities, meals, and downtime that you will take part in. Print out this agenda and keep it with you for the weekend.
Your schedule might include a list like the following:
- Morning meditation
- Yoga flow
- Afternoon massage
- Evening yoga
- Bedtime meditation
Be sure to include some downtime in your schedule. You might choose to wake up at 7 am, have your first activity at 8:30, lunch at noon, another activity at 3 pm, and dinner at 7 pm.
Things You Will Need
What will you need for your mental health retreat? Be sure to plan ahead (you could even get started 4 to 6 weeks ahead of time) and pack yourself a bag even if you are staying home. You don’t want to spend your weekend picking out what to wear or looking for items you need.
Some things you might need include the following:
- Yoga Mat
- Essential oils and diffuser (e.g., lavender, mandarin, frankincense, lemongrass, ginger, lime, basil, grapefruit, lemon)
- Herbal tea
- Books or magazines (for downtime)
- Clothes (including workout gear)
How to Make It Social
If you want to include a social aspect in your mental health retreat, you have a few options. You could invite others to participate in the retreat with you either in person or virtually. Or, you could attend meetup groups or workshops outside of your home. You can make this weekend as social (or not) as you like.
If social anxiety is a problem for you, then this might be a chance to work on that particular area of your life (through workshops, etc.) as well as meet new people or meet up with people you already know.
There are many potential long-term benefits of doing a DIY mental health retreat. Whether you choose to focus on your emotional health, relationships, goals, etc., a retreat creates an atmosphere of change and clarity about the next steps that you should take.
You should come away from the weekend feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to take better care of yourself in all areas of your life (including both physical and mental).
That’s it! If you successfully plan a DIY mental health retreat, you can save thousands of dollars while reaping the same benefits of a more expensive getaway.
A final note: if you want to really come away feeling inspired, create a goodie bag or self-care package for yourself for the end of the weekend. It might include things such as journal prompts, essential oils, healthy snacks, a journal, and a mug or water bottle (this one is my favorite!) to remind you of the experience.
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