Why Personal Retreat Days will be part of my self-care practice in 2021

Many of us are approaching the 1-year anniversary of working from home — or living at work, depending on how your day’s going. Though there have been some bright spots (no commute!, better flexibility, more sleep?, higher productivity), there have also been some costs to this new reality. Burnout is at an all-time high, connection with coworkers is waning, no physical separation between work and “life”, and a surplus of vacation days with nowhere to go.

Despite feeling exhausted and burnt out, taking time off in the middle of a global pandemic can sort of feel like a cruel trick for those who are fueled by achievement and adventure. A whole day to hang out at home, without work and watch Netflix… I thought that was called “the weekend”?

I struggle with taking time off when there’s nothing planned. Generally speaking, I don’t just chill. It’s not that I can’t, but I don’t get the feel-good benefits out of it that some people do. And isn’t that the point?

That’s why I was so inspired last month when I attended a Creative Mornings Field Trip by Wende Whitus about the power of Personal Retreat Days (PRDs). I’m paraphrasing here, but basically, PRDs are one-day “getaways” once a month where the goal is to retreat from the day-to-day grind, reflect on where you are, and reset your focus for the next month.

What I love about this approach is that your PRD can be whatever you want (or need) it to be. If you’re feeling uninspired, create a day full of things that get your creativity going. If you’re feeling disconnected, plan some time with your favorite people. If you’re feeling worn down, prioritize some pampering.

It’s a day that’s completely of your own making. Totally personalized to you. But if you need a little help to get you going, she has also provided a guide and some thought-starters.

I did my second PRD last week. It was wholly different than the first time around and was utterly wonderful. I was literally dancing around my apartment at one point because I was so filled with energy and joy — something I haven’t done… maybe ever?

I reflected on why this time was so much better and put together a couple lessons on how I went from “meh” to marvelous.

  • Save the date. Schedule your PRDs now (yes, right now :) for the rest of the year and hold yourself to it. At some point, you’ll forget you did that and then squeal with delight when you see it on the calendar.
  • Design your day. Think about what you want your day to look like — or what you need it to be — and create an agenda, just like you’d get at a conference or yoga retreat. (Check out fellow PRD fan Jenna’s dreamy day below!) Throughout the day, check in with yourself on whether the plan still feels right. If not, give yourself permission to pivot to something that sounds better.
  • Doing it midweek is sort of magical. I’ve tried Fridays and Wednesdays, and surprisingly, I prefer the latter. It’s a lovely brain break that you don’t have to wait until the weekend for. And it’s reminiscent to “skipping school” as a kid, which feels extra special.
  • Collect inspiration throughout the month. Keep a running note of the articles, podcasts, blog posts, newsletters, TEDtalks, etc. you come across throughout the month but don’t have time for in the moment. When your next PRD rolls around, you already have a bunch of juicy stuff in the queue.
  • Make it a treat. This is a retreat, after all. Make it special and treat yourself to something you don’t normally do — like a facial, dinner at your favorite place, or a bubble bath.
  • Get some work done. I’m not suggesting doing work-work on your PRD, but carving out an hour or so to work on that passion project or side hustle you’ve been neglecting can feel really good.
  • Sprinkle some joy in. How often do you do something just for fun? For me, not often enough. So one of my criteria for a kick-ass retreat day is to do something totally playful. Last month, I ended up in an impromptu dance party after putting on an old favorite.
  • Save some time for goal-getting. At each retreat, I spend an hour reflecting on the last month and setting new goals for the next. It feels like a good check-in with myself and also allows me to think a little bigger than what’s going on today, or this week. Jenna designed a cheery template from Wende’s original to guide your goal-setting, but you can use whatever works best for you.
  • Do it alone. Seriously, try to do it when no one else is home, and put your phone on airplane mode if you can. Really retreat. Since the pandemic started, I became a first-time mom, and worked from home alongside my husband in our two-bedroom condo. Needless to say, the abundant “me time” I once took for granted is pretty rare these days. And as an introvert, PRDs are a true treat.

For me, the PRD is the simple difference between taking a break and breaking to rejuvenate. When I just take time off with no plan in place, sometimes I end up feeling worse — or at least, not better. But when I purposefully and thoughtfully retreat, reflect and reset, I end up feeling restored and ready for whatever comes next. Try it yourself, and let me know what you think!

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