Growing up is hard to do. From the time we get our first homework assignment we’re expected to be masters at time management and stress reduction. Early on my mother decided that once a year, when things became too stressful, her kids could have a mental-health day—the opportunity to call in sick and use the next 24 hours as we saw fit for recovery.
As a teenager, this would mean sleeping in, eating whatever I wanted, and watching as much TV as I could stand. Now, as the founder of a wellness travel company, I recognize the significance of a day like this, albeit a much healthier version.
As a nation, we consistently average 47-hour workweeks and drink 3.1 cups of coffee a day. 130 million of us are not getting enough sleep, and 26 percent report going to work completely burned out after sleepless nights. Each year, statistics are released that show that Americans do not use all of their allotted vacation time. Some save days only to let them expire come December, while others hope to take big chunks of time off for an extended trip that never materializes because they are too busy to plan it.
Now more than ever, it’s time to pause your busy life and create a wellness retreat day—an occasion dedicated to restoration and recovery that will have significant impact on your well-being.
How To Create Your Wellness Retreat Day
1. Choose your day.
Look at your schedule and find a weekday that works within the next few weeks. Why a weekday? With friends and loved ones committed to their daily routines, a weekday will offer the best opportunity for free time without interruption. Personally I like Wednesdays as it allows me to catch up from the weekend and then totally disrupt my routine, allowing for greater appreciation of change and a more mindful awareness of my self-care.
2. Research ahead of time.
The last thing you want to do is waste precious hours of your retreat day trying to figure out how to spend it. Instead treat this day as vacation, and do some advanced planning. Make a list of all the places you want to go, including everything from spas to museums, restaurants to yoga studios. Then sit down to commit your schedule to paper, with all the particulars in place.
3. Set expectations of those around you.
Decide how available or unavailable you want to be, and prepare those around you. Let your coworkers know in advance that you’re taking a vacation day and will be completely unreachable. Set up an auto-away message on your email to drive home the point. If you do not live alone and are working with a larger budget, consider checking into a hotel for the night or even for a few hours during the day (thank you, Day Use).
4. Gift yourself eight hours.
Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep will only enhance the effects of your wellness retreat day. By 9 p.m. the night before your big day, shut down all your electronics and rock the sweetest sleep routine you’ve ever seen. Start with a long, hot bath or shower, then make yourself a cup of tea and write down what you’re looking forward to tomorrow while you drink it. Apply some calming essential oils to your feet and as you curl up in bed, mindfully relaxing each part of your body until you drift off to sleep.
5. Savor your schedule.
Make the most out of your wellness retreat day and wake up with the sunrise. On my retreat days, I gather my belongings and head out before most people are awake. The sound of silence is somewhat of a luxury these days, but by starting out early and leaving your phone at home you remove sensory input, allowing the brain to relax and restrict the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. I’ll spend my first hour outdoors in nature taking in everything around me and writing in my journal. Next I’ll head to a new café, one where no one knows me, and take up residence in a comfy area to mindfully eat my breakfast. Oftentimes I’ll eat all my meals on this retreat day with my headphones in, the cording trailing to nothing in my pocket, in order to dampen the sounds around me. Then without hurrying through the rest of the day I’ll head to the baths or a spa, where I can linger in self-care bliss, take in an exhibit at a museum, enjoy an early dinner in an uncrowded restaurant, and end at a restorative yoga class where I’m being fully supported by props.
Throughout the wellness retreat day, try to use minimal language and keep a smile plastered to your face. By the time your head hits the pillow for the second night of sweet retreat sleep you’ll feel completely refreshed, de-stressed, and ready to head back into real life with a better attitude and a brighter outlook.