This past weekend I took off for a quick 24 hours to get some rest, space, and time to look forward into the new year. It's something I try to do a couple times a year if possible to pause, reset, and get what I need to keep going and saying yes to what's in front of me.
Once my roommate and I arrived at her family's homey sweet little lake house, I immediately breathed deep and realized there was finally a sacred space for all the thoughts rolling around in my head to fall away or find some place to land. I didn't have anywhere to be or anything to do - it was just me and that little lake house in the middle of East Texas.
This time I did go along with a friend, but we intentionally separated for most of our time (me upstairs and her down). We did get some time together during dinner and breakfast the next morning, but it was important to both of us to carve out some time by ourselves and with God. Typically I go alone, but I didn't mind having a friend to make the drive or eat meals with. And I'm not too fond of sleeping all alone, either.
There's something about getting out of town away from all the responsibilities of everyday life to allow yourself to let go for a little while. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or as if there's a billion thoughts running wild in your brain and you need some space, take a personal retreat. I promise you won't regret any time you intentionally set aside to keep your mind and heart healthy.
I've put together a list of some packing tips as well as ways to prepare and spend your time. In the end, don't stress about making your personal retreat the perfect experience. Set some expectations on the front end, but allow your mind to wander and your heart to settle. This takes time and I almost always come home with something different than I originally imagined.
- Pack comfortable clothes. No one wants to relax in a pair of tight jeans.
- Pack a book that you've been wanting to read or some sort of activity that refreshes you (i.e. not the 1,000 page biography that's been sitting on your shelf for years). Sometimes I'll pack a small puzzle in my bag or the ingredients for a recipe I've been wanting to bake.
- Throw in an extra notebook or two. If you're like me, and you have a short term memory, you'll want some extra paper to be able to write down all the thoughts coming to mind during your time away. I also like to visually see how the thoughts come together, so the bigger the paper, the better.
- Bring a portable speaker. This has been a game changer for me - music is both soothing and empowering to me and oftentimes a little background music tends to our souls in a way words or thoughts never could.
- Make a list of what you want to reflect on or think about before you leave. You may not get to everything on your list, but at least you've got an idea of where you want to go. (If you need help, take a look at my previous blog post with 20 questions for the New Year).
- Turn off your phone. You won't regret taking time away from your friends and social media networks for a day or two. I actually found this quite freeing.
- Let yourself sleep in (or go to bed early). The point of taking a personal retreat is to come back rested and refreshed.
- Drink lots of water. This may sound funny, but drinking water makes me think more clearly and also helps flush my body of any unnecessary toxins. I'm not a health expert, but there are so many benefits to drinking more water. Do yourself a favor and pack a water bottle or two.
- Set aside some time at the beginning to process emotion. There's almost always emotions lurking beneath the surface of our hearts, and if ignored, they begin to take root as much deeper issues. A wise friend once told me to carve out time in my schedule to grieve the disappointments in my life and to celebrate the happy moments. When I intentionally pause to allow the raw emotion to surface, it frees my heart to be itself and to release whatever I've been stuffing or holding onto. I'm an emotional person, so this may be harder for you, but try to give yourself some time to think through your current circumstances and check in with your heart.
- Do something active. I wholeheartedly believe there's a deep connection from our physical bodies to our hearts and minds, and whenever we engage one, we must engage the others. Sometimes I have to do something physical in order for what's in my head to safely deposit deep down into my heart.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I do hope these ten tips are helpful to you as you plan your own personal retreat. My retreat will likely look very different than yours, simply because we are different people with different needs. Be free. Do what you need to do to get refreshed. Happy retreating!