Spa on a Budget: Creating Your Own Retreat
All week I’ve written about my spa adventure. Not everyone can afford it (I couldn’t for many years), and I can’t always get away for several days. Yet taking care of ourselves is a gift not only for ourselves, but for those we love. As they say, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”
The good news is that we can do a lot for ourselves at home for little or no money! Some of the activities that I suggest below may sound obvious, but often it’s the obvious that disappears from our brains when we’re stressed.
The suggestions that follow can be done on their own if you just have a few minutes, or you can set up a daylong or multi-day retreat, depending on available time. If you have children at home, maybe arrange an exchange with a friend — you watch their kids while she retreats, and vice versa. Pick a few items off the “menu” below, or use them to inspire your own ideas.
So let the dust bunnies collect. Let the rest of the family fend for themselves. Take a deep breath, and enjoy!
The Spa Food Experience
If you’re taking time to relax, you’re not going to want to do a lot of cooking, and you’ll most likely want to eat light, healthful meals. Gather your food items together before you start the retreat!
- Fresh Fruit
- Cut up veggies
- Whole grain crackers
- Light sandwiches
- Dark chocolate
- Wine (why not?)
Body Care & Relaxation
When our bodies are tense, we can’t think clearly. The first step is to relax!
- Start with a hot bath — We women also may spend our time caring for others and forget this simple but effective tool for relaxation. Add essential oils, bubble bath, or Epsom salts to create a luxurious soak.
- Stretch — When I taught yoga, several students said, “I used to do these poses when I was a kid. I just didn’t know it was yoga.” You can certainly take a yoga class if you want and can afford it, but feel free to put on some music and let your body move the way it wants to. Imagine yourself as a cat, making slow, languid movements.
- Walk — Walking is, by far, the best mental health support I can give myself. Yes, you read that right! I love yoga, but walking gives me even more mental clarity. When I’m writing intensely, I take periodic walking breaks throughout the day. If you’re feeling really tired and just want to chill on the sofa, try a short walk instead. You’ll be surprised how refreshed you can feel.
- Massage — For free, exchange massage with a friend or lover. Even if you’re alone, you can massage your hands, feet, arms, and legs easily. If you have a few bucks, try out a student at a massage school. While a student lacks experience, he or she really wants to do a good job, and I’ve had some fine massages from students.
- Want to get into scrubs or facials? You can make your own! Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin and a Vibrant Self by Stephanie Tourles provides many recipes that are easy to make. I make my own skin cleanser, moisturizer and hair conditioner from this book, and there are lots of goodies to try! Have some girlfriends over and have a facial party!
Mind and Spirit Care
When the body relaxes, the mind can follow more easily. Try these methods to calm and soothe the nerves.
- Environment — Think about what physical items cheer you. Fresh flowers? Candles? Soft music? A cup of hot tea served in a pretty cup? Even if your retreat space is just a corner of one room, make it beautiful. Clear the clutter and enjoy.
- Nature — This goes along with environment, but often a visit outdoors, to a park, a waterfront, or just a grove of trees brings on a relaxation response.
- Meditate — I can hear some of you groaning. I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “I can’t meditate!” Of course you can…you just need to know the secret of good meditation. It’s showing up! Yes, you will have thoughts. Don’t worry about them. Just focus on the breath and let the thoughts be. Let them float by like clouds. There are many good recordings if you want guided meditations to help you. Even if we just have five minutes, it’s five minutes we seldom take for ourselves.
- Journal — Keep a journal during your retreat. Jot down thoughts and ideas as they come to you. If you’re going through struggles, write about them. Don’t worry about the quality of the writing. If your thoughts are petty, that’s fine, too. You’ll feel better when you get them on the page.
- If you are religious, take some prayer time. Take out your rosary, your mala beads, your prayer shawl, or whatever helps you get in the mood for that Higher Power connection. Let yourself be supported in spirit, and let your burdens be lifted from you.
As we jump into this holiday season, I hope you’ll take some time to nurture yourself. You’re worth it! See you next week!