When was the last time you asked yourself
"How am I really feeling and are the things I'm doing for myself right now working?"
This is a question that sisters and founders of SHE Changes Everything, Heather Young and Jennifer Klotz, wanted to ask their community. So, they planned a full day of self care and wellness education for their Los Angeles community called SHE Day last year and are expanding to new cities this year!
"Being in a sacred container and sharing, processing, and listening to other women’s experiences makes you feel connected to one another and yourself," says Jess Zanotti, a certified Holistic Health Coach and advocate for women's wellness retreats. "It’s incredibly grounding and healing being around feminine energy in a retreat setting."
We've asked these women to share their insights from creating, planning, hosting, and attending wellness retreats of their own on how women can create one within their own community to encourage and support one another's wellbeing.
What is a women's wellness retreat?
A wellness retreat means something different for each community of women, but at it's base, it's a well-curated and thoughtfully planned space of time where women can feel cared for and carefree. It's a space where you as a community of women can help one another cultivate your womanhood, celebrate your unique talents, and ultimately leave the retreat feeling empowered to make self care a priority.
Look around at the women in your life. What do they need most in order to reconnect to themselves? What do you need from yourself and your support network in order to feel grounded? Asking these questions will help you clarify what it is you need the most out of a wellness retreat. Self-care topics you can address through educational speakers, group activities, and guided meditations include things like nutrition, fitness, creativity, spirituality, goal setting, and mental wellbeing.
The point of a women’s wellness retreat is not just to take a day or two off for self care, but to learn about ways to implement healthy habits into your daily life. While nutrition and fitness are easy places to start the discussion about holistic wellness, our health extends well beyond our physical needs. “It is ALL CONNECTED when it comes to [a healthy] lifestyle,” Heather says, “but health also comes from your emotional health, organization, the home space you're creating for yourself (does it feel restful and aligned with your values), your relationships, knowing your goals and definitions of success, and so much more.” Feel free to go deeper into emotional, mental, and spiritual health during your retreat—and reap the benefits of an even closer-knit community experience.
Plus, the practices can be tailored towards the women in attendance. For mothers, Jess recommends to “hold a circle and openly discuss the joys and the fears of motherhood, lead a workshop on self care rituals that fit into a mother’s lifestyle, or ways to become more intentional with parenting practices.” If your attendees are mainly creatives, she suggests to “spend time exploring expressive arts; curate a creative writing workshop, bring materials to make mood boards, or put together a playlist to immerse in creative movement.”
Creating An Invite List
You might be tempted to send an invite to every woman in your email address book—instead, take some time to plan out the attendees thoughtfully. Think of women with similar interests or backgrounds that might connect well. If you are inviting women who are already close friends, make sure to balance the invite list so that there are several other women with little to no connection to the group, so that there’s a healthy and welcoming mix of women who already know each other and women who haven’t yet met!
For a DIY women’s day, keep the invite list small so that you can offer an intimate experience—especially if your venue is someone’s home. One of the essential pieces of a wellness retreat is to offer a comfortable space for women to be themselves and not be faced with the same overwhelm as daily life can often hold.
How Much Time Do You Need?
While we all could use a full weekend for reflection, self-care, and restoration, that’s not always possible. Connect with the women you plan on inviting to see how much time they can comfortably commit to disconnecting—and remind them that it’s okay if it’s just an afternoon.
Start by finding out what amount of time works best for everyone, then it might be helpful to use a tool like Doodle to choose an actual date. Plan this out 4-6 weeks in advance so that you have plenty of time to receive RSVPs and tailor the details of the day to the women attending.
Where To Host The Retreat
The first space that comes to mind when hosting a day like this is your own home, but this is a day for you as well as the women in your community. Will you feel able to unplug and relax in your space? If so, then great! If not, maybe consider a friend’s home, an airbnb, a lake cottage or cabin, or a larger hotel suite.
The space also depends on your budget—if you request $50 per woman, for example, you’ll be able to invest in healthy, prepared meals, a rented space, and resources and self-care goodies for them to take home with them. If you plan on hosting this day for free, ask friends and family to pitch in with healthy snacks, drinks, and for help cleaning and prepping your space.
Jess recommends always bringing sage and palo santo to cleanse the energy in the space before the event. You can also diffuse essential oils and open up windows invite some fresh air, which will make it easier to feel calm and open to the care you’ll be receiving.
Educational Topics + Speakers
Self care doesn’t always mean bubble baths and pedicures—sometimes it’s about educating yourself about how to care for your body and mind. Ask around in your network for experts in health and wellness. Nutritionists, OB/GYNs, therapists, fitness instructors, chefs, authors, and professors are all goldmines of information that would make excellent speakers.
This is why it’s best to plan out over a month in advance—if the initial women you’ve invited to speak are unavailable or charge beyond your budget, they may be able to direct you to another expert in their field. While it is lovely to share your own personal trials and experiences in the health and wellness space, it’s great to have an expert on hand to answer questions and to facilitate the conversation so that each woman leaves feeling inspired and empowered with actionable information from a pro.
"You do need to vet your resources," Heather and Jennifer say about finding appropriate speakers. "Actually check to see their reviews and ratings if they have a business. Look for resources that are truly experts...not a passionate woman who's read a few Internet articles (we all know them and love them!). You want to protect the attendees' time and make sure they are getting quality, research-based information." And be sure to look for someone who is open minded and will make your guests feel at ease! The founders of SHE Day shared, "we know FOR SURE from over 10 years in the industry that extremes never work, so if someone seems highly inflexible or disrespectful about another way of thinking, they probably won't create a feeling of openness and curiosity that leads to finding what works for each of us uniquely."
If you’d like to incorporate a fitness routine into the day and don’t have access to a trusted instructor, “there’s lots of great material out there via the internet to help you implement yoga/meditation into your retreat,” Jess says. “Researching instructors ahead of time and seeing if they have free downloads is an option. Or picking videos on YouTube that resonate and fit the vibe of the retreat works as well.” Yoga with Adriene is an excellent resource with yoga and meditation for all levels and needs!
Creating A Thoughtful Day
Part of what makes a wellness retreat special is the thought and intention that goes into planning the day or weekend itself. Take the second-guessing out of your guests' day and type up a short and sweet itinerary so that the ladies know what to expect.
Keeping it social
Include plenty of breaks between speakers, activities, and meals, so that women can connect with one another. "Social interaction of a huge part of a wellness day... but it gets awkward and hard quick!" Heather says, and recommends having cues or questions ready to encourage further social interaction. "Keep it relevant to the day, so women are learning from each other! This will add on to the tips and ideas the speakers are giving out and allow the women to walk away with even more."
If you have the room, create a separate quiet lounge space for women to journal or rest, and let them know it's there for them! Encourage them to use the space for self care, solitude and self-reflection, and to avoid using it for work or unnecessary phone calls that might disrupt their self care day.
Another great way to get women feeling more interactive is to lead short breathing and yoga exercises. You can top off the day with a full yoga flow, or just intersperse small ten-minute exercises throughout the day. Or, if you're in a more retreat-like setting where hiking is available, take a morning or evening hike all together and enjoy some fresh air while the women have a chance to connect freely outside of the structure of the day.
Supporting one another with group activities
While quiet introspection is an amazing part of self care, there's nothing quite like getting one another's feedback and encouragement on our ideas, dreams, and goals. Set aside some time for women to discuss things they're grateful for, or to share a creative project they're working on or a goal they have.
Questions they can ask each other include:
How do you most love being supported? How might you ask for the support you need from your loved ones?
What goal or project has been tugging at your mind lately? What first step can you take this week to get it started?
What one thing makes you feel full, grounded, and well-cared for? How can you integrate that into your regular routine?
Crafting mindful meals
Depending on the size of your group, you can either create meals together or get food catered. Be mindful of each woman's dietary requirements, and seek out healthy, plant-based foods as much as possible. Consider meal time as another opportunity to learn about new recipes and whole, healthy foods that are easy to prepare in daily life.
Another way to keep the day feeling welcoming is to have an assortment of organic coffee, herbal teas, fruit-infused waters and natural juices available.
What Women Can Take Away From This Retreat
The goal of the day or the weekend should be that each woman feels refreshed, inspired, and motivated to care for herself physically, mentally, and spiritually. Encourage women to bring a journal with them to take notes and to reflect on their experiences—even send them home with journal prompts if you find some you love.
If you have a little budget (or can muster up donations), put together a little self-care package for the women who spent this time with you. Essential oils, natural lotions, candles, healthy snacks, journals, and reusable water bottles or coffee mugs all can help encourage her to live more intentionally in her daily life.
Overall, this day or weekend should leave you feeling more connected to your tribe of women, and it should also leave you with actionable tips and ideas for how to move forward into a more vibrant, healthy lifestyle.
So here's your permission: call up your closest friends and share the idea with them. Gather the women in your community who most inspire you (and who most need inspiration) and watch the magic of community and womanhood unfold!
Emily Torres is an Editor at The Good Trade and the writer behind Ennaree, a blog dedicated to intentional, colorful living. She’s a Los Angeles transplant who was born and raised in Indiana, where she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her reading or writing, caring for her two rabbits, or practicing at the hot yoga studio.