Last year I decided to start taking regular "spa days" where I spend an entire day doing only things that energize and replenish me. I see them as a way to step away from my constant need to produce and accomplish and instead simply soak up inspiration. This doesn't mean hours of scrolling Instagram, but instead a conscious process of seeking. Maybe you've heard of Julia Cameron's concept of Artist Dates, from her book The Artist's Way. Her explanation describes the purpose of a spa day perfectly:
"The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it."
My plan was to take a spa day every two months or so, but I've been bad and haven't had a proper one in over six months. The trick is to schedule them, and then stick to the schedule, no matter how badly you think you need to get work done that day—which is what I have not been doing. I usually like to schedule them after a big project or deadline so that I can fuel up for whatever comes next but every time I finish something there's always something else on the horizon so I keep postponing them.
Does this sound familiar? Do you put off taking time off or resting because there's just too much to do? I think it's pretty common in our society and the truth is no one else is going to plan our breaks for us. We need to take control of our calendars and declare spaces that are just for us. Are you with me? Here's how you can plan your own spa day:
I've learned that while sitting around doing nothing sounds like a great way to spend the day, I don't actually feel energized after a day on the couch. Instead, I try to plan the day with activities that will fill my cup. I also try to think of things that I really want to do but don't often have time for. Most importantly, no work is allowed. Big picture thinking is okay, but nitty gritty work is not. Here are some things on my list:
- visit an art gallery or museum
- ride my bike
- walk in nature
- get a massage or a haircut, or have acupuncture done
- go thrift shopping
- wander the shelves at the library
- play with new art supplies
- visit with a friend
- go to a yoga class
- go swimming
- learn something new
- work on my business plan (sounds boring but actually gets me really excited!)
- organize spaces in my house
- shop for notebooks or pens
- visit my favourite chocolate store or a bakery
- sit in a coffee shop
My last successful spa day included baking scones, biking to the art gallery, eating lunch outside in the downtown square, biking to a massage appointment, walking with a friend, and making a nice dinner. It was jam packed with fun stuff and felt really good. This time around, I'm going to keep the activities to a minimum and spend more time in contemplation. I need to make some changes in how I'm approaching my business so I need some quiet time to think it over. This time, I'll schedule lots of meditating, walking, journaling and maybe some yoga or swimming.
To plan your own spa day, decide how you want to feel. Despite the name, I don't generally use my spa days for rest but more for seeking inspiration and doing things I don't normally have time for, so they tend to be pretty active. If that doesn't work for you, don't do it. If you need to relax from your demanding schedule, plan activities that will calm and restore you. I also usually plan to be alone most of the day, with maybe one visit. This is because I often forget to schedule alone time in my everyday life and as an introvert I need to be alone to re-energize. If you would rather be with people for your spa day, go for it! Only you know what will make you feel best.
I took pictures throughout my last spa day and posted them to Instagram. Now I can look back at a time when I felt relaxed and content and do my best to recreate that feeling. I also write down any inspiration or insights that I gained throughout the day and anything that I want to do differently on my next spa day. Bringing a sketchbook or journal along is a great idea so that you can capture the energy of inspiration as it happens.
Schedule the next one!
While you're still high on your inspiration buzz, put the next spa day on the calendar so you have something to look forward to. Then, unlike me, don't mess with it! Treat it like an appointment with your dentist or a work commitment that you just have to plan around.
Spa days don't just have to be one day. Yuko Miki of Honeyberry Studios takes an entire week off every seven weeks. If I didn't have a part-time day job I would totally do the same. Conversely, I've also found ways to sneak tiny spa breaks into busy days by hiding somewhere alone with a book or going for a long walk. I also try to keep at least a couple Saturdays a month free of work so that I can spend time with my partner and rest.
Take care of you
I hope what you take away from this post is that no matter how you do it, it's important to take time for yourself. Creativity needs space to thrive and needs to be constantly fed. Make a list of things you would do if time wasn't an issue and schedule a day (or a week, or an hour) to do only those things. Either tell everyone you're busy or invite them to join you. It's up to you.
Let me know how it goes in the comments below! Follow me on Instagram to see how my next spa day turns out.