Photo by David Lezcano
There were times during my recovery process that the loneliness was as difficult to bear as the pain. Before getting sick, I would go out with friends most nights of the week and I rarely declined an invitation. Though reducing my social commitments, spending more time at home, drinking less and going to bed earlier were necessary changes that helped many of my symptoms, my healthier lifestyle left me feeling isolated.
An exception during this lonely chapter was my bachelorette party. My six bridesmaids and I spent a weekend in Santa Barbara, and as the woman of honor, I got to call the shots. We rented a comfortable house, ate meals at home, did some coloring, shared deep conversations and went to bed early. I feared that my low stress lifestyle would be disappointing or under-stimulating for my friends, but everyone had a great time. Several girls thanked me for the rare opportunity to enjoy a restful, low key bachelorette weekend. I loved spending time in a group while also feeling “at home” in our cozy rental.
After the wedding festivities had passed, I found myself craving more social time with a group of girls in a low key, low stress environment. Most social gatherings had become too loud, too late, too rowdy and/or too uncomfortable for me to enjoy myself. I floated the idea to a close friend – what if we planned a girls weekend together? The two of us share a love of deep conversation and connection, and she was totally down to co-host what we dubbed a “feminista retreat”.
I took the responsibility of booking the house to ensure that we stayed somewhere comfortable that would work with my needs. My friend took on the role of recruiter and filled the weekend with a group of girls with shared intentions. The weekend was a huge success, and we ended up throwing another one two months later.
Here are the steps we took to create a low key, low stress girls weekend. 1 or 2 night weekend trips are always fun, but these steps could also work for a daylong retreat or even a brunch or dinner party. Pick and choose which ones might work for you and your friends!
1. Team up with a cohost
Throwing an event with a cohost reduces the stress involved in throwing an event. I’m famous for my “No one is going to come!” freakouts leading up to a party, so I loved teaming up with my friend who handled the invites.
2. Choose a date
Find a date that works for you and your cohost and lock it in. Don’t worry about polling your friends to see who is available when – that’s a recipe for social stress. Whatever date you choose will work for whoever is able to make it.
3. Make a Google doc
This was my friend’s idea and it worked really well. Instead of sending invitations or starting an email thread, we created a Google doc with all of the information about the weekend. We included a vision for the weekend, expected costs and information about the house. People could sign up directly in the doc and add their transportation information and dietary preferences. As the weekend drew closer, it was easy for girls to get in touch with each other or add to the doc if they had ideas, setting a collaborative tone for the retreat.
4. Set expectations to attract the right group
My cohost and I were both excited to make new friends, facilitate meaningful conversation and spend time relaxing away from home – so that’s the exact vibe we advertised. Here is the vision we included in our Google doc:
Feminista Retreat: we are going to go DEEP and really get to know each other and meet new girls who we might not otherwise be adventuring with! We will go hot tubbing, adventure around Joshua tree, cook together, go stargazing, review and update our personal 2017 goals, and do whatever else we want for the weekend!
By setting a vision, likeminded girls self selected into the weekend. I’m sure that plenty of invitees saw the first 5 words and were like NOPE, this weekend is not for me! That’s a beautiful thing. When the event rolls around, you don’t have to stress about whether people will be into what you’re into or not – you will have attracted people who are.
5. Find a cozy, comfortable environment
As the cohost of this event, you get to define what cozy and comfortable mean to you. What environment would provide the most relaxing backdrop to your event? Maybe it has a view, or is by a lake, or has a pool or maybe a garden. For me, it’s furniture – I want a comfy couch or chair where I can put my feet up. If the place you love is too expensive to rent for two nights, just plan a one-night affair. Or ask a friend with an accommodating house or yard if you could plan an event with her. Get creative and dream big.
6. Cap the gathering at 10 people
6-10 people is a great size to keep things low key and to foster real talk. There will be enough people for it to feel like a small party, but not so many people that you can’t share a dinner table. Having a maximum number of people also helps lower the stress around last minute additions – if you’ve reached your max, they can come to the next one.
7. Delegate a food captain
Spread around responsibilities and give another attendee the chance to manage the groceries and cooking.
8. Keep the agenda light
More activities = more stress. Attract people who are as excited about low key, unstructured time as you are, and you’ll be shocked by how much fun everyone has together.
9. Go deep over a meal
My favorite part of the retreats we created was gathering around the dinner table for meaningful conversation. Pose a thought provoking question about what’s really going on in people’s lives and make sure that each person has a chance to share.
10. Don’t lift a finger during the event
Because I had planned the weekend and booked the house, I gave myself complete permission to kick back and enjoy myself when the event rolled around – without needing to explain my physical limitations to anyone. Do your part ahead of time for an even more stress-free social gathering. Resist the temptation to personally own any problems that arise and trust that the group will be able to work it all out. This is YOUR low stress weekend – if you’re having a great time, then everyone else will, too!
How do you maintain your social life while prioritizing your health? What are your low-stress party tips? Share your success stories with us!