Routines can sometimes be a double edged sword. Their intentions are to simplify, provide calm, and bring organized joy. If we’re not careful, though, the wrong ones are just complex to-do lists disguised as routines.
I’ve tried a bunch of nighttime routines, after learning about the effects that a good night’s sleep has on the next day’s productivity levels. I’ve tried journaling, reading in bed, meditating, meal-prepping, bubble baths, scent diffusers, and the list goes on. The problem? Routines are not one size fits all.
If you don’t like journaling, chances are you won’t stick to it. If you have young children, chances are you don’t have time for a bubble bath. When I used a scent diffuser, I dreaded the thought of cleaning it all the time. So when I started a new scent, it’d be mixed with the remnants of the old one, which wasn’t always pleasant. It actually started to become a stress induced scent-diffuser.
The right routine for you, however, can be life changing. I find my routine-less nights ending with hour long mindless scrolls on my phone, a lot of anxiety, and staring at the ceiling trying to fall asleep.
My night routine solution was to find one that was malleable, not rigid. It’s one that I can adjust depending on my schedule, my responsibilities, and my interests. As you read through the routine, imagine yourself going through it, rather than me. How is it different? How can you adjust this routine to feel relaxed and re-energized?
Set A Stop Time
This first one is crucial. As someone who doesn’t work a 9-5, my stop time looks different every night. Sometimes, I work with clients at 7PM. Sometimes, my day starts at 7AM, and so I try not to work late into the evening. Since we’ve all been working from home, the lines are blurred even further. It’s more important than ever to set a time where work is no longer the priority. Right before my stop time, I’ll make a list of to-dos for the following day. Of course, there are times where I’ll receive a text message and quickly attend to something. However, I make it a point to stop actively checking email, working on projects, etc.
Change the Setting
Especially right now while we’re working from our living rooms, this can’t necessarily mean moving to a new location. Try making small adjustments to make the end of your day feel different. Maybe it’s taking a shower and getting changed, putting on music, or sitting outside. I’ve found that even switching the lighting from overhead to a lamp creates a dramatic difference. I find myself going from work mode to relax mode, instantly.
Notice that I didn’t say no tech at all! This one is admittedly hard. We all know that blue light affects sleep, and social media use, especially at night, can disrupt mental health. If I do use tech during this time, it’s never mindlessly. Try setting a timer, or using it in a specific way, like connecting with a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with. Otherwise, I use the time to be present in my current routine, talk to my husband, or focus on a hobby that interests me. Speaking of…
Designate Time to Relax
The key here is that it doesn’t have to be a lengthy amount of time. Some nights, this looks like 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour when I’m lucky. This time also changes depending on my mood. Sometimes I like to read, but others it’s having dinner with my family. On the nights that dinner together doesn’t happen, I go with the flow. One time I went through a coloring phase, but now it doesn’t interest me anymore. Finding relaxation should never be forced. If you feel like this “should” happen, but it isn’t coming easily, let it go.
Calm Your Nervous System
We’re overstimulated all. day. long. We’re constantly multitasking, making it really difficult for our systems to relax, even when we want to. I find that the HOLISTIK Wellness CBD Sleep STIK works wonders in this department. With ingredients like chamomile and melatonin, I find that I fall asleep gradually, and then stay asleep. I personally love to sip this with lemon tea. If tea isn’t your thing, then insert a different beverage of your choice!
Fall Asleep Gradually
It’s important to get an adequate amount of sleep, but strict bedtimes are for babies. Instead of putting yourself to bed and tossing and turning, listen to your body. You’ll know when it’s time.
Even in quarantine, no two nights look the same. Your routine shouldn’t either. Be kind to yourself tonight, and give yourself just enough relaxation to prepare for another day ahead.
This is a guest post by Julia Stern. Julia Stern is the co-founder of The Strong Collective and a trainer at Rumble in NYC. A former math teacher and soon to be mom, she thrives while busy and is consistently looking for ways to lead a healthier life. She also has a podcast called Not My Best.