The day is coming to an end and it’s time to put your Productivity Planner aside. The evening routine is as important for your wellbeing as what you do with your time in the morning. Whatever you do in the hours before bed has the power to set you up for success the following day.
The twilight time is all about the rituals, self-care practices and glorious moments of relaxation before you hit the pillow. The PM magic hour shouldn’t only be called so because of how the sunset light turns the world into a mesmerizing fairy tale-like spectacle. It’s also the much needed balance point between work and play.
Drawing The Line
The very first step to a nighttime routine is to set clear boundaries between the daily grind and proper rest. If you work from home, the end to the office hours might get slightly tricky with your mind urging you to finish up that one last task. And then another. There’s no easy way to disconnect when you are in the zone, but keep in mind that the road to overworking yourself to the bone is a slippery slope.
We cannot close your laptop for you, we are also unable to get you out of your office chair and then shut the door behind you. However, we can equip you with ideas on how to make the transition from AM to PM smoother. We’ll help you make your evening routine so irresistible that the hard worker in you will have no other choice but to join the sunset fun.
Out Of Office, On A Walk
If you find yourself having trouble putting a proper end to your office hours, go out for a walk in nature. Closing the door to your house will simulate leaving the building like you normally would if you worked at your company’s location. To properly leave your worries behind for the day, you need to physically step out of your workplace. A bit of fresh air will help you take your mind off your to-do list and relax, provided that you also disconnect from your phone to be fully present in that moment.
Set Yourself Up For Success
If you want to kick off your nighttime routine right, prepare your house first. Most of us will be unable to relax with a sink full of dirty dishes. But there is more to the story. You need to keep your space organized and decluttered to ensure a smooth and easy start the following morning. The early stage of your evening routine is for:
- packing up your bag or backpack for work;
- tidying up your desk if you work remotely;
- preparing a to-do list for the next day;
- prepping and/or planning meals;
- laying out clothes you’ll wear the following day;
- anything else that could make your life easier tomorrow.
Light Up The Mood
The right atmosphere is very important for switching your brain to chill mode. Dimming the lights in your house and lighting up candles will help you turn off all those neon signs in your head. Let your body slow down. Wrap yourself in a cozy blanket, keep warm and comfortable, and untangle all the knots in your mind. If you are the lucky owner of a fireplace, by all means, let it burn. Make your evening as hygge as possible with the snug setting, relaxing music, or an interesting audiobook, curl up in your favorite chair and enjoy the moment. You’ve earned it.
Is It Too Late For A Drink?
If you’ve had a particularly stressful day, now would also be the time to have some camomile tea. At the same time, it’s important not to drink any caffeinated beverages too close to your bedtime. Studies show that a cup of coffee consumed 6 hours before bed can still disrupt your sleep.
Also, while drinking eight glasses of water throughout the day is essential to maintaining healthy levels of hydration in your body, you might reconsider doing that right before bed. Your bladder wants to sleep with the rest of you and would prefer to avoid frequent visits to the toilet, please. However, make sure to have a full glass on your nightstand for when you wake up in the morning.
Last but not least, while a glass of red wine is considered healthy with dinner, alcohol in general has effects far from those of a sleeping pill as it might lead to insomnia and sleep apnea. Moderation is key, especially late in the evening.
When Blue Light Makes You Blue
Any light at night has the power to disrupt your circadian rhythm and confuse your brain into daytime mode (hence, it’s important to make your bedroom as dark as possible for a good night’s sleep). However, artificial blue light does so more powerfully as it hinders the production of melatonin (the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle) and might cause damage to the retinas in your eyes.
In addition, there is another dark side to using your phone before sleep, namely, the temptation to check the news. And this, friends, is the quickest way to nighttime anxiety and stress levels that can keep you up all night, whether you realize this is the reason or not.
Also, it’s best to leave binge watching TV series or movies for a day off or earlier in the afternoon. When your brain feels entertained and fired up, it will demand one episode after another and you’ll have to read it a bedtime story anyway to switch it off, which will only shorten your prescribed 8 hours of sleep.
With our devices basically plastered to our hands, our screen exposure measuring at an all-time high, there may be only a few ways we can reduce it during the day, yet in the evening our email or WhatsApp excuses cease to work. All we ask is for you to put away all electronics an hour before sleep. Leave them alone, they need a break, too, resting comfortably on airplane mode, preferably in another room.
The Wind Down Alarm
How do you determine the exact moment you should say goodnight to your phone? One way to put this boundary in place is to set a wind down alarm on your device. This way you can stop worrying whether you’re already passed your daily dose of entertainment and communication or not.
Another way to let your mind and body know you’re transitioning into nighttime is taking a shower or a bath. This activity is a strong contender for the title of the most mindful moment of your 24-hour cycle. No distractions, only water, relaxing bath salts and you with your thoughts (no wonder so many creative ideas have been born this way). Taking a shower will relax your muscles, warm you up and calm you down. It’s also your permission to jump into comfy pajamas afterwards.
Additional tip: while you’re in the bathroom, air out your bedroom. For a good night’s sleep you need plenty of fresh air at a lower temperature in the room (while not necessarily freezing your bum in the process).
Disconnect To Reconnect
The last hour before bed is perfect for three activities: journaling, reading and meditation (not necessarily in that order). All of the above have the power to quite literally put your mind at ease and enhance the free flow of gratitude in your heart.
Journaling is one of the most efficient ways to purge negativity and dispose of emotional debris that you might still unknowingly hold on to. Our heads need regular cleaning to maintain good mental health. Whether it’s a gratitude practice in The Five Minute Journal or writing 5 pages about your day and how you feel in a given moment, putting pen to paper will tidy up your head and enable you to unlock peaceful sleep. Remember to keep your journal at hand – it will help you repeat this practice in the morning.
Next on the list – meditation. There are a number of ways to put yourself in the state of ZEN. Unsure where to start? Try out apps like Headspace or search for free guided meditations on YouTube. If you’re a beginner and you choose to simply sit still and focus on your breath, avoid putting pressure on yourself to endure more than a few minutes at first, or you might quickly get discouraged.
Now on to bedtime reading, which should pretty much lull you to sleep. For this reason…
- Choose a physical copy over an eBook (again, no screens in the bedroom).
- Opt for fiction and something much less captivating than Harry Potter. You know, to eliminate the temptation to stay up all night for that one more chapter.
In The Arms Of Morpheus
Sleep is one of the most powerful disease prevention strategies, provided that you have enough of it, at regular times and at night (our heart goes out to all the shift workers in our audience). A kind reminder – 8 hours in bed does not equal 8 hours in dreamland. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for young adults and adults. These brackets are standard according to health experts, however, listen to your body. It will immediately alert you if it had too little or too much sleep.
Then, right before falling asleep, we encourage you to count your blessings instead of sheep. Make your last thoughts for the day about gratitude. Visualize your best self, your plans becoming reality, your happiness and love. At this point, your subconscious mind has no idea whether what you project in your head is true or not. It only knows how to signal all that to the Universe.
Whether you’re a morning bird or a night owl, whether you start your evening at 6PM or 9PM, the waking hours of nightfall count as recharging your batteries the same way as sleep does. Make an effort to create a nighttime routine and rest. You’ll thank yourself the next morning.Photography: Cindy Loughridge