Humans are creatures of habit, for better or worse. Even if we don’t like to admit it, most of us feel better when we stick to some sort of schedule or routine in our lives.
The end of the day is an important time for us. We’re unwinding, getting ready for rest (hopefully!), often mentally reviewing the day we just went through or the day to come.
Having a set routine at night is something everyone should have – and enjoy. Your routine should fit your life and your lifestyle. Here are some helpful tips to get you there.
It doesn’t have to be complicated
Look, your nightly routine doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to use six serums, four lotions, and spend an hour brushing your hair 1000 strokes just to have a great result.
You should be getting yourself into a relaxed and peaceful state of mind, and setting yourself up for success tomorrow. After all, if you don’t set yourself up for success, who will?
Before you start cultivating a new routine, think about your current routine, or lack of one. What are you missing? Do you feel frazzled at night before putting your head down? Do you lay in bed and then remember you don’t have clean underwear to wear the next day?
Set yourself up for success early
Pre-Times, I would set myself up for success the night before by laying out my clothes. Seems like something a toddler would do? Maybe, but it saved me a ton of time in the morning when I was half-awake and digging through my closet for a specific top.
Now that I don’t go anywhere but down 13 stairs to work, I don’t really have to lay out clothes… because when did I wear anything but a sweater and jeans to sit at my desk, honestly?
But I still try to set myself up for success in the mornings. I make sure my fiance’s lunch for work is packed and ready to go, so all I have to do is snag a Tupperware container from the fridge, toss a soda and a tea bag into his cooler, and we’re set.
After we put the puppy down for the night, I will make sure my coffee filter is clean and out, ready for grinds in the morning, and that the water reservoir is full for brewing.
The real question, when figuring out what you need to do to set yourself up for success, is what you struggle with in the morning. For me, it’s coffee prep and lunches, so I make sure to take care of that. For you, it might be taking 5 minutes before bed to gather your work things, wallet, and keys in a central location, packing a lunch so you don’t scramble the morning of, or cleaning the dishes in the sink so you can easily make breakfast before getting started
Whatever you hate in the morning, do the night before, so you’re ready for the day. Generally it’ll only take a few minutes out of your evening, and you’ll feel good knowing you went to bed with chores done.
Have a wind-down, chill-out period
As the day goes on, you need to give yourself a moment to unwind, some time to basically bring yourself down and ready your body and mind for sleep.
Caffeine has a half-life of 3-5 hours, so you should cut out any soda, coffee, or caffeinated tea well before bed. Avoid extra-sugary drinks that aren’t doing anything for you, too. Fruit juice tastes great, sure, but it’s just empty calories. Instead, just drink water. My fiancé bought us a Soda Stream that makes drinking water a lot easier to handle on a daily basis, but you don’t need anything fancy.
I’m not going to tell you to spend the last hour awake not using electronics, because… come on, you’re not going to listen to me anyway. While yes, it’s best to let your eyes – and brain – separate from your electronics, it’s probably not high on your list.
At the very least, consider blue blocking glasses for the last few hours you’re up. They’re going to help your brain avoid the stimulation from a screen and artificial light.
Just before bed, consider spending a few minutes – 5-15, nothing outlandish – having a meditation routine or breathing exercise. I’ve talked a lot about how meditation has helped me, but it doesn’t have to be more than a few minutes in a quiet room to center yourself. Regulate your breathing, relax your muscles, and just bring yourself down.
Make your nightly hygiene routine a ritual
It’s really easy to auto-pilot your time in the bathroom at night. Brush your teeth, wash your face, floss, mouthwash, moisturize… it’s boring and if we all could skip it we probably would.
Instead, make it a practice of mindfulness and focus on each step. Don’t rush through washing your face – wash for a full 60 seconds, counting aloud or with a timer. Picture yourself washing the stress and the anxiety from the day and giving your skin a fresh, clean start to the night.
Set up your bathroom to be a relaxing place. Replace any harsh lighting (bathrooms are so bad for this!) with softer bulbs, or plug in lights that are separate from your current setup entirely. Think of it as a morning and a night lighting situation.
If you really want to go all-out and have a lot to do at night (serums, cleansing, etc), consider lighting candles to really set the mood. Just make sure to blow them out before you’re done!
Aromatherapy is your friend
When I was at my peak stress levels, my fiancé started spraying our bed down with a generic Bath and Body Works spray we had lying around before bed ever night. This routine became something I honestly looked forward to, and now, when there is a lovely, light scent in the bed my brain knows it’s time to sleep.
We’ve moved past that scent and usually order a linen spray from our current favorite indie house. You can also use a diffuser. They’re super cheap on Amazon, and you can use any essential oil you find relaxing. Sage and lavender are great choices.
The only thing you want to avoid? Candles in the bedroom! Candles can be super dangerous if you fall asleep while they are burning. The jury is out on wax melters; if you really love them, get a timer plug so it only heats for so long before turning off!
Don’t sleep in silence if you can’t
It’s totally okay that you can’t sleep in silence! For years, I’ve always had to have something on in the background. Before I met my fiancé, that was usually episodes of The Office or Parks and Rec, which… I do not recommend.
We have an Alexa in the bedroom, and she loops different sleep sounds each night. Sometimes it is thunderstorms, other times trains… occasionally, washing machine. But it’s sound, and it helps fill the empty spaces in my brain that normally are jammed full of thoughts.
Whatever you do, be consistent
It’s a routine. It’s called routine for a reason. It’s what you do every single night!
This is as much a form of self care as it is just good habits. Turn your nightly routine into something to look forward to, keep it up, and take care of yourself.
The benefits include doing something for yourself each and every night. You’ll hopefully feel less stressed and maybe even sleep better. The downsides? You might spend an extra 10 minutes. But that ten minutes is on you. How can that be a bad thing?