Reducing stress: Evening routine

Reducing stress: Evening routine
gold dinosaur plant

As I write this I’m actually breaking rule number as right now I’m one stressed out gal and I’m aiming to be in bed not long after I finish this post!

If you’re prone to stress and anxiety, you’ll know that sleep plays a massive part in this. My personal trigger is knowing that I have to wake up on time for something important the next day. It took literally years for me to sleep through the night when I had to get a train for work the next day, even if it meant getting up at the exact same time as I would normally. Madness, right?

Well actually, wrong. Stress affects everyone differently, but it’s how it manifests that means we deal with it differently. I recently went on a stress control course (as recommended by my GP) to help with some symptoms of anxiety that I’d been experiencing and aside from learning all about what stress is from a medical perspective, it really taught me how to deal with it.

How I manage stress is different depending on whether it’s stress during the day (ie how I cope when feeling overwhelmed at work, which was fairly commonplace in my last job), and then how I force myself to wind down on an evening to ensure I at the very least get a decent night’s sleep.

Here’s what my evening routine looks like when I’m anticipating that getting to sleep won’t be easy that night. (Like tonight, I start my new job tomorrow and the combination of a new commute and whole new step forward in life is making me edgy af).

The caffeine cut off
If I know that my brain may have my struggling to sleep, I don’t give it any incentives! I stop having anything caffeinated after 3:30pm, including tea. I can feel myself as I write this that my eyelids are getting heavy as I haven’t had my usual caffeine hit but it should help me drift off later.

Keep it sober
Yeah I know, what a killjoy, but alcohol stops you getting into the right sleep stages to feel well rested (REM stage sleep). It’s something with how the chemical affects the brain and it means you’ll wake up feeling like you haven’t slept properly – you won’t feel rested. You know when you think you’ve slept shitload when you’ve been super pissed? That’s called being unconscious, not asleep, soz.

I try and have dinner at least a few hours before my intended bedtime as eating late can mean that the body is essentially ‘awake’ as it’s trying to digest. Yeah you might get that dozy feeling when you’ve eaten too much, but you won’t hit the right sleep stages if your body isn’t in the right mode. I go for a fairly veg heavy meal (like a pasta bake which is more veg than it is pasta), and tend to skip having something sweet afterwards as there’s nothing worse than a sugar spike to send your brain haywire.

Get shit done
Spend an hour tidying, ironing, putting a wash on and generally getting your shit together. Knowing that you’ll be stepping over mess on your way out in the morning isn’t a good vibe for anyone! For example, this afternoon I did a full clean of my flat and tonight I’ve made sure that well before bedtime that my washing up is done and put away, clothes are actually in the wardrobe not on the floordrobe and I have a whole load of ready to wear outfits ready to pick from in the morning.

Reduce your morning routine
Can you make your lunch the night before? Lay out an outfit? Wash your hair? Do it. Do it all. Pack your bag, leave it somewhere obvious with a sticky note on it saying ‘don’t forget lunch’. Leave your keys by the door so you’re not running round trying to find them. Even things like taking the bins out the night before will help! (Lol I live in a flat, I don’t have to take my bins out).

Write a list
Everything you need to do the next morning, list it out. Put realistic timings next to it. And then when you’ve written that list, tear it off the pad and put the pad by your bed so that if you do wake up in the night with a burning thought that you can’t possibly forget, you can write it straight down and get it out of your brain.

Reduce screen time
The blue light emitted by screens, particularly those which are close to your face (phones and laptops rather than TVs) stimulates part of your brain so that it wants to wake up – and that’s the last thing you need. You might be waking up in the night or worrying, but having the light from your phone telling your brain to wake up will not help one bit. Taking time away from your screen for 45mins or so before bed will absolutely help you wind down. Listen to an audio book, read an actual book, write down your lifelong bucket list on your to-do list pad. Do whatever it takes to ignore your phone.

Wind down with the world
I know it sounds stupid but trust me, this works. If you open all of your curtains and from early evening turn off your lights in the home, your body will naturally unwind as the sun sets. You’ll see the sky go from blue, through golden hour and into darkness and it will take you with it. It’s the perfect thing to do in the summer months especially as the sunset is more than likely going to align to bedtime.

Feel fresh at bedtime
Fresh sheets, fresh pjs, fresh out the shower, do it all. Do some skincare, double cleanse, and go to bed feeling like the cleanest, shiniest version of yourself that there is. Honestly, is there anything better than the feeling of freshly shaved legs on clean sheets? No there is not.

So, they’re my tips for winding down when you’re anticipating a night’s sleep that will be interrupted by stress. Let me know what you think in the comments!