Like many of you probably reading this, I love planning and sticking to my routines, but I also love traveling and trying new things. It sounds like a contradiction, like two totally different lifestyles based on totally different sets of values. But I would argue that to lead a life of adventure, you actually need a solid, steady base of the “same old same old”. Routines.
I read somewhere once that planning shouldn’t be considered the enemy of spontaneity but rather the key to it. People who plan can be MORE spontaneous because when an exciting opportunity comes up, they have their schedule and tasks all in order and they can move things around to create free time. On the other hand, someone who doesn’t plan may have a super disorganized week ahead of them and trying to fit in a last-minute rock climbing trip they were invited to will just throw everything more out of wack.
So routines are like bookends to our life. An abundance of excitement and variety in our lives can make us feel wobbly and uncertain. Having the same morning routines, bedtime routines, dinner routines, etc. to return to every day resets us. A study in Psychological Science actually found that people who did mostly the same thing every day reported that they found life more meaningful (Scientific American).
I wrote about my bedtime routine a while ago. Throwback... Saturday, I guess, to one of the very first posts on my blog. Looking back on it, my routine now looks so different. That doesn’t mean that it has improved. I sure hope it doesn’t mean it’s gotten worse. It’s just… different. Different people need different routines and even the same person needs different routines based on where they are in their lives.
For example, when I had plantar fasciitis, my bedtime routine included using this little wooden massage roller. Now that I’m (thankfully), far past that, it sits on my shelf waiting for me to develop plantar fasciitis again (fingers crossed it just collects dust forever).
So basically, everyone is DIFFERENT. But this would be a useless blog post if I ended it there. Because you knew that already, right? Oh yes, everyone needs a different bedtime routine because everyone is different. Good job Beatrice, how insightful.
That’s why I’m taking it to ANOTHER LEVEL with this blog post. I’m going to throw out all of the ideas I can possibly think of for things you can incorporate into your bedtime routine and then give you a handy dandy worksheet where you can plan out and commit to this routine, for freeee (I know, I’m so kind).
Take care of yo body
Stretching or yoga
It’ll build up your range of motion, lower risk of injury, and reduce fatigue after a workout that really destroyed your muscles. It’s also just plain relaxing! Breathe deep and pay attention to which muscles feel tight.
Grab that nice lotion that you never use (preferably a scent that relaxes you) and lather up. If you’re like me and hate having freshly moisturized hands (everything you touch becomes greasy, and you can forget about writing on paper), bedtime is a great time to take care of your dry skin.
Brush/comb your hair
You don’t wanna overdo this because you can damage your hair, but I like to run a brush through my hair a few times just to smooth it out if it’s been in a ponytail all day, get any tangles out, and to massage my scalp.
You don’t want all that stuff on your face when you lay your head down on your pillow for the entire night, now do you?
Washing your face
Incorporating it as part of a relaxing bedtime routine helps you view it more as an unwinding ritual that you get to do rather than a series of steps you have to get through to prevent that acne from popping up.
Brushing your teeth
No explanation needed for why this should be a part of your bedtime routine AND your morning routine, I hope
Take a warm bath or shower
When your body is getting ready to sleep, your body temperature falls. So when you take a warm bath or shower before bed (and give your body some time to start cooling off), you’re basically faking that process. That’s why you start to feel groggy. And there’s no better feeling than going to sleep freshly showered in clean pajamas and sheets.
Already have ideas for which of these you want to incorporate into your own bedtime routine? Stay tuned - there's a worksheet at the end for you to plan it out!
Get your life organized
What did you get done today? What needs to be transferred to tomorrow? How did you do on your daily habits?
Write/review tomorrow’s to-do list
Getting all of those to-dos onto paper instead of leaving them racing around in your head gives you a feeling of calm and a foundation for planning your next day. Bam, look at you being so productive.
Review your goals
They say the key to achieving your goals is not hiding them away in some notebook somewhere (notebook #14 of that stack of half-filled, pretty notebooks), but actually reviewing them every. Single. Day.
Pick up your bedroom floor
Nothing crazy, you’re not really cleaning, but waking up to a room that has nothing thrown on the floor is much nicer, don’t you think?
Pack your bag
Take advantage of the zen-like state you're in now and calmly pack your bag for the next day. Trust me, in the morning, you will forget something.
Set out your outfit for the next day
If you always find yourself stressed out about trying to find the perfect outfit in the limited amount of time available in the morning, try doing it at night.
Chill out and relax
Now’s not the time for that philosophy book by Aristotle or a self-improvement book that gets you super pumped. Pick something nice and easy. Fiction is great, just not something too engrossing. The perfect book should lull you into sleep and be pleasant to read.
Listen to music
My favorite playlist is Spotify’s “Sleep” playlist. I usually stay away from anything with words or intense tempo changes. Bring me the dullest, most peaceful-sounding tracks, please. Nature sounds are a nice bonus.
I’m not super into it myself but a lot of people find those super detailed coloring books really relaxing. If you are one of them, try it before bed.
Have a warm drink
A nice cup of warm tea (chamomile is great), or a cup of milk with honey if you eat/drink dairy. Also, keep sipping on that water until about 90 minutes before bed. Hydrating #alldayeveryday.
You can set yourself a timer and play some soothing sounds, or find a guided meditation made specifically for sleep. Insight Timer has tons of those.
While I sometimes don’t feel like it, I am always glad that I sat down and opened my journal. There are always thoughts lingering from the day - unsolved problems, to-dos, regrets, old memories popping up, accomplishments to celebrate, etc. Just pour all of that onto the page. It’s not only a record of your life, but a way to sort out all of your thoughts.
I always write down three things I was grateful for that day in my journal entry. If gratitude is the last thing you do, you’ll go to bed feeling positive. Even a bad day can be framed in a good light if you focus on what went well.
Create the right environment
Turn off all electronics
You’ve heard this a million times. That blue light keeps you awake. Even if you’ve got a fancy schmancy device that tints your screen red at a certain time, electronics are electronics. They’re instant entertainment, fast-paced information, and a relentless distraction. You’ll just feel calmer if you put it away. Okay, fine, you can use it to set your alarm - but stay away from all of those other apps!
Use essential oils
Tbh I don’t know a lot about essential oils. I only know that lavender helps you sleep, so sometimes I like to put a drop on my pillowcase. The Prairie Homestead has a great post on other essential oils that have similar effects.
Turn the thermostat down
Remember how we talked about your body cooling down for sleep? Again, you’re just helping that process by cooling down your environment. The ideal temperature is said to be between 60 and 67 degrees (Sleep.org) - brr! I like to open my window as I’m getting ready for bed and shut it just before I go to sleep. That way, my room is cool when I’m trying to fall asleep, and is back to a normal temperature by the time I need to wake up.
Dim the lights
No worries if you don’t have a fancy dimmer light switch. Just leaving on a bedside lamp, a desk lamp, or some string lights if you have them, works too. Do this at the beginning of your routine so everything else you do has that “zen” feeling.
Use a noise machine
I’m a total silence girl myself but some people have trouble falling asleep unless they’ve got a fan or something going.
Whew, that was a long list! Obviously, I don’t expect you to do all of these. That would be crazy. The idea here is to pick and choose your favorites. For example, I’m not a big fan of taking baths or coloring. I’m also not a big fan of leaving a fan on for noise. Haha, I’m hilarious.
For me, it’s all about the stretching, peaceful music, and journaling. That’s what I have found works for me and gets me ready for sleep.
I encourage you to try to keep it mostly the same every night, simply to train your mind to associate these actions with being ready for bed. A little variation is fine. For example, on Sunday evenings I like to do a little bit of extra skin care and do a face mask. But for the most part, I’ve got a checklist of things that I do every evening and I stick to that.
So now it’s your turn. Print out this worksheet, and use these figurative puzzle pieces to put together your own perfectly calming wind-down routine. Then, because no document is official without a signature, get out your fancy fountain pen and sign that sucker. Commit to taking care of yourself every evening and I know you will see the benefits. As I did research for this post, I was surprised to see that almost all of the articles that came up were about bedtime routines for kids. Well, let's take back bedtime routines. They are for EVERYONE!
Let me know if this blog post helped you! What do you do every evening before bed to relax?