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It’s no secret that when we don’t get enough sleep, our stress increases. Think about it, when you’re sleep deprived, your decision making isn’t as sharp, your serotonin levels are lower (feel good hormones), and your general fatigue just makes everything blah…
Have you also noticed that when you’re stressed, your sleep quality is low? If I eat late at night or if I’m preoccupied, I have some wild and active dreams, that’s for sure.
So what can you do about it?
The answer is to develop a solid evening routine.
My kids are two and four. They know the flow of each and every evening. Not only is that good for their mental health, because the human species likes to know what to expect, but it also cues your brain for sleep. Without fail, ten minutes after that door closes they are in bed. Okay… there is an occasional fail where someone is getting out of bed, but I can almost always point to hunger or something that we missed like a good night hug.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We are giant children. Adults thrive just as much, if not more, from the benefits of an evening routine. An evening routine can help you stress less, sleep better and feel more refreshed on an ongoing basis.
That’s why the August challenge (just two days away!) for the Stress Less Habits Challenge is to develop your own evening routine. This could be five minutes, this could be thirty minutes, but if you start to tweak what you’re already doing (or lean into the parts that work like a charm) you’ll see huge gains. Join the Stress Less Habits Challenge.
So what does an evening routine look like?
Well, it’s entirely up to you.
Let Go Of Your Day
If you’re going to bed with every worry on your mind (and it’s hard not to with the harsh realities that we’re living through), you will struggle to get quality sleep.
One of the best tools that I can think of to let go of what’s going on in your head, is to either write out it, or to say it out loud. You need to expel that energy from your body like an exorcism. Don’t worry, you can pick it up tomorrow and worry about it then, but for now, I suggest letting it lie.
A good old journal can be your go-to for even five to ten minutes of release on the hard days. Another tip I heard on the old internet, was to create voice memos. Record your thoughts. Maybe go back and listen, maybe you delete it and get relief that way. Or, you can be like me, and just talk out loud to yourself. Honestly, it’s a great way to say what you need to say, and feel what you need to feel. A good cry never did anybody any harm, because tears contain cortisol, your stress hormone, so you’re actually releasing physical stress from your body when you cry it out.
Minimize The Inputs
First off, you want to minimize the inputs. Inputs being TV, podcasts, social media, visual media in general. What about reading, people often ask me. Well, that entirely depends on the book. A physical book is best before bed to minimize blue light, but the content is also important. Is this a book you’re reading for fun and it’s light and easy? Or is this a book that is getting your brain ticking.
You also want to avoid heavy conversations before bed. This isn’t the time to be getting into an argument or gossiping with a friend. That’s going to key you up, when what we want is to slow it all down.
Let Go Of Tension In Your Body
We hold so much tension in our body, be it in our backs, our jaws or in the tightness of our shoulders. Once you’re asleep things can loosen up, but it’s best to unwind your body before your head hits the pillow. For some people that’s a hot bath or a shower, and for others it’s a few minutes of stretching to open up your muscles.
I remember in high school reading a study about how people are taller in the morning then they are night – they can reach higher. It’s because of the tension that our body takes on during the day, decreasing all the gaps between our bones and muscles. By stretching, you’re opening it all up. This could be a few yoga sequences or some simple stretches.
One of my favourite new ways to relieve tension in my body before bed is to use my Akuspike mat. Now, full disclosure, I’ve just signed on to be an affiliate of theirs, but that’s only because I tried the product every night for two months and have seen the benefit.
An Akumat is essentially a mat of little metal spikes. Sounds lovely huh? My husband jokes that I’m laying on a bed of nails, but I’ve quickly converted him. You can lay on, stand on it (though that’s for the much braver of heart), or rest your feet on it, and those little spikes trigger acupressure points on your body. Do this for about ten minutes, breathe into it and you’ll notice your body start to release the tension you’re holding onto. It can feel intense at first, but what I do is lay it on my bed, then lay on top of it – that seems to be a little more forgiving than laying on the floor… though I do that too when I want a more intense feeling. All in all it’s helped me release pressure at night and I swear I’m sleeping better.
One From Each Category
If you’re doing one thing from each category (#1, Let Go Of Your Day, #2 Minimize the Inputs and #3 Let Go Of Physical Tension) you’re well on your way to an evening routine that sets you up for less stress, better sleep and feeling more refreshed. It doesn’t have to be big, elaborate or even take all that much time, but a solid wind down routine will stand you in good stead.
I’d love to hear how these are all going for you. Share parts of your evening routine over on social media. And make sure to join the Stress Less Habits Challenge. I’ll be sharing many more tips and tricks to make your evening routine as relaxing and stress-free as possible throughout the month of August.