You know that feeling when you're lying on your couch after a busy day, trying to relax — and anxiety suddenly rears its head? Your mind races and mental steam builds as you dwell on everything in your day that annoyed you and all the things you didn’t get done and now have to do tomorrow.
It’s certainly not relaxing, that’s for sure!
And this matters — a lot — because setting the tone for a relaxing evening is essential to a healthy lifestyle. After all, it's crucial for mindfulness and stress management, and it also paves the way for a good night's sleep.
I know you’re probably thinking But how am I actually supposed to get eight hours when I have errands to run, work to finish, TV shows to catch up on, and laundry to do?
Hear me out. There are simple things you can incorporate into your nighttime routine that will help you sleep more soundly. This way, when morning comes, you're ready for a brand-new day with both a calm mind and a rested body.
As a health coach, here are the nine nighttime tips I recommend using to get your body ready for slumber:
1. Leave your work at work by using a mantra.
Before leaving your office for home, make sure you’ve finished your key tasks for the day. You don't want to take work with you into your relaxation station. Instead, write a to-do list for the next morning to clearly organize your thoughts and leave them on the list — not in your head.
You can further make your home a Zen den, a place of serenity and peace, by doing this: when you arrive at your front door at the end of the day, make a conscious decision to leave your stress on the threshold rather than carry it in with you. Say to yourself or even out loud: “I leave all stress from today here.” Make sure you truly mean it before you put the key in to open the door.
2. Set the atmosphere for the evening.
Dimming the lights sends your body a signal to wind down and go to bed. So instead of keeping the bright lights on all evening, dim them when you get home and light some candles. Add to the gentle glow by turning on some relaxing music.
3. Shut down all tech devices.
As early as you can, turn off all electronics, including the TV. Make a habit to also shut down all social media at a certain time every night and not start it up again until after you’ve set up your new day in a relaxed fashion. Your Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and email can wait.
4. Sip calming teas.
Warm beverages soothe the body — and who doesn’t feel cozy while curled up in pajamas with a good book and a hot cup of tea? To really relax before bed, I recommend drinking chamomile and peppermint tea.
5. Take a detoxifying bath.
Enjoying a hot shower or bath in the evening goes a long way in steaming away stress. You can improve the bath even further by adding Epsom salts, which help detoxify the body. Make the water warm enough that you break into a light sweat, which will also help your body eliminate toxins. Pour two cups of the salts into the bath, dim the lights, relax, and unwind.
6. Try aromatherapy.
The power of scent is profound, and breathing in a relaxing essential oil can totally shift your head and heart space.
Some small studies have found that lavender essential oil is beneficial for a number of conditions, including insomnia. I like to put a few drops of lavender essential oil on my temples and my wrists before bed. You can also put a drop on your pillow.
7. Make your bedroom a sanctuary.
To encourage sticking with your bedtime each night, it's essential to have a bed that feels inviting. Soft pillows, warm blankets, and a serene color scheme in your bedroom are well worth the investment. Your place of sleep should feel like an oasis.
8. Practice light yoga stretches.
Simple restorative yoga poses and light stretching will help your body wind down from the day. A particularly good position for unwinding is child’s pose. Lie face-down curled into yourself on the floor. Now, expand your breath into your rib cage and your back for a sense of relaxation. You can finish this wind-down in savasana position on your yoga mat with some deep breathing.
9. Do a visual body scan.
Help your body relax by focusing on yourself and your heart center. Lie down on your back and mentally scan from the top of your head down to your toes. Visualize each part of your body, stopping anywhere you are holding stress and discomfort and breathe deeply into that area. When that part relaxes, move on. Don’t judge as you scan — just give your body love.
Schedule these daily self-care practices into your calendar until they become a necessary and permanent part of your routine.