Why Establish an Evening Routine to Put the Workday Behind You?
It can be tough to leave work behind when you go home for the day, but having a routine can help. End your day on a positive note of completion, do a specific action that symbolizes the end of your workday. It might be locking your office door, turning off your computer, or calling home to say you’re leaving work. Each night, treat this action as the equivalent of clocking out with a timesheet, and remind yourself that it’s time to shift your mental state away from work. Having a routine like this helps you create a psychological barrier between work and home. Every night you have one chance to wind down and prepare your brain for the next day. Don’t waste it by loading your brain with activities and events that make you even more tired in the morning.
Whether it’s the most inventive minds in history, or those people who live in good health past 100, a daily routine or set of micro-routines is correlated with productivity, health, and longevity. A productive evening routine is a set of activities that you repeat to prepare your mind and body for the next day. It’s also the ideal time for taking a break and relaxing. The brain can’t deliver at 100% capacity all the time, it needs downtime for peak performance. You can use the evening routine as a chance to wind down or plan for the day ahead. On average, individuals at age 20 get about 7.5 hours of sleep, while those around age 80 only get 5.8 hours of sleep. Also at age 20, people spend 20% of their sleep time in the really restorative, slow-wave sleep. At age 80, only 7.5% of that precious time is in Rapid Eye Movement. This is why it’s absolutely imperative that evening routines are done right. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. So it is right to say that a productive day starts the night before. If you get your evening routine right, you can switch off from work or business and recharge. One-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s). If you’re one of them, creating an evening routine is one of the easiest steps you can take to enjoy better sleep and help your mind and body relax before bed.
This blog post summarizes just a few of the golden nuggets from our insightful conversation, for the full details listen to the entire episode here or on your favourite podcast platform by searching for the Self-Care Goddess podcast.
How can you master your evenings?
In this podcast I will talk about 9 habits, routines and activities for a productive evening.
Do you know “How Yoga Can Help You Detox – Mentally, Physically & Emotionally”? Listen to the Self-Care Goddess Podcast episode #25 with Hitu Jugessur, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
- Create Your End of Day Ritual and a Set Bed Time: When 5 p.m. or the end of your workday rolls around, wrap up work with discipline. You might want to review your calendar for the following day and see what meetings need preparation. A to-do list can be reviewed during your evening routine. If you’re keeping a to do list, review outstanding items and decide on the two or three most important tasks you want to focus on the following morning and block book time in your calendar for working on those tasks. If your workspace is a mess, by all means, tidy up. As part of your natural sleep-wake cycle, your brain starts winding down for sleep a few hours before bedtime. You can use your bedtime routine to make that process more effective. Decide on your bed- and wake-up times, and stick to them every day. Following a consistent sleep routine helps train your brain to naturally feel tired when it’s bedtime. Next, schedule a time to begin your bedtime routine every night, anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours before bed. Set an alarm if you need to.
- Reflect Like Benjamin Franklin: The original productivity guru, Benjamin Franklin, was obsessed with self-improvement. At the end of the workday, he always asked himself one question, “What good have I done today?” Franklin was high-minded, but this type of introspection is useful if you want to figure out what to do more or less of. Ask yourself questions like: What worked? What didn’t work? Where am I blocked? Where do I need help? Ask and answer them in a professional journal or even mentally while setting your priorities for the following day. The key is to step back and look at the entire chessboard. Rather than concerning yourself with tactics, hone your strategy or plan of work for the following day or week.
- Track what worked and what didn’t work well during your day: The Italian economist Alfred Pareto said that 20% of the work typically leads to 80% of the results. So if you want to accomplish more at work, capture a useful metric at the end of the day. A copywriter could track sales generated from their sales pages. A salesperson could track converted leads. A writer could track how many words they wrote or articles they published. A product manager could track the status of a particular feature. Ideally, keep important metrics in one place and update them regularly. You’re looking for information that will indicate what to do more or less of tomorrow.
- Exercise and sex can help you become more productive: Canadian neuroscientists found out exercise stimulates growth in the brain. After work, walk to the train station, cycle home, hit the gym or swim. You might feel tired, but this change of pace will help you sleep more easily. Exercise also unlocks more energy the following morning. At the very least, a short walk after dinner will help you digest a heavy meal and enjoy a restorative sleep. End your day with a short nature walk to clear your head away from screens. Whilst walking, be fully present; observe what you see, ponder over that new thing you’ve never seen before; learn to fully relax your brain and enjoy your time away from work. You can listen to a podcast, audiobook or just the sound of nature if you choose to go for a walk. Experts continue to explore the connection between sleep and sex, but evidence does suggest a potential link between sex before bed and improved sleep.In one 2017 research survey, over 60 percent of the 282 adults who replied to the survey said their sleep improved after having an orgasm with a partner. Oxytocin release during sex may be one explanation. The release of this “love hormone” can promote relaxation and a sense of well-being. Kissing and cuddling can also trigger oxytocin release, so any type of intimate contact before bed has benefit. You don’t need a partner to add sex to your nighttime routine. Solo orgasms are a perfectly natural way to relax and get off to sleep more easily.
- Learn: The human brain doesn’t crave a break; it just wants a change of pace. There’s nothing wrong with watching Netflix or YouTube videos in the evening, but it’s probably not the best way to spend your time every night. Consider taking an online class or reading a book related to your career. Introduce a short evening meditation session that enables you to focus more effectively the following day. Or you could simply pursue a hobby unrelated to your work, for example, gardening or pottery. Catching up on a favorite show at the end of a long day can feel relaxing, but try to avoid doing this two hours before bedtime. The blue light produced by electronic devices can confuse your brain, which links this light to daytime. If your brain thinks it’s time for you to be awake, it won’t tell your body to produce melatonin, a hormone that helps prepare you for sleep. Using devices to scroll through social media, play games, watch videos, or chat with friends can also keep your brain active when you need it to start calming down. Consider adding these activities to your nighttime routine instead: assembling jigsaw puzzle, painting, drawing or coloring, doing word or number puzzles.
- Get ready to sleep: You set an alarm clock for getting up, so why not set one for going to bed? When 8 or 9 p.m. rolls around or when you’re an hour or two away from bedtime, put away blue screens so your brain isn’t overstimulated. Reading an easy fiction book could help you switch off from problems at the office. Getting this routine right means you’re less likely to toss and turn in bed. By then, you should feel comfortable about what you’re going to do the following day and tired because you’ve already exercised. If you still can’t sleep, consider an herbal remedy. I drink a cup of tea with Reishi or diluted apple cider vinegar or chamomile tea that help me fall asleep faster. For more information on herbal remedies listen to my amazing podcast episodes with Chris Lamont and Sarah Kruse on my website. Avoiding spicy food is also recommended, as science has found that spicy foods tend to prolong the cool down time. Relaxation techniques like deep breathing exercises can allow you to let go of physical and mental tension, by instead focusing on your body and mindfully relaxing. A daily yoga routine has shown to improve sleep quality, and a few simple stretches or massage before bed can prevent cramping. Some light yoga, stretching, and breathing exercises can go a long way toward relaxing you into sleep. I love Yin or Yoga Nidra before bed.
- The Sleep Ambience and Evening Meals: The Mayo Clinic has done a ton of amazing sleep research and found that we need to start thinking of our bedroom like a cave if we want to get both quality and quantity sleep. Interestingly, it’s not just about darkness – temperature and sleep are equally important to us! Caves are pitch black, cool and quiet, which is precisely the kind of environment we need in order to sleep! The Mayo Clinic has found that the ideal bedroom temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 18 and 22 degrees Celcius. So remember this in the winter when you crank up your heat and are wondering why you feel so stuffy and unable to sleep! Heavy meals and drinking before bed can lead to indigestion, acid reflux, and middle-of-the-night restroom trips that disrupt your sleep. However, going to bed hungry can also upset your stomach and make it hard to fall asleep. Find a healthy middle ground by calming your stomach with a light snack, like apples or apple sauce with flax seeds or a bit of Greek yogurt. Cherries, grapes, strawberries, nuts, and oats all have high melatonin content. Try not to eat anything at least 3 hours before your bedtime. Make sure to use the restroom before bed!
- Connect with your loved ones: When you spend quality time with your partner, close friend, spouse or anyone you care about, turn off notifications to connect better with them. Whether you share the bed with your partner or not, spreading positive energy and gratitude is part of the ultimate nightly routine. Worthy of mention, for those of you with children, they thrive on predictability and a regular evening routine brings many benefits. For starters, routines build relationships and bolster children’s sense of belonging and safety in the family unit. Generating these positive emotions just before bed can put you in a better mood, helping you feel more at ease when it’s time for bed. Spending quality time with people you love can strengthen your bond and help lower stress. Try: reading aloud to each other, trading massages with your partner, sharing highlights from your day, cuddling or playing with pets. These routines help strengthen your shared beliefs and values, and build a sense of belonging and togetherness in your family. Playing soft, soothing music as you prepare for bed can trigger the release of hormones that help improve your mood. Feeling emotionally at peace can help your body feel calmer, too. While music may help you fall asleep faster and get better sleep, make sure you stick with calming tunes. Energizing, upbeat music probably won’t have quite the effect you’re hoping for. For best results, try slow music without lyrics. The Journal of Advanced Nursing found that classical music is a great way to wind down, but so is breathwork, meditating, journaling, or other calming activities which can all be done together as a family.
- Do absolutely nothing at some point in the evening; sit and enjoy a few minutes of mind wander, light breathing or meditation. It relaxes the brain. A perfect evening routine should have two goals: How do we wrap up the day so we feel we can leave the day behind with a clear mind? How can we set ourselves up for that deep, glorious, restorative sleep that we all so desperately need?
A regular breathwork and meditation practice can improve your sleep quality. Mindfulness meditation teaches people to allow their thoughts and manage emotions, enabling sleep onset, rather than stressing about not falling asleep. You can practice mindfulness meditation by simply closing your eyes and allowing yourself to focus on your thoughts and feelings. Observe your thoughts, but don’t judge them. Deep breathing and visualization are other forms of meditation. You can find my guided meditation exercises for free on the SavoiaSelfCare YouTube channel.
In the digital age, when the constant stream of devices so frequently interrupts the flow of home life and face-to-face interaction, morning and evening routines are more important than ever especially ones that involve turning off those devices entirely for limited amounts of time. A nightly two-hour, screen-free routine can help us actively provide a meaningful, positive life structure that enhances the well-being of the entire family. At the end of the day, these tips are a great way to get a good routine going, but do what works for you. There will be times when you’re away from home, have guests visiting or realise that the current routine isn’t really working. Instead of forcing things, focus on meeting your social, physical and emotional needs, and how you do this is up to you. Good sleep is a key factor in mind and body wellness, and it dosen’t have to be hard to come by. A personalized evening routine can help you get better sleep, allowing you to wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Would you like to learn 5 Ways to Kick Start Your Self-Care Journey at Home? Listen to the Self-Care goddess podcast episode #6, on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast
For free guided meditation videos and Breathwork demonstrations subscribe to my YouTube channel.
Listen to the full podcast episode #78 on the Self-Care Goddess Podcast.
I look forward to connecting with you and learning more about your story and your health and wellness goals. Schedule a FREE introduction call here.