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How Can I Create a Better, More Peaceful Evening Routine?

While many of us believe a good morning routine is the key to having a good day, a morning routine isn’t the only thing that determines the day’s outcome. Evening routines are just as important to having a productive next day. Because we’re all moving less without our morning and evening commutes, walks to lunch, or going to the gym, our bodies and minds are negatively impacted. Between the loss of regular movement and human contact, the day-to-day feels tougher and slower to move through. However, all hope is not lost! There are some basic things we can do each day to set ourselves up for success. In this blog post we’ll discuss the changes and additions to an evening routine that will set you up for a great next day.

Since we’re moving less and sitting more, it’s important to incorporate stretching into our daily routines. While I would recommend stretching more than one time a day, starting with adding it to you evening routine can be very helpful. Stretching helps relieve tension which many of us hold in our shoulders, neck and back, made worse by sitting on a computer all day. By stretching before bed, you help prevent waking up sore and stiff the following morning. Waking up achy is not a great way to start the day. To take stretching a step farther, incorporate mindfulness into your practice. This can be focusing on your breath as you stretch, listening to a meditation, or simply being aware as your mind wanders. By incorporating mindfulness into stretching, we’re able to relax and benefit both our bodies and our minds.

I’ve spoken about practicing gratitude in previous blog posts as it seems to pop up in every facet of mental and physical well-being. Cultivating a gratitude practice can have immense positive impacts on how you experience the world. Research has shown that writing in a gratitude journal or simply writing down what you’re grateful for can reduce the inflammation that triggers pain and discomfort. Taking a moment before bed to write down a couple of things you’re grateful for seems simple but can make a big impact. Practicing gratitude shifts perspective and focus allowing you to view yourself and the world through a more positive lens. 

Despite working from home, many of us have found ourselves to be busier than ever. Because we’re home, breaks seem to have disappeared as have the boundaries of time to work and time to relax. While that’s a topic for a whole other blog, meal prep is something that can be factored into your evening routine. When we’re rushing from meeting to meeting, we spend less time making good food choices and typically reach for the fastest, closest thing we can find. However, when we open the fridge and see our breakfast and lunch sitting there, already prepared and ready, it reduces anxiety and makes the easiest choice a healthy choice. It’s hard to fuel our minds and bodies on bars and snack foods. Taking the time to prep some food at night for the following day can be a game changer. 

While I’m not here to tell you if you should be drinking or how much you should be drinking, I am here to suggest not drinking close to bedtime. In our fast-paced culture, many of us have begun associating a drink at the end of the day with relaxation and wind down time. Many of us drink for that exact reason. Unfortunately, while consuming alcohol may help us to fall asleep, it disrupts REM sleep and worsens our sleep quality. Alcohol can also lead to increased anxiety, decreased mood, difficulty focusing and irritability. If you’re planning on having a drink, it’s best to do so at least a few hours before going to bed.

This last recommendation I have a lot of difficulty with. Do not get into bed before you’re tired. Just reading that sentence makes me want to roll my eyes and climb into bed. However, difficulty falling asleep can quickly turn into an unpleasant cycle. When we have difficulty sleeping, we then become stressed about the fact that we’re not yet asleep and then all of a sudden, we’re frustrated and angry with ourselves. This cycle creates a negative association with our bedrooms. Ideally our bedrooms are places of comfort and peace but the more we try to force ourselves to sleep, the quicker stress becomes our default setting the second we hit the pillow. Instead, stay in the living room until you feel yourself getting tired. If you can’t fall asleep after about 20-30 minutes, get up and do something else until you’re sleepy again. If you can’t sleep, getting angry with yourself doesn’t help.

Hopefully incorporating these five things into your evening routine will help you to have a more peaceful night, more restful sleep, and more productive next day.

If you’ve found yourself struggling to wind down or wake up feeling achy and uneasy, it may be useful to try counseling in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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