A few months ago, I shared my morning routine and had planned to follow-up with a post about my evening routine. Just like your morning routine, your evening routine is another important component to help keep you balanced and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.
OPTIMIZE YOUR EVENING
Nighttime routines are far more than habits; in my opinion, they allow you close out your day and properly set yourself up for the next. When I say "evening routine," I'm not talking about just getting ready for the bed -- I'm talking about practicing mindfulness and living with intention to prepare you for a relaxing and restful night of sleep.
My evening routine starts when I finish work for the day. My work hours vary each weekday, so every night might look a bit different, but I try to stay close to this routine even if the times are slightly off. Many of you are in a similar situation when it comes to flexible work hours (or being on call), commuting to and from work or school, raising families, having a social life, etc. In addition, my routines tend to change with the seasons, with my body calling for more sleep in the winter and more outdoor activities in the summer.
Working in a healthcare field tends to be "give give give" all day long, as our primary responsibility is taking care of the well-being of others. This is why, in the evenings, I take time to focus inwards and "give" back to myself before the next day. I prefer simple and more “low-key” activities and hobbies, such as watching TV or movies, reading books, or writing for the blog.
To give you an example of what an evening routine consists of, I've included a breakdown of my current personal morning routine (as of August 2018). Here it is, step by step…
MY EVENING ROUTINE
+ 6:15 pm: | WALK + MOVE |
Something that helps me “shut off” work and create a buffer between work and home life is to go on a walk or run. Going outside on a walk is a nice mental, physical, and emotional separation between my professional and personal life. It gives me space to breathe, think, and shake any negative feelings from the day off. I’ll finish up with a short session of jumping rope or a HIIT workout, followed by stretching or foam rolling.
+ 6:45 pm: | DINNER |
Dinner depends on the day, but it usually involves cooking at home. I prefer to eat dinner between 6-7 pm, not only because I’m hungry as soon as I get home from work, but it gives my body enough time to digest my meal before bedtime. Recipes vary by season; as I’m writing this it’s summer, so I’m currently using all the fresh fruits and veggies from the garden as I can!
Need a little help with meal prep to speed up your routine?
Here are a couple things to help you plan ahead for dinners and/or in case you’re new to the OEL lifestyle: meal planning, batch cooking, and creating a grocery shopping list.
+ 7:45 pm: | CHORES |
While cooking and eating dinner, I let the dishes soak in the sink. That way, once I’ve finished eating dinner, I can quickly wash the pots and pans, and load the dishwasher. I spend the next ten minutes spot cleaning the kitchen and tidying the living spaces. I save larger cleaning tasks for the weekend.
+ 8:00 pm: | PREPARATION |
I start preparing for the next day by checking the weather forecast. I do this the night before because it allows me to plan ahead accordingly (although, truthfully, the area I live in has rapidly-changing weather, so it’s best to be prepared for anything). I use the forecast to determine whether my morning workout will be indoors or outdoors, what I’m going to wear to work, and whether I need to bring specific items, like gloves, rain or snow boots, or an umbrella. If it’s going to snow, I’ll need to set aside extra time the next morning to warm up and clear off my car. Next, I briefly review my day planner, in which I keep my schedule and to do list, to mentally prepare myself for what the next day entails.
One of the tasks I moved from my morning routine to my evening routine was outfit selection. I pick out my clothes, shoes, and accessories the night before and set them aside, so now I don't waste time in the morning trying to decide what to wear. I found that scrambling to put my outfit together was a huge source of frustration for me - which is not a good mentality to have when starting your day. I'd wind up feeling rushed, ill-prepared, and generally uncomfortable in my clothes the entire day. If you ever experience this feeling too, try setting out your clothes the night before as a way to de-stress your mornings.
I also quickly comb through my purse to remove any unnecessary items, like receipts. I used to carry a large purse (it’s the “always be prepared” mentality that I have) but found that I hardly used anything in it! Now, I only bring the essentials in a small crossbody bag and leave what I don’t need for the day at home or in my car.
Lastly, I’ll partially pack my lunch. I pack all non-perishable food items in a lunch bag and store the perishables in the fridge, ready to grab and go in the morning. Since I’ve started prepping my weekly breakfasts and lunches on Sundays, this process has become easier and faster. I also set out whatever ingredients I can and any items (such as a blender cup, mug, spoon, etc.) needed for my morning coffee, smoothie, and breakfast.
+ 8:20 pm: | SELF CARE + BEAUTY |
I take a little time for self-care with my nighttime beauty routine. My personal favorite product I use to remove my eye makeup nightly is the We Love Eyes makeup remover oil and foaming cleanser. Next, I clean and exfoliate my face and apply moisturizer on my face and body. On some nights I’ll apply a leave-in deep conditioner to my hair that I’ll rinse out in the morning.
+ 8:30 pm: | DIGITAL DETOX + MINDFULNESS |
One new thing I’ve incorporated into my nighttime routine is limiting my screen use before bedtime. Recent studies have found that digital devices can disrupt the natural pattern of the sleep-wake cycle and lead to sleep deprivation. I have started to set a curfew for electronics (e.g., TV, computer, and phone) by turning them off at least one hour before going to bed. I programmed my phone to go into “night mode” to minimize blue light exposure and activate “Do not disturb” starting at 8:30 pm to silence all calls/texts and prevent any app notifications from capturing my attention until the morning.
During this time, I’ll drink a cup of hot Sleepytime tea (it’s a tradition since childhood) and go analog by writing and reading. I start by writing down my daily recap in a journal. I’m a fan of the 5 Minute Journal because it is simple to fill in the prompts, but any journal or notepad will do. I spend the rest of the time reading a book. In addition to the little library of books I have at home, I always have a stack of books I’ve loaned from the public library.
Additional things I love to help me unwind in the evening include: essential oil diffuser (with a special sleep blend), grown-up coloring books, pajamas, candles, chill music, and cozy blankets.
+ 9:30 pm: | SLEEP |
If I’m waking up at 5:30 am, I need to be asleep by 9:30 pm for a full 8 hours of sleep. In the fall and winter, when it gets darker earlier, I sometimes go to bed earlier and catch up on massive amounts of sleep. Use an eye mask, ear plugs, a white noise machine, or whatever else it is to help you sleep better and more deeply.
Related Post: 8 Nighttime Habits for Better Sleep
TIPS FOR CREATING YOUR EVENING ROUTINE
Sometimes deciding when and how you'll do things is half the battle! Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your own evening routine:
- Write it down. Write out your nighttime routine and add it to your paper or digital calendar. Now close your eyes and envision yourself practicing that routine each night, step by step. This helps work out those little "in between" steps you might've missed. - Take it slow. The first time you perform your evening routine might feel daunting…. It won't always feel this way! Like any habit, it takes time to adjust and form good practices. It's best to start by adding one thing at a time, and slowly working up to your full routine. - Practice makes progress. As you perform your routine, make note of the time it takes you to complete each task, what is successful, and what is not. Use this to information to improve your routine until you find the best method for you. - Don’t skimp on sleep. If you find yourself hitting the "snooze" button in the mornings, you should be getting more sleep! This doesn't mean staying in bed longer that morning; it means going to sleep earlier at night. - Change with the seasons. While my evening routine is pretty regular and consistent year-round, there are times I switch it up if I'm feeling stagnant. In the warmer months, I’ll spend extra time socializing or doing outdoor activities, whereas in the colder months I’ll spend more time reading or catch up on sleep. - Just do it! Try to incorporate your routine into your evenings for two weeks straight and report back to me. Whether you can complete your entire routine successfully or not, you have set an intention to improve your night, and I think you'll start to notice positive changes as a result of it.
I hope that sharing my personal evening routine will help inspire you to cultivate your own routine. Remember that not all nighttime routines are the same. Over time, you'll discover what works and doesn't work for you individually, and you might end up refining your own routine to best optimize your life.
I'd love to hear about your personal evening routine. Share your routines in the comments below for others in the community to read and connect with OEL on Instagram @OptomEyesLife and #OptomEyesLife.