About three years ago, I went from working 40 hours a week to working 60 hours a week, basically overnight. The first thing to suffer? My health. And boy did it suffer! With that came a significant increase in my anxiety symptoms.
At one point, I met with my friend who’s a 4th grade reading teacher and asked her how she manages the 60-hour-work-week lifestyle. She said something that stood out to me: “Michelle, you know what is super important? Having a bedtime routine and sticking to it!”
I was taken aback. Aren’t bedtime routines only for children ages 10 and under? And… my routine at the time? Uhm, not your shining example…
- Get home from work
- Watch Netflix until 2am
- Fall asleep
Obviously… that wasn’t quite working!Bedtime routines are for adults too, especially those struggling with anxiety. Click To Tweet
- Having a routine lowers my anxiety levels, because there’s the sense that I know what’s coming next.
- Having a routine is something I can easily fall back upon when my mind doesn’t have the capacity to try something new.
- I never know whether I’m going to get up the first time my alarm clock goes off in the morning, or if I’m going to be racing out of bed and straight to work at the last minute. So my bedtime routine includes specific steps that help prepare me for a smoother morning.
Here’s what my bedtime routine looks like now (…or at least on most days):
1.) Prep my lunch for the next day (so that it’s grab and go).
Since I don’t have much time (or energy) for cooking, I try and do meal prep on the weekends. I’ll cook one large meal (like a family-size lasagna) and eat a little bit for lunch each day during the work week. Since I’m still single with no kids, this seems to work well.
- Each night, I’ll dish out a portion of that large meal into a travel container, just what I need for the next day.
- Then I grab 1-2 small snacks. That normally includes a Fiber One 90 calorie brownie, which gives me something sweet, but substantial (thank you Fiber!), and if I’m doing well, I also pack a zip lock bag with a portion of frozen fruit.
- I place everything in a plastic grocery bag (Recycle! Don’t throw them away!) and it sits over night in my fridge. …Yes, the brownie goes in the fridge too. Everything together in one bag. Spending the night in the fridge ain’t going to hurt my non-perishable snack. And I don’t mind my frozen fruit thawing out over night. That means they won’t crack my teeth when I try and eat them the next day….
- In the morning, I just pass by the fridge and grab the bag on my way to work.
This process takes maybe five minutes per night, and it’s the first thing I do, because my roommates are normally chatty and it allows me to get something done while still interacting with them. It’s also a cue to them that I’m gearing down for the night.
P.S. Depending on what I cook for my large meal, this isn’t always the healthiest option, but it helps keep me sane. I use a 7-day pill container for my medicine as well as a women’s complete vitamin and a fish oil supplement. That helps get me some nutritional value when my energy level just doesn’t allow for healthier cooking. … Or another healthy option would be one of those tasty Bistro Bowl salads, like in the picture above.
2.) Head to my room, turn on my bedside lamp, and turn off the overhead light.
This dims the lighting and sends a cue to my brain that it’s almost time for sleep.
3.) Personal hygiene 101…
- I brush and floss my teeth. Final call if my roommates are still feeling chatty….
- I brush my hair and always pull it back into a pony tail. That’s because my hair is long and flowing, and I have a cat who just loves to crawl all over my hair while I’m trying to sleep!
- I wash my face. This comes after brushing my teeth, because toothpaste can sometimes aggravate the skin.
4.) I decide on tomorrow’s outfit.
This saves me a TON of time every morning!!! And it helps me sleep relaxed. At night, I have more time to check my calendar to see what types of appointments I’m going to have the next day, make sure my clothes have dried properly (without wrinkles), and perhaps even check Pinterest for something cute. It’s much more peaceful to do this at night time!
5.) I kick everyone out of my bedroom, ideally at least 30 minutes before going to sleep.
It’s time to be alone now! I love my roommates, but because I’m an introvert, I need to wind down each night by being absolutely alone. Just me. …If I ever get married, I’ll have to figure out how that will look… but for now, being single, it works great!
6.) I set my alarm.
Ok, I have a terrible habit: the snooze monster… ahem, I mean, “button.” I’m terrible about hitting the snooze button for more than an hour almost every morning!!! Sometimes I’ve even gotten into the habit of setting my alarm for at least one hour before I need to be up. Because I know I’ll snooze. Does anyone else have that problem?
The best method I’ve found for slaying the snooze monster is to set my alarm for around when I think I’ll be ending a REM cycle. That’s when your body is naturally sleeping at it’s lightest and it’s easier to wake up. There’s an Android app that helps with this: Sleep Cycle. One of my readers told me about it. Sleep Cycle takes out all of the guess work. I tell it how long on average it takes for me to fall asleep. Then I tell it what time it is when I’m going to bed, and it tells me what time for which I should set my alarm. (Proper grammar right there….)
7.) I put my phone away.
Ok, I need to work on this one. But ideally, the phone goes away at least 30 minutes prior to sleep, because those LED lights keep me awake!!! And also because every time I check my phone, I somehow get sucked into the Facebook vortex and, before I know it, another hour has gone by… and I’m still awake!!
8.) I calm my mind with some light reading (or Sudoku).
Ok, Sudoku annoys the crap out of some people, but for me, it’s very relaxing! My mind prefers it when things are black and white…. When there is one “correct” solution to a problem. When things can be figured out. Sudoku helps give me that sense of peace…. plus I’m also good at Sudoku, so that helps too! Overall it relaxes my mind before going to sleep.
9.) The light goes off.
10.) I close my eyes.
Ok, confession, I added this last one (which is kind of a given, right?) just because I wanted to end on number 10…. I like ending on a 3, 5, or 10.