Healthcare should be more accurately named Aftercare. So often, we don’t appreciate our health until we’re not healthy anymore.
We take the steps to return to wellness, but then we go back to our busy lifestyles — forgetting that we need to maintain this optimal state of being if we’d like to keep it.
Throughout much of my life, my body has been pushed to the limit.
My immune system would weaken, and I would end up spending a week or two battling a cold or other illness.
I would be forced to slow down, and I resented the intrusion of sickness into my life without realizing that it was my lifestyle contributing to this pattern.
It took years of these ups and downs to realize that I needed a more holistic, preventative wellness focus rather than an aftercare plan alone.
Part of cultivating a wellness-oriented lifestyle has involved choosing healthy nighttime routines.
The old me might have stayed up too late binging the latest streaming hit series with a snack before staying up even later scrolling on social media.
I would wake up over-tired and jump into a busy day as a freelance writer and single mother only to repeat the pattern — until I was forced to slow down.
My life is different these days.
The old nighttime routine seemed like a low-maintenance way to end a high-stress day, but it negatively impacted my quality of sleep and overall health. I began to research ways to modify my routine with a self-care focus. Here’s what I found.
I will say to my dying day that diet culture is unhealthy. Intuitive eating, however, is not about weight loss, fad diets, or any other extreme measure. It’s about better nutrition and listening to our bodies to figure out what we need. Part of changing my nighttime routine involved looking at the mindless way I was snacking while reading a book or watching TV. Was I actually hungry, or was I bored, restless, or eating out of habit?
While I still sometimes snack in the evenings, I’ve noticed I make healthier choices when I actually consider the motivation behind the craving. I don’t just reach for the first snack item I can find. Instead, I consider what I enjoy that will make me feel good. One of my favorite snacks is a small bowl of blueberries, dark chocolate pieces, and pecans. It has all the elements of sweet, salty, and crunchy that I like in a snack without making me feel too full before bedtime.
Skincare is also an important part of a healthy nighttime routine. For some reason, skincare gets marketed mainly to women as if no one else has skin that needs care.
It’s something that we all need and can often neglect. A healthy nighttime routine could involve showering and then using a moisturizing lotion.
My skincare game is strong. I have gentle cleansers and both day and nighttime moisturizers. I make time each week to do a face mask or other home treatment, and I use a foundation or moisturizer with sunscreen year-round. Skincare is good self-care and is an essential part of a healthy nighttime routine.
Designating the last hour or two before bed as screen-free time can help everyone in a family get better sleep.
It can also help us intentionally connect with one another when we stop watching a screen and start tuning into each other. So, why is screen-free time such a difficult concept for many to embrace?
Many families work full days and have little time together in the evenings.
Add in social and extracurricular obligations, and sometimes, we just want to sit down and tune out at the end of the day while catching up on a favorite show.
There are times this is exactly what we need.
Yet, if we fall into a routine of always watching a screen up until the moment we go to bed, we may miss out on an opportunity for quality time and quality rest.
Anyone who knows me knows I am an enthusiastic fan of the Peloton. However, if I hop on an evening ride, I’m much more likely to do a low-impact or recovery ride instead of a high-impact interval ride. It helps me sleep better to do higher-impact workouts earlier in the day and leave slower movements for the end.
Yoga is one of my absolute favorite ways to wind down in the evening. I’ve been doing a slow flow with moon salutations lately. It helps me center myself before sleep and practice my breathwork.
When we’re too sedentary, we’re likely to experience body aches and pains. Even if all we are up to doing is a gentle stretch, we need movement to stay healthy. It’s an important part of fitness, which is the way we maintain healthy bodies. Incorporating movement into every single day can be a wonderful way to maintain our health and perhaps even prevent sickness.
Regular mindfulness meditation has been proven to support health. It can improve mental and physical health and even boost our overall sense of well-being. It increases immunity, lowers stress, improves brain function and sleep, and even slows aging. So, why aren’t we all doing it every single day?
There’s an idea that meditation requires complete silence, stillness, and absence of thought. While some people may achieve this state over time, most meditations in my experience aren’t completely silent, still, or thought-free. Thoughts come up, and instead of following them, I let them pass without judgment. I observe them without attaching meaning to them. While I often sit in stillness, I make sure I’m comfortable, and I adjust if I begin feeling uncomfortable. While the world around me is not often quiet, I can be while I breathe in and out. If I need sound, there are mantras and meditation sounds I can use in my practice.
Washing the dishes can be meditation. Drinking coffee can be meditation. If we are mindfully present and aware in the moment with calm thoughts and deep breaths, we can make any moment a meditation and reap the benefits of it. There are even sleep meditations we can use to guide ourselves into a more peaceful state. Even a regular breathwork practice can be a form of self-care and meditation.
Part of my evening routine involves adjusting the lighting as it gets closer to my children’s bedtime. They go to sleep 2–3 hours before I do, but I start dimming the lights about an hour before they go to bed. I’ll switch to lamplight, candles, or just make sure every light in the house isn’t blazing right before they need to sleep.
I also try to discourage screentime in that last hour. I’m not always successful — for me or my kids. Yet, we do have many days where we’re off the screens an hour before bed and spending time outside or simply enjoying one another’s company. The lighting helps shift our intentions toward a restful night rather than energetic day.
Bedtime at the Same Time
Whether we’re night owls, morning people, or somewhere in between, it’s important to set a consistent bedtime. It improves sleep quality to go to bed at the same time every day. It can also help us be mindful of how much sleep we’re getting and if that’s how much sleep we need.
I’ll be honest — I need a lot of sleep. I always have. My brain is busy during the day, and I need every bit of recharge time I can get. While some people say they feel good after 6 hours of sleep or fewer, I’d much prefer 7–9 hours of solid sleep. We need to figure out how much sleep makes us feel good, and then set our schedule for bedtime accordingly.
We all know how important it is to stay hydrated, but are we actually doing it? Making sure we’re hydrated before sleep is important. Drinking water is important, but this could also mean cutting out the caffeine earlier in the day and limiting any alcohol. When we’re hydrated, we’re going to feel better.
When we’re winding down for the evening, one healthy practice we can add into our routines is tidying up our environment. I’m not referring to a deep clean or anything strenuous. Simply washing any remaining dishes, loading a dishwasher, or picking up the socks you noticed on the floor could serve to make a space feel less cluttered and more relaxing.
As a single parent, I’ve grown accustomed to a certain amount of chaos. Yet, I find myself doing a walkthrough of our living spaces at night and making small attempts at tidying. I also remind my children to do the same, collecting their toys and returning them to their rooms. It can contribute to a sense of calm to have a space that’s free of clutter.
Set an Alarm
Most of us need an alarm to wake up, and it’s great when we can choose one that starts the day off well rather than blasts us into consciousness. But have we ever considered setting an alarm for when our nightly routines should begin? For many of us, dinner might be that daily marker. After we eat, we may begin to wind down for the day.
For others, a simple reminder could help us shift from daytime into nighttime mode. One of my favorite things to do is to have Alexa play certain songs when we need to wake up or wind down. Cover Me in Sunshine is my kids’ current favorite wakeup song, and I enjoy Clare de Lune for the nighttime transition.
Start a Family Ritual
Even those who live alone can create a nighttime ritual. For those who live together, it’s important to get everyone’s input on what makes them feel cozy, relaxed, and calm. We recently moved, and we’re still working on getting the kinks out of our nighttime ritual. With good weather recently, we’ve been spending much of the evening outside before coming in and going through the baths-brush teeth-bedtime routine.
I sometimes think about what I’d like our new routine to look like. I’ve begun to dim the lighting and light some candles. I have Alexa play a soothing song quietly in the background or play ambient sounds while we relax. I’ve begun to water and check on my houseplants in the evening. Often, I find myself curling into my reading chair or sitting out on the porch in the glow of fairy lights while simply catching up with a friend on the phone or listening to my children tell me about their day. It’s not perfect, and it’s still developing — but it’s our own nightly peaceful ritual.
Enjoy a Bedtime Story
We may often think of bedtime stories as nightly traditions for kids. It certainly can be, but there’s no law saying adults can’t continue it. Curling up with a good book can be a pleasant way to enjoy time in the evening. While some adults will say that they don’t enjoy reading, I’m convinced they just haven’t found the right book, magazine, or article that appeals to them.
Make Peace with Today
One of the most essential parts of my nighttime routine has been to make peace with today so I can begin anew tomorrow. As fallible human beings, we can and will make mistakes. Our best one day can be different from the next. At the end of a tough day, I try to practice self-compassion for any mistakes I made. I don’t just leave it there. If I hurt anyone, I make an effort to apologize, make amends, and learn from my mistakes so I don’t keep repeating them. I recognize that I’m human, and sometimes the person I most need to forgive is myself.
I try very hard not to drag yesterday’s stress into a new day. I don’t always succeed. I’m a big fan of a fresh start, and even if the day starts out filled with the previous day’s anxiety, I try to give myself the grace to begin again at any time.
Our lives are busy and filled with responsibilities. It can be overwhelming. We might not feel like we have time for self-care. Yet, if we don’t make that time, illness could force us to slow down, pay attention, and take time for aftercare instead.
Article originally published in thelifestyletimes