How Creating a Nighttime Ritual Helped My Anxiety: Tips for Creating a Routine

I have a confession to make… I didn’t have a nighttime ritual until very recently.

You may be asking yourself ‘how can she be someone who claims to prioritize wellness if she’s not taking time to create spaciousness and wind down in the evening?’

The truth is, these last couple of years have made it challenging to put myself first. I’m a mom of an almost two-year-old, with a full-time job and a freelancing side hustle. My life is full of obligations and people that depend on me. When you pair that with the stressors of what it’s like being a Black woman in 2022, a millennial living through one too many historical events, and my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety, taking care of ‘me’ has felt impossible.

I definitely understand the benefits of a consistent nighttime routine, just ask my kid. My husband and I do the same routine with her each night.

After dinner (which we serve by 6:30 every evening) we brush her teeth. We then get her changed into her jammies. At this point we let her choose which two stories she wants us to read her that night. After storytime, we give her smooches and pat her back to signal it’s time for sleep. We then turn on her noise machine (an actual godsend) and her little fox light and close the door.  90% of the time with this routine homegirl is in bed and asleep by 7:30 pm every night.

As a parent, I learned that our children thrive from having routines. They function better knowing that they can expect certain events to happen within a certain time frame. It helps boost their confidence and sense of self. When those rituals are interrupted by a change of plans you can immediately see the negative effects it has on their day. Cue; tantrums, meltdowns, and general moodiness.

If you think about it, we aren’t much different from little humans. As adults, the need for ritual and consistency doesn’t just go away because we aren’t doing it.

We can all relate to feelings of exhaustion and burnout, especially if we stayed up too late the previous night. When you’re attempting to pour from an empty cup it’s hard to stay motivated and focused.

THE GREAT DILEMMA OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

Even though it is recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep nightly to be rested, studies show that one-third of Americans still don’t get enough sleep.

There are plenty of reasons why we aren’t getting enough sleep but a top culprit is participating in over-stimulating activities right before we want to go to sleep. Activities such as working late, playing video games, and watching TV can disrupt your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Additionally, we are living in pretty volatile times with racial inequities, a polarizing political climate, and the general feeling of not having control of our futures. This has us feeling worried and unable to relax. This is why it’s so important to have a ritual for unwinding and preparing for sleep. So that when life is feeling chaotic we have a sort of sanctuary to recharge.

SOME REFLECTION AND AN EXPERIMENT

When it comes to activities that keep you stressed and unrested my guilty pleasure has always been watching way too much TV. In recent months I noticed my TV addiction had gotten outta control, even for me. After putting my daughter to bed, I found myself watching true crime documentaries until midnight many nights of the week πŸ˜£

It felt as if I was staying up late in protest. Yes I’m tired, yes I have a lot to do in the morning, yes I’m still staying up way too late because I’m grown. This toxic cycle had me feeling disconnected as well as exhausted. So I decided to test the effects that establishing my own nighttime ritual could have on my well-being.

MY NIGHTTIME RITUAL

You may be asking yourself What does a nighttime ritual look like? Here’s what I started doing in the to wind down around 8 pm each evening:

  1. Unplug –  Turn off the TV, close all apps, and put my phone do not disturb.
  2. Put on some relaxing music – I have been loving some Sade and Ari Lennox in the evenings. Making myself a bedtime playlist was a game-changer.
  3. Light my favorite candle – My go-to has been FRVR MOOD luxury soy-based candles by Jackie Aina (Black-owned!).
  4. Perform my skincare ritual – Cleanse, serum, use my jade face roller for a few minutes, and my favorite nighttime moisturizer.
  5. Journal – I’ve been working my way through Alex Elle’s After the Rain journaling prompts book.
  6. Set my alarm – Make sure I am set up for success by setting my alarm for the next day.
  7. Snoozefest by 10 pm.
bubble bath drawn for night routine
Black woman taking a bath as part of her night ritual routine
Beauty tools for a night routine

WHAT I LEARNED

On the evenings that I dedicated myself to my ritual, I noticed a drastic improvement in my mood the next morning. I had more patience with my husband and felt more capable of tackling my responsibilities that day. There was also a realization that taking the time for myself really helped me feel grounded. Experiencing the positive effects of the changes I was making had me viewing my evening time as a sacred practice rather than another chore.  When I didn’t partake in my nighttime ritual I felt out of sorts, it was hard to focus, and my anxiety was noticeably more intense.

What I learned from my experiment is being intentional and putting myself first when it comes to rest shouldn’t be negotiable. That show I really want to watch can still be viewed at a different time. I use my Friday evenings after work to binge-watch what I missed that week, and I still get to enjoy my shows without feeling guilty for staying up too late.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO CREATE YOUR OWN NIGHTTIME RITUAL

The list I provided outlines what I do for my nightly ritual but maybe some of the things on that list didn’t resonate with you. That’s totally ok, the power of the ritual is setting yourself up in a way that feels good to you. If you’re feeling stuck and don’t know how to start, here are a few suggestions to inspire:

  • Write down three things that went well that day, and three things that didn’t.
  • Take a hot shower or soak in the bath.
  • Do some stretching.
  • Write a to-do list for tomorrow.
  • Meditate.
  • Read.
  • Have a conversation with a loved one.
  • Take an evening walk.

I encourage you to establish a nighttime ritual. It sometimes feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, but I promise that when you take time for yourself everyone around you benefits as well. Having a nighttime ritual is the radical act of self-care that you deserve.

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