The changing seasons provide a great opportunity for us to recalibrate and get re-aligned to what we need from ourselves, from others, and from life.
The Winter Solstice really got me thinking about how much I need to prioritize rest because at its core, winter in the US and the Pacific Northwest is all about rest. If we take our queues from nature, everything around us is really demonstrating what it means to rest. The beautiful cherry tree outside my window shed its leaves long ago, but in this season of rest, the tree doesn’t feel forced to produce or bring forth anything new. It can just be and allow whatever happens internally during this winter season to happen. I love that for her. And you know what? I love that ability to rest for all of us!
The short days and long nights of winter lend themselves perfectly to resting. Let’s be honest, our bodies naturally adjust this time of year, and we find ourselves feeling tired shortly after the last traces of sunlight abandon the skies. It’s actually funny to think that 6pm in summer and 6pm in winter feel so different to the body. But it does, and we should lean into it rather than fight it. So, I have spent the last few days working on a practical winter night routine that I could follow to experience optimal rest during this season.
We have all heard the saying “a failure to plan, is a plan for failure.” It’s true though. We need to have a plan for success, even as we accept that those plans can change. We will get far better results with a planned routine than if we just wing it. So, the first thing I recommend is to make a plan. For me, that meant getting out my journal and writing out why I wanted to get more rest, how I hoped that additional rest would improve my life, and what kinds of things make me feel restful. I also spent time identifying what kept me from getting rest. It might seem like a lot but knowing the “why” helps us figure out the “what” in life.
I know there is no one-size-fits-all and you may have a great routine that works for you and your family. If so, please share with the rest of us! But if you are like me just trying to figure it out so you can live your best rested life, give this routine a try.
Set a realistic time frame
The next step is to determine how much time you need to realistically complete your new nighttime routine. I sometimes struggle with winding down so it is important for me to allow enough time to separate my work day from my evening free time from bedtime! This is especially important for us who work remote as COVID continues to run rampant. After looking at my notes in my journal, I realize I need a solid two hours to execute my routine. Dedicating two full hours of each day to a nighttime routine is a lot, so I am going into this knowing I might have days where I might fall short and I’m ok with that. The goal for me is to build a routine that becomes my daily habit rather than a fluke. I am more productive at night and tend to climb into bed at midnight so I still have plenty of time to do fun things in the evening and complete my routine.
Create the right atmosphere
To get my nighttime routine started, I have to do something to shift the atmosphere in my house from productivity to rest. That means turning down the lights and breaking out the candles. Candles are a great way to create a mood for rest while also bringing in some aromatherapy. There are some scents that naturally illicit calm and restful responses. Think lavender, chamomile, bergamot, and cedarwood as a great place to start. Because fragrance can be so personal, it is important that you get the scents that work for you.
Another great way to create the right atmosphere is to turn off the screens and fill your home with some tunes. I have been loving lo-fi mixes from Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify. I play the music through my smart speakers so I can avoid screens and not be tempted to pick up my phone and start scrolling! If you don’t have smart speakers, use whatever device you need to play the music.
Wash off the cares of the day
The next step for me is to pamper my skin with a steaming shower and my evening skincare routine. When I have more time, I indulge in a luxurious bath. Listen, rediscover the power of a good bubble bath. I take them at least once a week because – well, give it a try and you will understand. Back to the shower. Add a bunch of eucalyptus to your shower head for a special treat. You can also throw in some shower steamers to infuse more aromatherapy into the evening. As far as I’m concerned, there is no limit to the pampering you can incorporate. You deserve the best rest possible so go all out for yourself.
Once you’re all clean, slip into a plush robe and slippers and complete your skin care. For me that means giving my face a deep clean, refreshing with rosewater toner, spot treatment any acne if needed, and moisturize. Twice a week I alternate between a deep cleaning clay mask and hydrating sleep mask to keep my skin, young and supple. After I finish my skin care I head to my bedroom to start to wind down.
Reflect on your day and plan for tomorrow
I have made journaling a regular part of my life so I like to end my day with a little reflection time. Before I start, I like to brew a cup of tea. I learned a long time ago that expressing gratitude is essential to living a life of joy and peace. There are so many things in life that we cannot control but we can always find something from our day to be grateful for, even if it is small.
Once I acknowledge the good in my day, I like to look ahead to the next day. I am one of those people whose mind is always racing and processing and thinking. If a run-on sentence was a brain, it would be mine. Taking time to think about the top actions I need to complete the next day, helps me to release it from my mind so I can actually get some rest. This is not about planning your day. It is an opportunity to prioritize your to-do list so you can start the day with the most important things. And just in case you forget something, you can keep a notepad next to your bed to jot down if it pops into your head, threatening to derail your nighttime routine.
Get dressed for bed and lights out
After I do my reflections and planning for the next day, I’m finally ready to lay down. I blow out my candles, turn off the music, and put on my jammies. A lot of people underestimate the power of a quality night clothes wardrobe. I am not people. I like cute matching sets, silky fabrics in the summer and fuzzy fabrics in the winter, and cute little slips that glide over my delicious brown skin. Once in bed, I turn on a sleep story on the Calm app or a sleep meditation on the Peloton app and drift off to sleep.