To-do lists, scented candles, and Yoga: Why winding down is important

by Alyssa Harrison

After a long, stressful day of work, there’s nothing I like more than settling down in bed and watching an episode of my favourite series or writing a chapter of my book. While I don’t have a set evening routine, I have some habits that help me to wind down. Once I’ve finished any pressing work, I log out from my email and university website and close any tabs related to work. While the time at which I start to wind down varies, it is generally around 8 pm. In the next two to three hours, I try and find ways to re-energise myself for the next day.

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Exams are here and there seems to be a never-ending pile of work in front of me. I began to wonder if there are more benefits than I had realised in having a set time to wind down in the evening or an established evening routine. An article by Palmetto argues that winding down can help us relax after a stressful day and initiate a restful night of sleep. This has many mental health benefits, such as keeping your mood balanced, boosting your ability to learn, remember and problem solve, and enhance creativity and improve your attention span.

Having an evening routine can also act as a cue that the workday is over and that you can allow yourself to unwind. Some people argue that an evening routine is just as important, if not more, than a morning routine. While you may still be worrying about deadlines or other pressures, having some evening rituals can help to lower your stress levels, feel more organised, and boost your productivity for the next day.

If you are struggling to structure your own winding down routine, I recommend writing a list of hobbies or activities that you would like to incorporate, which make you feel the most relaxed. From there, you can decide how long you would like your routine to be. Choncé Maddox recommends that your routine should not exceed ninety minutes, although this is flexible. An evening routine is highly personalised and is therefore different for each person. You also shouldn’t feel forced to include an activity that doesn’t cater to your interests or stick to a specific time frame that may not always fit with your schedule.

An evening routine allows you to set aside the worries and stresses of your day and focus on getting a good night’s sleep. However, as a student, I understand that switching off from work isn’t as easy as it sounds. To help keep those clamouring thoughts at bay, you could write a to-do list of everything you need to accomplish the next day. This helps you to prioritise your tasks and to feel more on top of your work. Similarly, you could write a list of everything you have achieved that day, so that you can have a sense of progress.

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The next step is to set the atmosphere. I usually like to switch from my main light to my bedside table lamp. Lighting scented candles, turning on fairy lights, and playing your favourite music are also great ways to create a relaxing and calming atmosphere. Many articles also recommend switching off all devices at least an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from these screens can disrupt our sleep patterns. However, as someone who likes to watch an episode before bed, I admit that this usually falls by the wayside for me. If you’re like me, setting a goal not to watch anything an hour before bed may be unrealistic. You may also feel discouraged if you don’t stick to this every night. Starting easy could be one way to tackle this. For example, you could switch off your devices ten minutes before bed one night, then fifteen minutes the next, then half an hour, and so forth. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to cut watching TV series or scrolling through social media out of your routine entirely, but to move it slightly earlier in your routine so that you still get a restful night of sleep.

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From there, you can choose from the list of hobbies that you created, whether it’s reading a book, writing, journaling, meditating, or doing yoga. While evening routines are intended to help you relax at the end of a long day, you don’t have to feel guilty if you miss a day, or if you find that the routine you have chosen does not work for you. Not only that, but you can have multiple routines, whether it’s for weekdays or the weekend.

Whether you have exams coming up or overwhelming work and deadlines to get through, having an evening routine might be just what you need.

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