Everything was supposed to be going well. I had gotten out of a year long rut, I moved into my dream apartment, I am slaying the whole “being a single working mommy” thing and I haven’t given up any of my extra hobbies. So, why was I so sad all the time? That was the only reason I had an appointment with my wonderful therapist, Noreen. I have been seeing her for a little over a year now and she has really uplifted me from a downward spiral of what I have come to name, “self-inflicted wounds to the soul.” Every session with her I heard what I had to hear and unloaded what I couldn’t unload anywhere else. It was a safe space with a Muslim woman professionally trained to lift people out of a rut.
So, why was I so sad all the time?
She asked me one question during that session, and it has stuck with me since that night. “Do you have a bedtime routine?” Of course I did; what kind of question was that? First I check emails. Then I catch up on work. Followed by throwing a load of laundry in the washer and emptying the dishwasher. After that I prep lunch for tomorrow and make sure all my daughter’s toys were out of sight. “No,” she said, “What do you do for yourself. To unwind, to relax?” Dumbfounded I answered, “Well I work on my new side business. I get so excited with the projects I am working on.”
She shook her head and was disappointed – I was missing the point. Noreen explained that although I enjoyed working on my website, creating email campaigns and organizing my inventory for the next event, these were now classified as “work.” Noreen went on to give me examples of things I can do to wind down like a facial routine, some form of meditation/prayer, reading a book, etc. I sat in silence for what seemed like eternity, I realized what she was saying. I am sad because I carry all the stress and baggage from one day to another. I literally carry a truckload of shit and add to it day after day. I fall asleep with my computer still on, my makeup on and my phone still in my hand. I don’t give myself time to unload, unwind and refresh. My skin is aging and I haven’t paid any attention to that until now. I’ve never had this much to unload before – so it’s only natural that as I continue to add to my plate I begin to feel some time of stress.
So I did what I always do when I have a life crisis. I turned to Pinterest! After pinning, searching, and trying different ideas, I came up with a routine that works for me. I have never looked forward to bedtime as much as I do now. This is what I came up with and check out my Pinterest account for a compilation of the ideas that inspired my routine!
- Steaming hot shower where I exfoliate my face
- Lotion ritual
- Get into comfortable PJs (perks of being single, no judgement zone with my Tinkerbell PJs)
- Pray isha, read a duaa (supplication) or Quran
- Crack open a physical book (all electronics off and out of sight)
- Sip on soothing green tea (Teavana Youthberry is my favorite)
- Stretch, brush, floss and sleep
I would be lying to you if I said I ran through this entire routine every night, but I try to stick to it as often as possible to help me unwind and to preserve my creative juices from depleting. There are so many different things to do at bedtime to help you de-stress and clear your mind, but it’s important to understand that you may not find the perfect combination for you on the first try. It took a few tries to finally lay out my perfect routine.
The hardest part about this routine for me was turning my phone on silent and putting it away. Some people sleep with the TV on, but thankfully I could care less about TV. All day I am constantly on my phone for work and entertainment. I had grown into the habit of being on Pinterest for at least 30+ minutes before I slept. In doing my research on what a bedtime routine should look like I stumbled upon many articles about the effect our iPads and phones have on our sleep. The light from these devices cause our brains to think we should be awake and the activity keeps our thoughts going. If our bodies need to wind down, so do our brains. I was such a hypocrite, I knew this was wrong for my daughter and I took away electronics an hour before bedtime. So why didn’t I apply this rule to myself?
Chamomile tea is known as a bedtime tea although there isn’t much scientific evidence to support this. Either way, hot tea before bedtime is so soothing, I personally prefer green tea (though if you’re sensitive to caffeine be sure to buy the decaf kind) or Teavana’s Youthberry tea. As a quick note, the general rule is to avoid caffeine intake within 6 hours of bedtime. I make sure to finish drinking it with enough time to empty my bladder before knocking out – because waking up in the middle of the night for the bathroom sucks.
I went to my friends about creams, lotions and exfoliates for my face. After five minutes my head was spinning. So instead, I went to Target, walked down the aisle with all the face wash “stuff” and picked my trusted Neutrogena face wash, makeup wipes and found an under eye cream they make. I also bought a Microdermabrasion system which was surprisingly under $20. I think that was the best 20 bucks I have ever spent. There’s something about the scrubbing motion on my face that relaxes me and most importantly makes me feel so clean. I can just feel the gunk of the day coming off my face. If you aren’t into all the makeup and face care products like I wasn’t, it is perfectly alright to go with what is familiar to you and helps you achieve your personal goals. Remember to try different products until you find the one that suits you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that I didn’t beat myself up if I for some reason haven’t run through the whole routine before bed. Sometimes a good face washing, brushing of the teeth and a silenced phone are enough. Other times, I can run through my luxurious list and feel as light as a feather. The nights I do hit all my routine points, I feel so accomplished. I give myself a pat on the back for taking care of myself and relaxing for once. If you get bored of your routine, spice it up. Add soothing lavender candles, buy yourself a nice cozy robe or new bath slippers, etc. Reading a good book will also give you something to look forward to every night.
The whole point of this routine is to give you time for yourself. NON-NEGOTIABLE TIME! You cannot negotiate this time and you must incorporate it in your day/night in order to start feeling some relief before bed. It doesn’t have to look like my list, it can even be during the day while the kids are at school. But it has to be time you set aside for you. Ask yourself, what have I done for me today?
What would you like to do for yourself every day? My main concerns were to take care of my skin and body, feed my mind (reading a book), and feeding my soul (prayer, supplication or Quran). I hope you take this time seriously for yourself, because I firmly believe that it is next to impossible to be there for your children 100% if you cannot take care of yourself; mind, body and soul – and they deserve your 100%.