Create your own wind down ritual to reduce stress and get better sleep
Updated: May 17, 2021
A wind down ritual is really important for any woman - whether you’re a working parent, stay at home Mum or a professional woman - because it allows time and space during a typically very busy day that is just for you and can promote deeper and more restful sleep.
Working women often talk about carrying a huge mental load - from thinking about the status of current work projects, to what to wear at a friend’s wedding on the weekend or rushing to a gym class.
But right now, in addition to living with day to day stressors, women are reported to be working longer hours as a result of the pandemic.
The effects of stress on the body and mind are significant, particularly over time. From headaches and minor sickness like frequent colds and flu, a lack of inability to sleep, connect with loved ones, concentrate or be productive at work through to more serious issues such as increased levels of anxiety, or heart disease.
In order to reduce stress, women can implement a ‘wind down’ routine, signalling to the brain that it’s time to prepare for sleep and to ‘let go’ of the day, whether you’ve had a frantic day at the office or a busy day caring for your little ones.
A wind down ritual adopts the same principles that you would use for a baby or young child - like a dinner, bath, book and bed routine, which sends signals to the child’s brain that it’s time to wind down and bedtime is on its way.
You take the same approach by creating your own rituals honing in on what helps you to relax, get to sleep more quickly, stay asleep (less wakings at 3am) and have a deeper, more restorative sleep.
One of my clients whom I’ve created this for has talked about how it’s had an overall positive effect on her life. She feels less ‘busy’ in her mind, has more moments of mental clarity, as well as patience throughout the day - her daughter is up from 5am every day and she has a very senior job at an infrastructure company.
Once you’ve created a wind down routine - see suggestions below - it’s a matter of sticking to it and now letting the temptations to avoid it creep in.
For many of us, the latter part of the evening and just before bedtime is the only time to ourselves which often means catching up on messages on Whatsapp, checking social media and before you know it, it’s 11pm and your tired, ready for bed feeling is now gone and you feel awake and restless.
There is now a name for these late night habits which is ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’ - where you sacrifice sleep for leisure time, usually as a reflection of the fact that your day has little free time.
So what are some things that you can do as part of a ‘wind down’ ritual? It should be things that relax you, make you feel calm and separate you from your day. It really should include time away from technology, including TV and social media.
Here are some of the things that you may like to consider:
Turning your lights down low / using lamps to boost your melatonin
Do some gentle stretching or restorative yoga
Meditation or prayer, whether that’s a guided meditation from a popular app like the Nourish App, Calm, Insight Timer or Headspace
Journaling - writing out anything that comes to mind without judgement
Reflecting on your day and considering or writing down thoughts to things such as the three things you’re grateful for
Take a long, tepid shower where you metaphorically ‘wash off the day’
Reading a novel - this is a great way to distract your mind from work and the day.
Doing it consistently is important
You may like to do the same wind down ritual every night, or change your ritual depending upon your mood. If you are particularly stressed or anxious, you may like to consider doing several ‘wind down’ activities to help you to relax. This could include 20mins of gentle yoga, followed by a tepid shower and then getting into bed to read a novel for 30mins before bedtime. This gives you sufficient time as well as activities for your mind and body to let it know that you are now heading towards bedtime.
Some of my clients have benefited from setting a ‘wind down’ alarm, which reminds them either 30 or 60mins prior to bed that it’s time to start preparing for rest.
For busy Mums, regularly implementing a ‘wind down’ routine can create many benefits, from reduced stress, more patience and deeper sleep leading to improved wellbeing.
About the author
Olivia Bath is Founder of The Women’s Vault, specialising in supporting women to accelerate their careers and achieve work/life balance including negotiating flexible work. Prior to establishing the Women’s Vault, Olivia was an Executive Advisor in Banking.