I am a busy woman, always juggling as much as I can whilst also trying to stay sane, balanced and frankly happy. I have worked and planned hard to build a life where I have choices and the freedom to do as I please. As part of my vision I wanted to have a less timetabled life, or rather a choice of all the things I enjoy doing whilst still including the things I still feel obligated to do (again, still a choice). Ultimately what this boils down to is the desire to live a great and exciting life, bringing up terrific children.
I regularly travel around the globe for both business and pleasure. I am not known for sitting still. And yet, I sleep like a log and am something of an expert, although some may not believe me, at completely switching off relaxing (in my own way) after a busy day or week.
Consider how we operate these days. We have less chance to get physically tired at work, and less physical mobility as we drive convenience into all transpoer methods. There are lots and lots of chances to sit down – and to eat.
These days so many people seem to struggle with sleep and relaxation, especially those of us who are fighting the daily battles of a small business. As with previous posts of this nature, I have decided ot share my own evening wind-down routine not so that you can replicate it exactly in your life, but rather to help other busy people to look at how they might improve their sleep and perhaps give a few ideas:
- As mentioned in a previous post about my working day, I do not leave or close off my day of work without first checking my notebook (which goes everywhere with me). Often of course I will re-qrite my to-do list, but less so these days and the lists are moving onto my phone. If I leave anything hanging at the end of the day, I know it will bother me into th eevening and perhaps through the night or over the weekend so even if it’s just a note for the next day to ensure I call a contact first thing, I make sure it is written down. I have learned the benefit of this mind-clearing exercise; I would recommend it for everyone, whatever their job.
- When I am at home, I almost always spend thirty minutes or so watching the 10pm news on TV. This gives me a much-needed break between work and my actual life, and allows me to wind down. I appreciate it is still a screen, but at least not one I am responding to. In my London flat there is no TV but here I always love to listen to the radio to wind down. I like to know what is going on around me, and rarely have time to keep up during the day. I choose not to read newspapers except sometimes very briefly on a Sunday.
- Water matters all day, but it can be a pain if you drink too late in the day. Instead, I hydrate consistently throughout the day and find this a valuable habit to keep up.
- I try to make my evenings uneventful. We have a family dinner with whomever happens to be at home (my children are teenagers now and have busy social lives!). I don’t really care much about food as long as it is healthy. I always try to avoid overeating in the evenings; a large meal late in the day can cause problems with sleep as the body will be too busy digesting to be able to relax fully.
- Dinner is sometimes followed by clearing emails but more often reading or playing mum-taxi to one of the children. I avoid watching TV (apart from the news) if I can as I feel that for the most part it really only serves as a distraction from life and can end up sucking hours out of your evening as you watch some drama or soap whose outcome really has no bearing on your own key goals. I watch perhaps one TV series per year, and I really don’t feel that I’m missing out here. People express surprise at the number of books I read (all business related, which is frankly a hobby as much as a passion), but I do this by valiantly avoiding all mention of Eastenders and whatever else is shown on TV in the evenings. Karl Marx said that religion was the opium of the masses, but I’m fairly sure that were he alive today he would say it’s actually TV.
- Unless there is a crisis which must be averted, I try to stay away from my laptop in the evenings. If I am in London during the week I usually attend business dinners where I usually have a main course only. These are interesting opportunities to build my network and keep up to date with trends.
- Screens give out a blue light which stimulates the brain – not great for relaxing and winding down. I know you can get all sorts of apps and gadgets these days to remove the blue light from a screen – there are even glasses you can wear to filter out blue light. However I think this is missing the point rather so whenever possible I just stay away from screens in the evening.
- I head for bed at around 10:30pm. I avoid switching on any bright lights as again, this can serve to stimulate the brain. Instead I might light the Sleep Well candle that sits on my bedside table for a little while. I find that the scent helps me to relax and just the sight of the candle helps me with a breathing ritual I have done since I suffered with a stressful breathing habit: deep, really good quality breaths that relax me. I usually last about three breaths, and then I am out cold!
Whatever your approach, the habit of creating and sticking with an evening ritual will help your body to realise that it is time to lie down and go to sleep. The same ritual can then be used in air, in travel and anywhere else. I feel it is important that we all listen to the one instrument we can control: listen to how your body sends messages and shows objection; take care of your body; eat well and find your balance for wellness and you have a much greater chance of living a happy and fulfilled life.