In another post in my “self-care” series, after I wrote last week that although the term “self-care” wasn’t in my childhood or teenage vocabulary, it’s become something I’ve learned is crucial, from listening to wonderful podcasts and reading great blogs on “lifestyle design”, mental health issues, and figuring out how to live and breathe in today’s changing and demanding world.
For the next week or so, I’m going to share some of the best things I do to give myself a little space, even when I’m so busy or anxious I feel like I barely have time to pause. Today, sleep.
2. Using a relaxing sheet spray before bed
One of the single biggest things I’ve started doing to really wind down. Spraying my bed sheets and pillows with a gorgeous-smelling, relaxing spray is such a simple thing but feels so indulgent. Plus, the smell really helps me chill out, like I’m at an expensive spa or something. I spray it when everything is done, when I can finally get into bed, when all is quiet.
Now, it’s like a Pavlovian response – when I smell the spray, I feel chilled; that perfect moment when there’s nothing more you can do with the day and there’s nothing more to do than sleep. Bliss.
I use a brilliantly calming Molton Brown mist, which was given to me as a gift. Some sprays are sickeningly expensive, but there are some cheaper ones, and I promise you, it’s worth it – plus, the spray lasts for AGES. Which is good, because apparently the one I actually have is discontinued (*SOB*). The photo above shows what seems to be the only similar Molton Brown variety available now (according to their website). Jury’s out on whether it smells similar enough for me…
3. Purposefully going to bed “ridiculously early”
This is a tough one, and the thing on this list I am most shit at.
Since changing jobs a couple of months ago, my alarm now goes off at 6.20am before a 1.5 hour commute.
Of course, I actually get up at 6:50, because getting up as soon as the alarm goes feels about as possible as waking up on Jupiter. (For comparison, in my old job my alarm went off at 7:45-8am earliest – almost 90 minutes’ later.)
Because everyone says how important sleep is for health, energy, alertness, and even weight management, I aim for an 11pm bedtime, which would give me nearly 7.5 hours’ sleep a night. Generally, that’s a good amount for me.
Usually though, I don’t nod off until gone midnight or even later, which brings me down to six hours or less. Which, when I want to be productive and go to the gym and eat well, is a terrible idea.
I am a natural night owl, and can happily potter about getting things done until 2 or 3am (although I’ve always hated clubbing or going out until 3am, go figure!). Also, even though I stopped being a teenager and went to Uni years ago, going to bed late *still* feels slightly rebellious, like I’m defying some evil authority by getting stuff done into the small hours.
I also think my sleep habits are a remnant of years of being untreated for an underactive thyroid, which used to make me feel like I had flu – seriously – until about 2pm on a usual day, and meant I wanted to sleep late every single day. At Uni, I was pretty nocturnal, and I don’t mean because I was out partying.
Which basically means, I can’t just wait until I feel tired to go to bed at a “reasonable” hour. I have to force myself to start thinking about winding down by about 10pm. Computer off, face washed, nightclothes on, lights down.
Sometimes, this makes me feel like my evenings are SUPER short and I get pissed off about how I basically live to work and eat and sleep and nothing else, OMG OMG, but other times – usually when my alarm goes off the next day – I thank my 10pm self.
Because no amount of getting shit done at 2am can compensate for how utterly revolting you feel at 6:20am if you’ve only had four hours’ kip, three nights in a row.
I still think it’s odd that morning me loves sleep so much but night-time me will do almost anything to avoid it.
I’ve tried to make sleep more interesting – dabbling in the Sleep Cycle app that tracks your slumber, or thinking about getting a sunrise alarm clock – but generally, I’ve learned it’s just about habit and surrender.
Surrender to the day, to the voice telling you haven’t got enough done, to the lingering tiredness, and accept that sleep – while appearing counterproductive in that it stops you getting things done – will actually help long-term. And, relax.
My self-care series