As a part of our spring guest post series, today Jennifer Bradley from jenbradleymoms.com shows us how to create an evening routine (and why having one is SO important!)
Ideas for Busy Moms to Establish a Calming Evening Routine
Have you ever started a morning routine and had it slip by the wayside after a few weeks?
*almost every mom ever raises her hand
So often we focus on creating a morning routine that helps us to begin the day with intention. We may schedule time for journaling and meditation, working out, getting a head start on the laundry, or just enjoying a warm drink before the kids are out of bed.
On mornings like these we feel ready to conquer the day and anything it might throw at us.
But after a few late nights of binge watching The Office or several sleepless nights with a teething baby, it can be really hard to keep up our morning routines, as wonderful as they may be!
Two years ago I was stuck in the rut of starting and stopping my morning routine. And finally, I had a golden moment of insight: If I could create an EVENING routine, I just might be able to stick to my morning routine after all! Now I view my evening routine as the perfect way to give me a jumpstart on the day to come.
Why an evening routine is important
While many of us may have very specific evening routines for our babies and kids, we may not have considered how a personal evening routine can have a hugely positive impact for us too!
Creating an evening routine is a great way to help both your mind and body relax after a long day. Northwestern Medicine reports that routines can lower our stress levels, which in turn leads to less anxiety and better mental health.
Routines also help us to eliminate decision fatigue, which is the tendency for us to feel overwhelmed when our brains are constantly bombarded with decisions to make. These decisions don’t have to be life-altering. Something as simple as deciding what to make for dinner can be a catalyst for decision fatigue to set in.
When we have a routine in place for our evening, we will have fewer decisions to make – we won’t need to choose when we brush our teeth or whether to have a late night snack. Instead, our habit patterns can take over, allowing our minds to relax.
Having a relaxed mind can also help us to sleep better. As any sleep-deprived mama out there knows, getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important! Sleeping well helps us to feel more refreshed and energetic for each day, which in turn helps us to be more productive and feel more fulfilled. (Check out my 15 simple tips on how to be more productive as a mom.)
How to create an evening routine
To create your own evening routine, I recommend dividing your evening into a few segments, such as:
- -after dinner
- -after kids are in bed
- -one hour before you go to bed
Once you’ve divided your evening into segments, it’s time to start taking notice of what you are actually doing every evening. You can create a simple time journal in a notebook or on your phone. Simply write down what you do each evening for a few nights in a row.
After you’ve recorded your typical evening activities for several nights, take a look at your evening time journal. Take a minute to notice what activities are relaxing to you. Ask yourself these questions:
- -What things am I already doing that help me to prepare well for a good night’s sleep?
- -What activities am I wasting my time doing?
- -What things cause me to stay up too late?
- -Is there anything I might be doing that causes me to feel stressed?
Finally, make a list of things you’d like to do as part of your evening routine. You may consider choosing activities that will help you to prepare for the next day or that will help you to relax and get some much-needed self-care.
If you are just starting out with creating an evening routine, I recommend choosing only one activity for each of the time segments you’ve created for your evening. Once these become habit, you can certainly add a few more actions to your routine.
To make sure that you remember to actually carry out your plan, consider setting a few quick reminders on your phone. Eventually your routine will become a habit, but setting a reminder could definitely be beneficial when you are just starting out!
23 Ideas to consider for your evening routine
Please remember that these are just ideas! You may have some different ideas of things that will fit your circumstance better, and if that is the case, go for it!
Also, don’t try to incorporate all of these into your evening routine! The point right now is to just choose one activity per time block and get your routine in motion. Starting small and slowly building your routine over time will make it more likely that it will stick.
Evening routine ideas for after dinner:
- Empty the kitchen sink. The kitchen sink tends to be placed in a focal point of the kitchen. Having it clear of dishes when you wake up in the morning will help you start your day with less stress!
- Make sure you have a plan for tomorrow’s meal. You may also pull some meat from the freezer to defrost in the refrigerator or check to make sure you have all the ingredients you need.
- Take some time to review your kids’ homework if needed.
- Prepare lunches for the next day for anyone who won’t be home for lunch.
- Spend screen-free quality time with your family. Artificial light from screens such as phones, computers and TVs is known to suppress melatonin production, causing us to have a harder time falling asleep.
- Set out kids’ clothes for the next day. If you have any fashionistas in your house, this will help keep arguments at bay in the morning!
- Add a relaxing activity for you to the kids’ bedtime routine. This could be running a diffuser or playing some of your favorite relaxing music in the background.
Evening routine ideas for after the kids are in bed:
- Do a 10-minute quick pick-up around the house. This could be simply pushing in chairs around the tables, sweeping the floor, or picking up sofa pillows.
- Prepare for tomorrow’s chores. You may consider taking laundry hampers to the laundry room or putting packages/library books/backpacks in the car or by the door.
- Take out the trash or recycling.
- Set out your breakfast dishes, vitamins, and anything else to prepare for breakfast.
- Set out your clothes for the next day. This could include workout clothes if you like to exercise in the morning or the clothes you’ll be wearing during the day. (This helps eliminate decision fatigue in the morning too!)
Evening routine ideas for an hour before your bedtime
- Focus on self care. Choose a special hand lotion to put on just before bed or try a new hair, face, hand or foot mask from time to time.
- Create an evening skincare routine.
- Turn off screens. If you feel you can’t manage turning off screen, use blue-light blocking glasses.
- Review tomorrow’s schedule. Make sure you don’t have too much on your to-do list than you can actually complete in one day!
- Write a short Done List. This a simple list of things you accomplished during the day. It can be something like reading to your kids for 20 minutes, cleaning the refrigerator, or scheduling dentist appointments. As moms, we need to recognize what we actually accomplish everyday!
- Write a short gratitude list. This is easy to combine with the Done List. Simply record 3-5 things you are thankful for that happened during the day. They can be big or small!
- Run a diffuser. Choose your favorite relaxing essential oil, such as chamomile or lavender to help your mind and body relax.
- Pray or meditate.
- Do bedtime yoga or stretching.
- Drink a cup of warm tea. Look for ingredients such as chamomile or lavender or choose another sleepy time blend.
- Read a book. Studies show that six minutes of reading before bed can reduce our stress levels significantly!
Creating an evening routine can be a huge help to getting a jumpstart on your day! Remember, you don’t need to do this all at once. Gradually adding to your evening routine will help you to sleep better, avoid decision fatigue, and relax better in the evening. And who knows? You just might be able to stick to that morning routine after all!
I’d love to hear from you! What actions are you considering for your evening routine?
More About Jen Bradley
Jen Bradley is based in a little town in north Texas. While her life goals once included a posh apartment on the Upper West Side and a job on Madison Avenue, she is now a military wife and homeschool mom of five kids. She’s passionate about teaching moms how to find joy in motherhood and live an intentional life!
Jen has some free printables and tons of resources for moms like you over at her blog. Check it out!