For some of my friends, January apparently flew by. But for me, it feels like it has been dragging on for years. It’s gray and cold and gloomy. It hasn’t even snowed.
If I could simply articulate my New Year’s Resolution, it would be that I pledged to take better care of myself. Maybe stop eating Welch’s Fruit Snacks for lunch every day, limit my drinking to just a few weekends, and try to get better rest.
I’ve especially been trying to wind down before bed, rather than crashing full-speed into my pillow every night. It’s become a whole process, but I genuinely think it’s been helping curb that feeling of existential dread that keeps me tossing and turning. And god knows I love my sleep.
The Pre-Wind Down
My evening routine actually begins with going to the gym. After I come home from work, I have dinner or a quick snack, and head to the gym for a class (Bodypump and Total Body Conditioning are my favorites) or lift weights (I very much love workouts from Kerri). It might go back to my high school routine of school and then like six hours of practice, but my body definitely needs to be worked and tired out after work.
The Big Cleanse
When I come home, I take a nice hot shower. In high school, my dad would joke that after I showered at night, I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I’m a little higher strung now (somehow) than I was back then, but it’s true, a long hot shower where I wash off my sweat and makeup really does soothe me.
After my shower is the long process of my nighttime skincare routine. It starts in the shower where I use my oil cleanser to wash off any grease and sunscreen, and then my regular cleanser to rinse off anything else I missed. Honestly, the feeling of massaging oil on my face is one of my favorite parts of the day. It feels like I’m literally just wiping the day off.
When I get out of the shower, I DIY the only face mask I like these days: 1 part honey, 1 part moisturizer (any kind will do, but I like the CeraVe Cream) and then a drop of tea tree oil. I leave that on while I moisturize the rest of my body, brush my teeth, etc., and then rinse off. It leaves my skin moisturized and fresh. The rest of my skincare routine consists primarily of moisturizing. It’s very relaxing, massaging layers and layers of cream onto your skin in a steamy bathroom.
Tea plays a key role in my nightly calm-down routine. I make a cup of something herbal, either Tulsi Wellness Sleep Tea or the Tazo Passion Tea. The Tulsi tea’s taste is fine, but I like that it has ashwagandha in it, which is ~allegedly~ naturally calming. **I’M NOT A DOCTOR**
The other add-on that I endorse, although I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL is CBD oil. I do about a dropper full if I’m feeling extra anxious, and it has the same effect on me as a glass of wine — it just takes the edge off. It also helps me with my restless legs, a side effect of a medication I take. Again, this is just my personal experience, but it works for me.
This is very frivolous, but I love to spritz a lavender room spray on my sheets and pillows. My good friend Erin got a me a bottle a few Christmases ago and I still love it. The scent really does relax me, and it makes the bed a special, calm place where I am supposed to relax.
The other key to relaxing before bed is eliminating as much screen time as possible. I prefer to not watch TV before bed, or scroll through my phone (if I do, I put it on night mode), and read for a while (30-45 minutes) each night. It’s helpful because it engages my mind, and helps me think of things outside my own life and my own stressors. Plus, looking at the page helps to tire my eyes. By the end of a half hour or so, I’m just about ready to knock out.
And of course, how could I even mention my nighttime reading routine without mentioning the books I’ve most enjoyed reading this month:
My favorite book I read this month is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. I thought it was brilliant. Essentially, a woman wants to take enough sleeping pills to sleep through a year and wake up better for it. As mentioned above, I love to sleep. So a novel about doing nothing but – incredible! But I also wondered – the book be interesting? Would anything even happen?? Yes, much happens, and very little happens. Mongfegh has a talent for making nothing seem like everything. She creates a world where we know nothing about the narrator (not even her name!), but she is so introspective that we simultaneously know everything about her. One of my favorite lines is where the narrator refers to herself as the opposite of an insomniac, a somnophile. I am for sure a somnophile, a sleep enthusiast.
The book is tragic, for sure. The narrator is primarily trying to sleep to overcome trauma, and she encounters more trauma throughout. But it’s also hilarious. The narrator truly hates all the phony kinds of people in New York, something I sympathize with deeply. A book about sleeping is hands down the best book to read in bed before falling asleep. So meta!
Another book I’d recommend for bedtime reading is The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. I am usually averse to dog books/movies. My mom tells me to read Marley and Me every day. I can’t. The knowledge that the dog dies at the end is too much for me, hits too close to home. Why would I subject myself to something like that, knowing it’s going to just break my heart?
I ignored this proclivity for The Friend. Why? Who knows. Maybe because it won the National Book Award and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Maybe because it was a book about a Great Dane helping someone through their own grief – how could they possibly kill off a good, big dog helping someone mourn?
This book is beautiful. It’s pretty small and short, but is heavy with philosophical questions about life, love, death, etc. But where it really shines is in its description of the love of a dog, how they can sense we’re upset before we even are, and how they know how to heal us. It’s really wonderful. And didn’t make me cry.
Finally, A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. I very much enjoyed this book. While The Heart’s Invisible Furies (by the same author) followed a man who was mainly an outcast and tried to fit into the world, this book illustrates the deterioration of a man, once beloved by most. In each of the book’s three sections, Boyne delivers a gut punch. After the first one, I couldn’t imagine how the plot could carry through the remaining two-thirds of the book, but again and again it got me.
The wit in this book wasn’t as cutting as I found it to be in The Heart’s Invisible Furies, but it was ironic, which I appreciated just as much.
Since most of the narrative centers around one character’s drive to become a famous author, I selfishly appreciated all the references to and jokes about the publishing world, one I am submerged in every single day.
PS: You can check out all my most recommended books on one page here.
Now go get some rest!