I often find myself working when I don’t intend to—during dinner, after dinner, before a workout, etc. As such, my nighttime routine is usually a signalling of leisure.
It begins with shutting my laptop dramatically. Then I drink a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice, wash my face (I have a 7-step process), brush my teeth all-too-aggressively for using an electric toothbrush, and finally rest in bed with a coveted book—right now I’m reading Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Sometimes, based on how I feel, I might journal instead. I know, it all sounds too normal.
The physical normalcy balances the mental acrobatics that transpire as I wind down my day.
Thoughts appear, disappear, and appear again with the clunkiness of a 1996 Sega Starflight game—from the unfinished items on my to-do list, to passing thoughts that I neglected to focus on—my mind at night is untethered. The mental experience is somewhat disconcerting, as someone with rigid self-discipline.
I’ve developed my physical nighttime routine as a way to stay present and connect to myself. Through the years, I’ve even learned how to honor the thoughts that race through my mind at night instead of lamenting my lack of control.
I thought I’d share a few of the discoveries I've made as a result of my nighttime routine.
1. Journaling allows you to experience your thoughts without getting consumed by them.
Acknowledging how and why you feel what you feel and writing until your hand cramps is kind of like going to a hot yoga class. You just feel and breathe better.
Pro tip: Keep a journal right beside your bed, with a pen already tucked in it. That way, whenever you need to pick it up, it’s right there, waiting for you.
2. A great skin care routine makes you feel connected to yourself.
Implementing a diligent skin care routine makes me feel as though I’m putting my best face forward in the morning and really taking care of myself at night. It means that I’m connecting with my face (literally, with my fingers), and that as strange as this is sounds, I’m meeting my own eyes at the end of the day. There’s a kind of honesty to the practice of simply seeing yourself for who you are at the end of the day. I use a lot of oils and serums, and my favorite brand is Marie Veronique—the vitamin C serum and retinol serum I swear by.
3. Drinking water before bed impacts your morning.
Drinking water right before bed prevents a mild dehydration/headache/fog that sometimes accompanies waking up.
4. Reading is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Reading is something we all rarely have time for, but I believe it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Feeling like you have an accurate handle on self-expression and empathy begins and ends with language. I think there’s no greater exposure to language than through reading.
If you choose to read fiction, I believe you’ll be exposed to a kind of nuanced emotionality that will equip you to meet someone where they are, wherever they are.
If you give yourself just 15-30 minutes a night, you can read books and books. And yes, read books, not magazine articles or your Instagram feed.
If you’d like a place to start, I have recommendations:
The Vegetarian by Han Kang — Han Kang is a renowned South Korean writer who delves into vivid imagery of self-destruction amidst a Korean town. Think A Woman Destroyed meets Black Swan. Gripping, exhilarating, and it ends way too soon.
Radical Candor by Kim Scott — This is a leadership book that focuses on one simple principle: honest feedback will help everyone. It walks through how to deliver honest feedback and how to do it in a way that feels authentic to you and who you’re working with, so you’re always pushing yourself and those around you to the best versions of themselves.
Periodic Table by Primo Levi — I like to think of Primo Levi as a kind-hearted Nabakov—brilliant, empathetic, kind, and funny, the novel is largely a memoir covering his journey to and from Aushwitz as an anti-Fascist Jew, living in Italy.
I think developing a great bedtime routine involves a few things that you do for yourself and sticking to it as long as you can. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen every night, but know that you have a system to fall back to when you’re trying to wind down after a long day.