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6 Evening Rituals to Help Caregivers Wind Down from Their Day

Jun 21, 2021

Part 3 of 3: How Rituals Can Save Your Sanity and Make You a Better Caregiver

In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed the difference between rituals, routines, and habits. (If you haven’t read Part 1 – “What is a Ritual – and How Can It Help Caregivers?”, start there!) Then, in Part 2 of this series, we talked about the 5 Morning Rituals that Can Help Caregivers Face the Day.

Mindfulness can help caregivers clear their mind as part of their evening ritual to wind down.Daily rituals involve mindfulness, which can help us “get in the zone” as caregivers. Being a caregiver is difficult and stressful. Rituals help us process that stress and the emotions behind it, and allow us to compartmentalize our lives to a certain extent. Mindfulness in particular is also one of the five steps in the MOVE Method, an approach I developed to help reduce caregiver compassion fatigue. The goal of all these techniques is to help you thrive, not just survive, so you can achieve Balanced Success!

I fully believe that how you end your day is just as important as how you start it.

In this post, we’ll explore 6 evening rituals and how they can help you wind down from your day. An evening ritual can help you in several ways:

  • Reduces stress
  • Promotes good mental health
  • Gives you a chance to process your day so that you can shift your mindset
  • Allows you to get to sleep faster and sleep better

Evening rituals can support your morning rituals, keep you in the right mindset, and in many ways allow you to recover and rejuvenate from a long day.

My Evening Rituals

Here are the 6 evening rituals I follow. Consistency is key here – it can be tempting to just jump into bed after a long day as a caregiver! But I find taking a few extra minutes to wind down ultimately helps me get more rest during the night. It’s important to de-stress, process, and put nagging worries out of mind so you can sleep better.

1. I Reflect on My Achievements

As we’ve mentioned in this blog before, it’s too easy for caregivers to gloss over the positives and focus on the negatives. Reflecting on achievements is a good ritual to remind yourself of what you did accomplish during day rather than on what you didn’t.

There are several ways to do this. One is to simply write down a list of the things you got done. This is sort of like a to-do list, but in reverse. (A “to-done” list, maybe?) Another way is to take a page from Benjamin Franklin’s playbook – simply write down a list of all the good things you did that day. This could be as a caregiver, but it could also be something like letting someone else in line at the grocery store.

My favourite way to reflect on my achievements is through my journal. One of the things I write in my morning journal is a list of what I want to accomplish that day. Then, at the end of the day, part of my evening ritual is to review that list and check off the things I did. Evaluating your progress is another way you are setting yourself up to succeed.

That being said, don’t get bogged down in the things you didn’t do. Remember, this evening ritual is meant to give you a boost! There are never enough hours in the day, so we will often feel like we didn’t get everything done. Accepting that – and forgiving yourself for that – and so you can focus on the things you did accomplish is a much healthier approach!

2. I Prepare for Tomorrow

You can use your journal for this, too. I take a few minutes to quickly write down what you believe to be the top 3 essential tasks for you to accomplish the following day. I don't do anything more than write them down. There is no problem-solving or slaying the dragon here. That can wait until tomorrow. Starting to think about these tasks is all that’s needed.

And, if you’re one of those lucky people who literally solves problems in your sleep through dreams, you may have some answers before you even wake up.

3. I Clean My Messes

I tidy up the house a bit before I go to bed so the house looks lovely to wake up to.These are the physical messes, not the internal ones. Those are best left to morning!

Remember in Part 2 of this series when we talked about ending the day with a made bed? Starting your day with a clean kitchen is equally important. I tidy up before I go to bed – finish the dishes, organize and wipe the counters, and sweep the floor if it needs it. I tidy other areas as well – clothes in the hamper, mail in the holder, magazines and books in the rack. This is just a quick tidy, not a full-on deep clean. Just take 10 or 20 minutes to make things lovely to wake up to.

4. I Get My Morning Prepared

As we discussed in Part 2 of this series, mornings can be stressful! I find that doing some little things to prepare really help. You can lay out your clothes, make lunches, have your gym bag ready to pick up and go, get the coffee maker ready – anything that takes a little bit of time now to save a whole lot of stress tomorrow! The less time, energy, and brain power you have to use in the morning, the more successful you will be with your morning ritual.

5. I Clear My Mind

Reading a book, listening to music, or taking a light stroll are great evening rituals to help caregivers clear their minds....or, as I like to say, shift my mindset. I know what you’re thinking – easier said than done! And it’s so very true. Shifting your mindset at the end of the day can be a challenge, especially if the day has been a challenge in itself.

Different things work for different people, so I don’t have a step-by-step blueprint for you. But here are a few activities that you can try to help clear your mind:

  • Meditation
  • Light reading (something for entertainment, not work or research)
  • Watching a light TV show (nothing that gets you on edge or riled up)
  • Journalling
  • Walking (not a power walk or workout, but a relaxing stroll)
  • Listen to music
  • Have a warm, non-caffeinated drink such as herbal tea or frothed milk
  • Put together some of that puzzle
  • Paint or do something creative
  • Dim the lights and use lamps instead of ceiling lights where possible. The idea is to get yourself more into the rhythm of Nature – the sun has gone down, and you should start winding down too.

The idea is to do something – or some combination of things – that will help you wind down, take your mind off your day, and prepare for sleep.

6. I Stick to a Regular Bedtime

Sleep hygiene is so important. It can help you literally rest your mind, body, and soul more than any other ritual. Every evening ritual should be focused on reaching this one end goal.

Part of sleep hygiene is keeping a regular bedtime. Keeping your natural circadian rhythms in synch is another way to set yourself up for success. Not only does it give your body and mind a regular time every day to “punch out”, but keeping a regular schedule will also help you get to sleep faster and allow you to sleep better.

On the subject of bedtime – I also try to create the optimal sleeping conditions:

  • Stop using blue light 2-3 hours before bed. Blue light can disrupt your sleep rhythms, and can affect the body long after you are exposed to it. (Read a Harvard study here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side) If you absolutely have to use your phone, many now have settings that eliminate blue light at night.
  • Keep your bedroom on the chilly side. “Chilly” is, of course, relative so there isn’t a precise temperature. But keep it cool enough so that you have to snuggle under the covers.
  • Keep your room light or dark, depending on your preference. My husband likes a little bit of light, like from the stars. I prefer a pitch-black room. So, there will definitely be compromise here! Try to find a way that works for both of you.
  • Adjust your pillow and covers. This can be a ritual in itself – a calming routine of fluffing pillows and snapping blankets and smoothing sheets until you get to exactly the right comfort level that you can drift off to sleep.
  • Turn on some affirmations. The ThinkUp app (https://thinkup.me/) has been so helpful for me! It allows me to record my own affirmations, and then plays them back. You will have smoothing, positive, uplifting affirmations when you need them. This isn’t an ad for ThinkUp – this is just the one I happen to use – so feel free to explore! There are tons of similar apps on the market.

Evening Rituals Help Caregivers Recover from Their Day

Caregivers all have their own roads to follow, but our blisters are similar -- and so too can be our evening rituals.It’s worth repeating: being a caregiver is hard! We all travel our own roads, so I’m not going to pretend to know yours. But I do know from personal experience and from coaching others that although the road may be different, we all get similar blisters, shin splints, and symptoms of exhaustion!

My goal is to help you overcome those challenges in your own daily life. It may take some time to find the right combination of evening rituals that will work best for you. But ultimately, having evening rituals can help you shed all the heaviness of the day, get some good sleep, and be ready for tomorrow.

It’s worth mentioning too that there is a Law of Increasing Returns at work here. Take some time now to explore those evening rituals, and things will continually get easier for you as you go. You’ll soon find you’re feeling more motivated, more rejuvenated, and more capable to carry on in your role as a caregiver, along with everything else in your life!

Contact Liz Comuzzi for a Free Session

I hope this series on rituals will help you in your journey as a caregiver. But if you’re looking for something more – and something more specific to your situation – contact me for a free 30-minute chat session. We can talk about whatever you like related to caregiving, no matter how big or small you think it may be. I’ve help many people over the years reach Balanced Success while juggling caregiving, work, family, and life.

And I can help you too.

Help Me Liz!

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