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Living with depression is really freaking hard.
And yes I totally agree, an evening routine is not going to cure your depression.
But can it make living with depression so.much.better. that you start to wonder if your depression has gone away for good…
I’m talking actual good nights sleep, being able to get out of bed in the mornings, not feeling major dread when you first wake up, or panic or overwhelm.
Well, it turns out an effective evening routine totally can do that, and I’m living proof!
So sure, an evening routine is not the cure for depression, but an evening routine to help depression can start to make you wonder if your depression is still even here…
A pretty good result if you ask me (and something I wish someone had told me about when I was in the depths of extremely, severe depression.)
So in today’s post, I’m going to help you create and implement a nighttime routine that will work for you to seriously help your depression, and I will share with you my go-to evening routine for when I start to feel depression creeping back into my life.
It never makes it very far nowadays!
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What is an evening routine and why is it important when you have depression?
Let’s start with the basics. An evening routine is literally a series of actions you do (that’s the routine part) at night before bed (the evening part).
You definitely already have an evening routine, after all, brushing your teeth before bed each night is part of an evening routine. But if you’re not consciously aware of your nightly routine then it’s probably not serving you…
For example, you finish work, have some dinner and then slump in front of the TV. You mindlessly eat a family sized pack of chips and scroll on Instagram, not even sure what’s on the TV in front of you. At around 11 pm you feel pretty tired but can’t be bothered to go up to bed.
You stay slumped with the TV and social media for another two hours until you finally muster up the courage to go upstairs.
You then do a poor job of taking your makeup off, slap on some moisturizer, brush your teeth and get into bed. Your mind races for another hour about everything that could and has gone wrong in your life, and everything you have to get done tomorrow. At last, you fall asleep.
That, my friends, is an evening routine that many of us have. And you know what, that is not helping your depression, in fact, it’s actively making it worse.
I don’t know about you but I felt pretty down just writing it and I was in a good mood, so if you’re living some variation of this day after day you’re bound to not feel good in your life.
Hence why an evening routine is so important.
But not only that, an evening routine *will* help improve your sleep, and improved sleep has a massively positive effect on your mood.
A routine is also stabilizing in general, which again helps with your depression.
Our brains and bodies absolutely love a stable routine because boring signals that we are safe, and so the brain switches off some of the fight and flight reflexes. This stops our brain racing and us feeling like the worst possible thing is about to happen at any moment, win!
Plus, who doesn’t want an auto-pilot routine that stops you from sitting on your laptop till 3 am and actually makes you feel good in the process…
But how do I establish a bedtime routine for adults?
I get it, creating a nighttime routine for yourself can sometimes make you feel a bit like a 6-year-old.
But at the same time, it can feel seriously overwhelming because there are all these actions (okay, there isn’t that many, but even one new thing can feel pretty major when you have depression) that you have to implement.
But no need to worry, I’ve created you a super cute, printable evening routine checklist that absolutely free!
You get my example evening routine for depression that I actually use when I’m feeling down, and you get a blank checklist that you can fill in with your own evening routine checklist if you want.
Then every night you can just follow the directions without having to think about it, just taking it one tiny action at a time.
Click the button below to download your free, printable evening routine checklists and start improving how you feel!
What should I do in my night routine?
In my eyes, your evening routine should have two main goals, to help you get an amazing night’s sleep AND to help make tomorrow easier.
Therefore there are a few “must-haves” to include and a few “what would work best for yous” and it’s this winning combination that leads to a night routine that actually works for you.
Evening routine “must-haves”:
- Switch off all electronics two hours before sleeping and dim the lights
The blue light that your mobile phone, laptop, TV and other electronics all emit is the same sort of light the sun emits during the day. So when you look at your electronics screens that light is telling your brain wakey wakey it’s the daytime.
Not ideal if it’s 11 pm and you’re desperately trying to nod off to sleep.
That’s why I plug all my electronics into charge 2 hours before bed and don’t look at them anymore. It’s a sleep gamechanger.
Plus dimming the lights in your house also really helps because these lights (to a slightly lesser extent than electronics) will also tell your brain to stay awake.
If you don’t have dimmers no worries, just string up some fairy lights or light some candles!
And yes, I did buy an actual alarm clock so I don’t have to use my mobile phone alarm anymore… It makes that much of a difference.
- Lights out at the same time each night and set your alarm for the same time each morning
Like I mentioned earlier, a routine is crucial for your body and brain to feel nice and safe. Something you definitely want to encourage if you have depression.
Plus your sleep will be better if you can go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time each morning (yep, even on weekends…)
This attitude also forces you to get enough sleep each night because you can’t “catch-up” on the weekend.
I know it seems kind of annoying but trust me, it’s uber important!
- Tidy your home for ten minutes
I mean you can tidy for more than ten minutes but I think ten minutes is a manageable amount the majority of the time.
Now I know what you’re thinking, how is tidying going to help with my depression…
Because of the clutter depression cycle and decision fatigue.
Basically, we all have a finite amount of decisions we can make in a day before we just can’t anymore, and when you’re depressed, or ill in any way, the amount of decisions you can make is even less.
This then leads to decision fatigue.
Have you ever come home from a busy day at work and not been able to decide what to have for dinner? That’s decision fatigue…
As you can imagine, decision fatigue only adds to that horrible, completely overwhelmed and unmotivated feeling you get with depression.
But what does clutter have to do with decision fatigue?
All that clutter that’s currently out, that you see every day, requires a decision from you.
Whether that decision is to put it away, throw it away, or even to just put off dealing with it until later, that’s still a decision made.
There might be twenty plus items on the kitchen table and so you end up making twenty decisions in a split second, and every time you walk past the kitchen table you will be making those decisions all over again.
Then, of course, there is the rest of the mess and clutter around the house that every time you walk past you will be making a decision on…
It’s no wonder you feel panicky, anxious and seriously overwhelmed, or helpless and unable to relax and recharge.
You are constantly making all these decisions because of all that clutter and untidiness, and if you’re depressed you already have less decision-making juice in the bank!
My solution; clean and tidy up your space for ten minutes each evening.
Choose the place that will have the most impact, like your bedroom, your office desk where you have to work or the kitchen table are always good ones.
Just that little bit will make you feel so much better and start to reduce those decisions you have to make.
- Plan the next day
If the idea is to make tomorrow as easy as possible then we kind of need to know what’s going on the next day to do that.
So I like to have a quick check on my calendar and see if there is anything I need to get ready or be aware of. Then I also like to write my to-do list for the next day so it’s not running through my head as I sleep!
If you’re a major planner you might lay out your clothes for the next day, pack your gym bag, make your lunch, basically anything that takes some stuff off your plate tomorrow.
But the main idea is to be aware of what your day will look like tomorrow and write down all your to-dos so they aren’t stuck in your head taking up valuable sleep space!
- Do something to relax and chill
It’s imperative that you do something relaxing so you can wind down before bed, think something kind of semi-boring, nothing too exciting.
For example, reading a book is perfect but not the latest suspense thriller…
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Evening routine “what would work best for yous”:
Now we have the evening routine “must haves” covered, it’s time to start thinking about the “what would work best for yous”…
For example, I have a bit of an obsession with skin care, so doing my nightly skincare routine is an important self-care ritual. Maybe you’re the same?
Grab a pen and paper and start writing down things you like to do in the evening that makes you feel good. Try and move away from things like binge-watching Netflix, I mean we all want to do that but how good do we feel after?
Here are a few evening routine ideas you can pick and choose from if you’re struggling to come up with any:
- Journaling – Don’t be intimidated, just write down what’s on your mind, this can be amazing to help with mental health!
- Have a bath
- Drink some sleepy tea
- Do a hobby – Make sure it’s a relaxing hobby, for example, knitting is great, whereas white water rafting before bed is both a logistical nightmare and also not relaxing at all!
- Read a book or magazine
- Do some stretching or yoga
- Prep your meals for the next day
- Do your skincare routine
How do I make an evening routine?
Here is the fun part!
Now we put our nighttime routine “must haves” and “what would work best for yous” together, add a few ideal timings and et voila, you will have created a nighty self-care routine to help with your depression!
Start with asking yourself how many hours of sleep do I want to get so we can figure out what time lights out will be.
I always aim for eight to nine hours because I’m a sleepy person. I need to wake up at 7 am so that means lights out needs to be around 10 pm.
We also know that electronics need to be put away and lights dimmed about two hours before bed, so that’s now at 8 pm.
Because I use Google Calendar on my laptop to plan my whole life I know I need to plan my day just before 8 pm, so maybe at 7.45 pm I will do that “must have”.
Then I also like to tidy my home for ten minutes after I’ve switched off all electronics and dimmed the lights, so at 8.10 pm.
And I like to relax right before I sleep so I would make sure I’m sat reading in bed by 9.30 pm.
See how we have an evening routine coming together!
Then you would just add in what you would like to include that can help you. Maybe it’s have a bath, do some journaling or meditation. Whatever you know can help you feel better feel free to include.
Just don’t add too much in, we don’t want it to be stressful or overwhelming!
My ideal evening routine to stop depression in its tracks!
Ready to see an example of a routine that works?
(Well works for me, we’re all different so this exact routine might not be perfect for you but it will at least give you an idea of what a nighttime routine might look like…)
6.00 pm – Plan tomorrow (I actually plan the next day at the end of my working day, so while I don’t do this activity with the rest of my evening routine, it is technically part of my evening routine.)
8.00 pm – Put electronics away and dim lights
8.05 pm – Tidy up the house for ten minutes (the kitchen table is usually where this is needed the most!)
8.20 pm – If I need to, I write down anything that I need to do tomorrow or that’s on my mind (I find getting all the swirling thoughts out of my head and onto paper is amazing for feeling better and getting better sleep.)
8.30 pm – Get ready for bed and do my skincare routine
9.00 pm – Do some stretches and turn the bedroom into a sleep sanctuary (which normally just means have a tidy up and spray some anti-stress room spray! Yes I know, double tidying, but I just find it helps me!)
9.30 pm – Read in bed for half an hour
10.00 pm – Lights out (notice how I don’t say sleep, I don’t want to put pressure on you or myself that NOW I MUST sleep, that’s not conducive to getting some shut-eye at all. So instead, just knowing that’s when the lights will be switched off really takes the pressure off.)
And that’s it.
Now I know what you’re thinking, that really isn’t mindblowing stuff. How is something as simple as that going to help with depression…
It’s a combination of getting great sleep, creating a safe routine to make your brain happy and doing activities that will make tomorrow easier.
While the changes you will be making probably don’t seem that major, like going to bed an hour earlier, turning off electronics and skipping out on the TV. But they have a huge impact.
Just try it for one week and see if you feel any better. You have nothing to lose right!
Plus don’t forget to grab your FREE printable evening routine checklist!
You get my example evening routine for depression that I actually use when I’m feeling down in checklist format, so you can just follow that if you don’t feel like making your own, AND you will get a blank checklist that you can fill in with your own ideal bedtime routine!
Then it’s just a case of taking it one tiny action at a time until you feel better and much more mentally (and physically) healthy.
Click the button below to download your free, printable evening routine checklists and start improving how you feel today!
I’ve signed up for both your regular depression checklist and this evening one and have received no email. Help?
Hi Heather. I have sent you the checklists via email. Keep me posted on how you are doing. All the best!
I am an RN and work 12 hour night shifts. It’s almost impossible to have a routine. Any suggestions?
I’ve been an RN over 30 years. I have been depressed for a long as I can remember. Tried all types of antidepressants. They all seem to help for a short time. I’m really soaking in all you have to say. I appreciate you more than you know. I wasn’t too take control of my depression and anxiety ridden life.
Thank you and Good bless you!
Hi Debbie. Thank you for your comment. It is very hard to maintain a routine as an RN doing shift work, and I can see how it would be difficult to maintain balance in mental health. I don’t have any simple solutions. How much have you explored other RN jobs that provide a more consistent schedule?