Much has been said about morning routines, including this hilarious mockery of it by the New Yorker. But I am a religious follower of my own set of morning rituals and feel that my life was tremendously changed by it. I am glad people talk about it a lot.
What about an evening routine? How do people cap their day? Do people talk about it a lot too?
I started asking these questions last year so I decided to create an evening ritual for myself. My takeaway? The more I do it, the more grateful I am to be alive.
Two years ago, I was part of Manila’s daily commuter population — throngs of weary working travelers who spend on average 3 hrs on the road just to make a living.
I detested it. For me, getting stuck on the road is not very different from getting stuck in life. The uselessness stymies my thinking and overall productivity.
I now work from home, and that decision has enabled me to use the 3 hours I used to waste in perpetual gridlock reading, thinking, and writing. I love it. I didn’t think I would thrive by spending much of my time alone but I do. I am now an extrovert-turned-introvert, well-adjusted in the isolation and lockdown orders of these Coronatimes.
Time passes by so quickly when you work alone so I resolved to make good use of the 5 PM to 8 PM I would normally spend in rush hour traffic.
My evening ritual begins at 7 PM, the time I stop all kinds of work on a typical day. It is rather unhealthy to keep working beyond that hour anyway because you want to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Boundaries are necessary to achieve some balance and they start with tea.
Brew and drink tea (4 mins)
A nice cup of caffeine-free tea signals relaxation, much like at the spa after a massage. While it is tempting to uncork a bottle of Pinot as soon as you get home, sobriety in this ritual is essential.
Diffuse essential oils (less than a minute; scent should last for 4 hours)
To sustain the spa atmosphere, diffuse oils such as lavender to help set the mood for bedtime. I also spray some fabric freshener on my bedspread.
Gratitude journal (5mins)
Write down the things that made your day amazing. Give thanks. My days have been difficult lately, and this practice has taught me to be grateful for both the ordinary and the extraordinary things, the good news and the bad. I even take photos of my meals during the day so I have something to upload on my journal. I use the 5-Minute Journal app to eliminate excuses for having no time.
Facial care (10mins)
I once suffered a breakout that not one but two of my mentors noticed. The lady mentor, gorgeous and still youthful at 70+, advised me facetiously “You are banned from looking ugly.” I do not want to look ugly. No one does. So I went to my dermatologist stat.
We tend to neglect it, but we all must ALWAYS give our face the care it deserves. No excuses. It is the first thing your family, friends, clients, and potential clients will judge you by. It is important to do a facial every night, much like Korean girls who invest heavily in their smooth, dewy, pearl-like skin. Why? Because aging is permanent.
If you think you are already successful, wealthy, and smart, how will people believe you if you don’t look good? With so many modern solutions available, you have no excuse to be lazy when it comes to your face. Ditch the cigarette if you can and eat healthier. Check your gut health to make sure you are less prone to acne. Then follow these five steps: wash, massage, exfoliate, tone and moisturize (I use an amazing 3-in-1 device called the Lumispa that tones the muscles of my face in just 2 minutes while completely removing my makeup and my dead skin cells).
The impact of doing this routine at night is much stronger than in the morning because you are not exposed afterward to the usual elements such as solar exposure and air pollution. Your skin is at rest and can recover. Besides, you would not want to be rushing through the five steps which you will end up doing if you choose to do it in the morning before you get to work.
Dental care (4 mins)
Floss. Brush thoroughly for two minutes (the iPhone has a timer for this). Wash. Repeat. This goes without saying!
Do something you love (1 hour)
Now that you have all the health essentials out of the way, you can go ahead and get a little crazy. If like me, your passion is music, you could learn to sing a new song or master a piece you are learning to play on an instrument. If you have a karaoke machine at home or the Smule app, that is a great way to de-stress. The idea is to completely remove yourself from work and remind yourself of things that make you happy.
Entertain yourself (15 mins)
Finally, do something that does not demand too much from you such as watching a short comedy skit, reading fiction or playing a game. Just be mindful of the time. Whatever you do in these 15 minutes should help you sleep. Sometimes, a bit of Netflix or mobile games can derail us from that objective. I am sometimes guilty of this. When I am more mindful, I listen to an audiobook because I find that the narration lulls me to sleep so it cannot be by a comedian or a tell-all musician. It would be hard to sleep when you are laughing out loud.
While there are people who are not very fond of structure, there are some like me who function better with a schedule. Self-care has to be on the calendar. It is one of those uncommon calendar items that tend to fall on the wayside otherwise. If you want to pay closer attention to it, I recommend that you save it for the evenings, in solitude and in your own private space. Ending the day this way allows reflection, and in my case, gratitude that I no longer ply the gridlocked streets of my city in those hours. As you do such pleasurable things on a more regular basis, I guarantee that you will likewise get used to ending the day with gratitude in your heart.