Once something is routine, it takes less mental effort. The ritual gets completed more or less through its own momentum.
Routines and rituals are awesome!
Unless, of course, you've got a crappy routine. One that gets in the way of how you want to feel, what you want to do, how you want to live... and is now running on auto-pilot!
A routine that has settled into your brain and your bones is tough to change. Tough, but not impossible. Break it down step by step, and you can change what you want to change.
Does this open up a pandora's box of self observation for you?
Are you sure something is "off" but aren't sure how to figure out what?
For now, let's stick with setting you up for a good night's sleep.
Set your evening routine to suit you
We need to feel safe and relaxed to fall asleep and sleep well. (Being bone tired does the trick, too.) That's why end of day routines are so useful. By being familiar, they ground you, make you comfortable on some level.
But just sorta comfortable isn't what we're going for.
I want you to feel like you did when you were a kid: tucked into bed, Dad reading you The Amazing Bone for the fiftieth time.
So check in: how do you feel when you go to bed? Just kinda normal or genuinely relaxed?
If most nights you go to bed feeling calm and at-ease, then keep doing what you're doing! At some point, well is good enough and better is a misuse of your energy.
If your mood at bedtime isn't what you want, changing something about your evening routine may help.
Once you get used to observing how you feel at the end of your day, start to notice if certain activities shift how you feel.
Here's an example of what I mean: Say you leave work feeling tense, then go to the bar for a drink (or your local yoga studio for class!) and, shortly after, leave feeling more relaxed.
That's a ritual that addresses the need to feel relaxed.
Pay attention to how you feel, what you do in response, and how that action actually effects you.
When you notice a routine behavior (drink after work) that isn't truly having the effect you want, try adding a new behavior to it (go to yoga first).
It might be hard to make that addition at first, but try! Schedule it in and it will be right there on the calendar: yoga... and you still get to go to the bar after!
And then, bit by bit, you may realize you've replaced the need for a drink.
Basta! Ritual changed. Kinda painlessly.
Of course, there are other examples where the swap isn't so neat. It's okay if a great idea flops.
Experiment, but also give yourself a break between testing ideas. In this case, too much trial and error may be crazy making!
You can tackle the problem through physiology by trying soothing activities (bubble bath anyone?). You can read a host of classic suggestions here. None of them works for me, but that shouldn't matter to you.
If you love setting aside time to drink your valerian root tea before bed, hold space for that. Don't let anyone tell you it's not important!
And if, like me, you think drinking tea every night sounds about as soothing as taking your vitamins, then screw that! It's ok and right for us all to need different things.
Find your thing and own it. Because that's when we feel at ease, when we feel like we are truly free to be ourselves without judgment.
Observing with you,