If the last year pushed human civilization to new levels of growth and change, then it’s no real surprise that my nighttime routine evolved at a rapid rate, too. As I was forced to slow down—and pushed to quit a new job during an unemployment peak—I found myself with little to do and nowhere to be.
So, mostly with the intention to kill time and distract myself, I made seemingly unassuming changes to my nighttime routine that resulted in an astonishing confidence boost. Here are my best tips to create positive changes to your routine that will prepare you to greet the next day with open arms.
Set a Bedtime
I’ve always retired to bed at an early hour, but I never had a consistent time. I recently found that my sweet spot to slumber was at 10 p.m, which left enough time to unwind, eat, spend time with my husband, and go to bed at an hour I wouldn’t regret.
I refer to the time I spend winding down for bed as “closing time.” First, because I enjoy a nice whiff of nostalgia, especially in the 2020s. Second, because my near-30-year-old body needs the kind of proper scheduling and care as a brick-and-mortar store.
At 3 p.m., I get my last cup of coffee for the day and set up the machine for the next day. At 7 p.m., I take a shower, and by 10 p.m., I am slinking into bed and massaging Glossier hand lotion into my palms.
Before, I was squeezing every drop of energy until I felt like I would fall asleep mid-keyboard stroke. And though unconscious, I believe I was sending the message to myself I was only here to serve other people. Now, those people have a cut-off.
That feels powerful, and frankly, the bare minimum in the category of self-care. By establishing a steady framework, my body and sleep patterns have improved, and as a result, I look and feel more refreshed by the morning.
Change Into Matching Pajamas
Of everything I added to my nighttime routine, changing into matching pajamas each night had the most significant impact on my confidence. Candidly, it’s hard to pinpoint what finally pushed me to ditch the tattered college-sweatshirt-and-Costco-joggers combo and start wearing matching pajamas to bed, but it’s something I can’t come back from.
The first night I wore my olive, satin two-piece to bed, my husband perked up from his latest Stuart Jeffries novel and asked with genuine concern what was going on. Assured that this wasn’t a mid-life crisis or cry for help, he said it was a nice change from my usual look.
As for me, the change impacted me in two ways. First, I bought new pajamas, which I hadn’t done in years. It was a small exercise of self-discovery to see what my “nighttime personal style” was. I googled pictures of Audrey Hepburn for inspiration and prepared for bedtime like it was my own personal Met Gala.
I googled pictures of Audrey Hepburn for inspiration and prepared for bedtime like it was my own personal Met Gala.
Unbeknownst to my conscious mind, it challenged me to see sleep through a more experiential lens. Sleep is something worth dressing up for—after all, you never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll do when you close your eyes: fly, teleport, show up to your last college exam too late.
Establish a Skincare Routine
In light of shelter-in-place, I finally learned about serums and the power of daily sunscreen. After some time, I began to follow the experts’ direction and conjure a nighttime skincare routine. Based on my research—ahem, watching Mixed Makeup on YouTube—I transitioned some of my heavier creams and potions to the night shift.
My skin soaked itself in the ingredients and even my husband acknowledged its new glow and improvements. Beyond the healthier skin, the nighttime routine signaled the following message to my subconscious: all of your time is valuable, and none of your time should be rushed. This updated step empowered me to slow down and smell the rosewater moisturizer.
Hang Up My Clothes
My body took a new shape last year, as I gained somewhere around 20 or 25 pounds. I hid my fresh stretch marks and belly under hoodies and oversized tops for the first few months, and I walked past every mirror like I was trying to avoid an ex at Duane Read. And to “inspire me,” I left my old clothes hanging up, taunting me with memories of my pre-plus-size life.
And then I read an article by a writer, Rachel Varina, on her bold act of donating her "someday" clothes. It was the gentle, loving push my psyche needed to fully accept my new reality. It crystalized a truth in a new form: accepting a new reality is not the same as accepting defeat. To truly move forward, it was time to let go of the past.
I donated some of my wardrobe and I put the rest in boxes. I took out my tucked away loungewear that had become my daily uniform and hung it up. I bought updated pieces that were super cute. Though a seemingly small gesture, it was motivation when I woke up in the morning and needed to walk the dog.
It was especially motivating on the days I felt inclined to stay in bed and hide from what little world I was facing. The entire act of purging an old lifestyle and welcoming a new lifestyle with warmth and grace has proven to be an important marker in my self-love journey.
The entire act of purging an old lifestyle and welcoming a new lifestyle with warmth and grace has proven to be an important marker in my self-love journey.
Hanging up clothes—even the loungewear—affirms to me that I can take pride in every stage of life and at every size I am.
Self-Date When My Partner is Asleep
Being with my husband and working from home has had its moments of bliss—and belligerent frustration. Our one-bedroom duplex nestled in East Dallas has collected a second desk, a weighted blanket, and now two creatives with a podcast, which means there’s a lot of noise and a lot of frenzied energy happening, always.
For a season, I felt disconnected from myself. And while I understood there were a million things to point to, I had the revelation one night when I couldn’t sleep that the disconnect was a longing for solitude. Oddly enough, I took for granted the silence and moments I had to myself during commutes or in waiting rooms at doctors’ offices.
That night, when I couldn’t get to sleep, I walked over to the kitchen, grabbed cold leftovers, and plopped down on our sofa to watch an old season of "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta." I started to feel a semblance of my patience and gratitude come back to my body.
Since that night, I typically have an hour to myself after my husband retreats to the bedroom to read, and I sit with myself and my secret single behavior. For me, it’s refusing to use a plate while eating and having my eyes glued to "True Crime Daily." And where does the confidence boost come in, you may wonder? It comes from resting with myself, blissfully unaware of my environment and tomorrow’s worries.