Updated: May 23, 2020
Whenever I am having trouble being patient at night with my 4 year old daughter and my husband, it is usually due to the fact that we were all overtired and overstressed.
I have gotten into the habit of reflecting during such times and asking myself "What am I meant to learn here?" After all... "Sometimes deeper meanings are preceded by great storms."
One of the biggest game changers for me was when I learned that getting just one more hour of sleep can affect our mental health and brain development to the point of whether we have a positive mindset versus a negative one during our days... (feel free to read more on it here)
So here is what I learned - the WHAT & the WHY:
Routine and rhythm is everything. Our circadian rhythms are managed best when our nightly routines are predictable. This can be done through meal times, shower times, etc. Payne in Simplicity Parenting says "the body's inner clock is strengthened by these rituals, establishing sleep as one of several healthy daily rhythms."
Become a "Screen Free Home" 90 minutes before bedtime. LCD screen light suppresses the release of our natural melatonin hormones. Our bodies are then unable to register when they are tired.
Less sugar and caffeine after lunch. (Do I really need to explain the why here? lol)
Darkening the home and environment encourages physiological progression to sleep.
Winding down with calming activities or nature walks after dinner helps soothe away stress as well as facilitate a quicker deep sleep.
Natural sleep aids like chamomile tea or lavender scents help our bodies unwind.
How we implemented the above:
My husband and I very intentionally created these specific rituals so they match our personal value system. Feel free to take or leave what works best for you.
I have a timer set at 5:15pm to remind myself to check in with ME. During this time, I usually just step away to take three quick breaths. This is where I reset my focus and check in with my patience muscles (this is a life-saver for me and avoids my usual short-temperedness around dinner time).
We have dinner at 5:30pm-ish and this is when the "No Phone Zone" starts. I turn my phone off and put it away. I don't see it again until after my morning routine the next day.
Our entire house is pretty dim during this time. We have minimal lights on. Candles, lamps, closet lights, dimmers are all wonderful ways to do this.
Quiet time is 6:30-7:15pm-ish (Alexa is set to play instrumental lullabies at this time so the transitions is quite harmonious, usually... ;). This is where my husband, daughter and I each choose to do something 'quiet'. We may read on our own, one of us may choose to take a bath, we may go for a walk together, etc.
After quiet time (when the instrumentals turn off), we tidy up together and go upstairs to brush our teeth.
As we get ready for bed, we...
Share one hard moment and one magic moment with each other
Send some prayers and wishes into the universe
Read a not-so-exciting story or share a personal childhood story with our daughter (Another Tool: Insight Timer is a Free App that has wonderful sleep sounds and meditations to help you wind down and go into a deep sleep)
Please know that nothing here is 'all or nothing'. This sounds so picture perfect but let me tell you, there are many days we are completely out of wack and almost none of the above happens. What does help is having a system to count on and rely on it's support 'most' of the time!
Evening and morning routines are so inter-dependent. So I thought I may also share my morning routine with you. Much of this routine is learned and inspired from the 'Parenting Journey' workshops at my daughter's Waldorf school as well as some of my favorite personal development books.
My morning routine is crucial for me. This is my best defense against anxious and impatient days.
My mornings are very intimate and sacred to me. This is where I like to go within, so it is important for me to be disciplined about keeping my phone completely off during this time.
I wake up around 4am. (This took me a year to achieve. My therapist advised me to start in increments of 15 min. If I wake up at 9am, my goal for the week was 8:45am, next week 8:30 and so on. Also the caveat is that I sleep by 9:30pm). I was always a night owl, until I personally realized that the way I start my day has a ripple effect on my mental and emotional well being the rest of the day. Getting to this point was a VERY slow, incremental process.
And then the below sequence of events unravel:
Prep my daughter’s clothes, tooth brush, vitamins (she gets ready by herself now)
Enjoy my hot cup of coffee
Light up prayer candle and pray
2-5 minutes of any inspirational read
3 minute stretch
3-30 minutes of meditation (depending on the day, if you know what I mean)
Journal entry no matter what! (even if it is just one sentence)
Do my ONE BIG THING first! This is when I prioritize my biggest thing for the day that absolutely must get done. Even if I can’t finish it, I at least start it.
My daughter is up by this time and I am ready to give her a big hug and my undivided attention (sometimes this is just for 2 minutes but my intention for authentic connection with her every morning is extremely important to me)
This is when I turn my phone on and start the rest of the day. Good morning world :)
I really do hope you believe me when I say that our days are usually very imperfect and full of mistakes. This structure and intention does help guide us in keeping our days full of love, intention and meaningful connection.
As always, please do let me know if this helped you in any way by messaging me directly or commenting below. Many of you have reached out to me personally to share your thoughts and feedback which I always appreciate so much.
With lots of love and light, Amna