Need help organizing my evenings
October 1, 2016 8:48 PM   Subscribe

Simple activities that I can do in the 45 minutes before bed

I've been dealing with mild to moderate OCD symptoms for the past few years which tend to worsen under stress.

My day basically ends at 5:30 with piles of unfinished work (due to real financial constraints and a long to-do list). On days when I can work until 10:30 it's not a problem. On days when I don't have clear things to do, I'm pretty much a basket case after 5:30. I have hours to kill and am usually too tired to think about anything clearly and wind up pacing -- and worrying -- and trying to fill time until I can sleep. On days when I'm here on my own it's pretty bad.

I need help brainstorming winding-down activities that I can do consistently that provide some structure to the last six hours of my day. Stuff that's similar to the morning routine: making a bagel, reading a book, washing my face, six predictable steps to prepping a cup of coffee. Calming and unrelated to work, and ideally which don't involve drinking or taking tons of benadryl (because if it's an option to just straightforwardly knock myself out, I will). I want something that will make me feel good, not feel like a failure for just wanting to get out of the last six hours of my day, because that's not ultimately a sustainable option.

Please help, this sounds like a minor thing but it's really not. I need to be able to sleep.
posted by puckish to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Lay out your outfit for tomorrow morning.

Solve a crossword puzzle.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:52 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Walk to somewhere a half hour away and then walk back. Or walk for an hour on the treadmill at the gym if you live somewhere where the weather makes outside an unpleasant option.

Pick a tv series with several years worth of episodes, watch a single one each night.

Paint your nails a different color. (If you're a guy you could still do this with toenails.) It takes somewhere between a half hour and an hour.
posted by MsMolly at 9:16 PM on October 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

Weird suggestion, but maybe get into prepping really elaborate bento box lunches for work the next day? (The kind with food shaped into little animals and stuff.) That could probably expand to take as much time as you're willing to allot it.
posted by MsMolly at 9:21 PM on October 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was also going to suggest going for a walk. It may be dark out, but it probably isn't as dark as you expect it to be. Even walking on a trail through the woods you might find you can see well enough you don't need a flashlight. (That's what I found when I used to have to walk my dog at night after work.)

Other ideas: sudoku, learning a new language with Duolingo, writing in a journal, coloring in an adult coloring book while watching TV or listening to music
posted by Redstart at 9:32 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Twenty minutes of bedtime yoga, with "Yoga with Adrienne" on YouTube.
posted by amileighs at 9:41 PM on October 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Do a dance workout video
Do one of those coloring books for grown ups
posted by bleep at 9:54 PM on October 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Could you sort of mirror your morning routine?
For example:
Morning: wake up, get dressed, brush teeth, skin care, breakfast, coffee & book
Evening: tea & book, shower, brush teeth, skin care, pajamas, pick out tomorrow's clothes, bed

Check tomorrow's weather
Put lotion on your whole body
Make lunch for tomorrow
Water all of your plants
Slow stretching
Plan tomorrow's dinner
Sweep the kitchen

There's a whole thing about evening skincare - the 10-step thing that is very time and labor intensive.

I like mindless sorting (crayons by color, crayons by height) but you may find that worse than doing nothing.
posted by meemzi at 10:17 PM on October 1, 2016 [12 favorites]

Knit. Make bread.
posted by kjs4 at 1:32 AM on October 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm half in this question because I struggle with a similar problem: most activities I start tend to consume my brain and make it very difficult for me to stop thinking and go to sleep. So while I've not solved this yet myself, I do have some experience with it that might help.

I'd endorse many of the activities already suggested, especially those of the low-mind variety. Exercise of any kind, including just a walk to the cafe for a cookie and herbal tea, can become a healthy habit that encourages routine sleep. Artistic but non-intellectual activities like cooking (prepping tomorrow's meals, per MsMolly) is brilliant, as are any other "helps you later" activities like sorting things, doing laundry, packing for a trip that is a week away, and so on. Cleaning and re-oiling my wooden desk kills a good hour, for example, and gives me a better workspace the next day. (I always thank my earlier self for being so thoughtful.) Any artistic endeavor that can be picked up and resumed the next day (jigsaw puzzles, model building) helps me, and might help you.

I'd definitely advise against crossword puzzles or sudoko or language-learning or MetaFilter before bed, at least if you are me, since these tend to activate my thinkyness, which is the opposite of what I'm after. I really can't even read.

Also, and the applicability of this hinges on your personal taste and circumstances, really unbridled sex can do wonders in terms of emptying my over-busy mind sometimes. Also might help with sleepiness, depending on your internal wiring.
posted by rokusan at 4:01 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sit, or lay down, for 7 or 21 minutes with your eyes closed. Don't think about anything. Once that's finished, consider your next move.
posted by amtho at 4:46 AM on October 2, 2016

When I had a more predictable schedule and was likely to finish work on time I went in for regular exercise classes. These were very helpful in winding down and recharging my energy for whatever else I wanted to do that evening. Also gave structure to the week because I now had plans 3-4 nights a week.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:54 AM on October 2, 2016

I was also going to suggest an exercise class -- yoga, maybe?

Also, a complex jigsaw puzzle (while listening to a podcast or book on tape) can be quite meditative.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2016

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