The Other Side of Life – Life After 7pm
Every day rides like a rollercoaster; work, eat, sleep and repeat. You roll out of bed in the morning after hitting snooze a couple of times, you have a decent breakfast if you’re lucky before you get to work, and then you start your work that leads you more or less into dinner time. Regardless if your work feels like it’s full of purpose and joy or not, we all seem to have a common problem. Work spills into the evening and oftentimes we reach sleep time wanting an on/off switch.
Every day I work with people who have trouble turning their minds off and consequently end up with some kind of insomnia, or feeling fatigued even though they thought they slept well. Some of them have gotten the winding down process to perfection, hoping that then, through some miracle, they will sleep well that night.
Insomniacs or not, not many people seem to think that winding down should start any earlier then 30 minutes, or 60 minutes if you are really good about it. What about starting that slowing down, winding down, and letting go process around 7pm? Does that seem crazy early? Let’s look at it this way. Everything in life seemed to be ruled by opposites and in Chinese Medicine we have Yin and Yang. Day is yang, filled with activity, energy, sun, movement, talking, engagement. Night is yin, slowing down, going inward, resting, and sleeping.
We often think of that Yin time as the time we are asleep, but within those daily 24 hours, 12 hours are meant to be Yin. So then, roughly between 7am and 7pm is Yang time, and 7pm and 7am is Yin time.
How could that Yin time look like after 7pm? Here are some ideas and tips that will help you enjoy your evenings more, feel more relaxed, deepen your sleep at night, and feel more rested and full of energy in the morning.
- Take a look at your evening, what do you typically do around 7pm. Notice if you work late in the night, or you tend to ruminate about work and tasks, worry endlessly, etc. If you had a magic wand, which of these things would you drop? Make note of them and then practice for 7 days doing just that. If it seems impossible, remember it is just 7 days, we can do anything for that amount of time.
- If work tends to drip into your evening, notice why. It is because you have “no choice?” Or because you have too much to do and not enough time? Or is it because you wouldn’t even know what else to do with your time? Or the mind just worries and worries and tells you to check the email and write one more email, just so you feel like it’s one less thing to do tomorrow? Whatever it is, just remember that nobody on their death bed regretted not working more. Secondly, if we rest properly and free our mind to do mundane things in the evening, we are most likely to be more productive, happier and creative the next day.
- If worry is your problem, or too many things to do, around 5 or 6 pm start building a list with every task and worry. Then every times it comes to mind later that evening, tell yourself it’s on that list and tomorrow you will take care of it.
- Now that you actually have some free time in the evening, what to do? Drink some tea, read a book, watch a movie (not too close to bedtime, to allow time off screens), spend time with your family, pull your cat’s tail (perhaps not that one!), do some art or go back to a hobby, or be bored for once!
- Lastly, most us are tethered to the phone (me, so guilty)! In fact some of us are addicted. One time I was so annoyed by my own habit that I turned my phone off most evenings. Just because that extra step of turning it on kept me away from doing it. Phone (and electronics in general), besides that blue light that affects our winding down process, tend to keep our brain active and sometimes even anxious because of the news, texts, and emails we might read. So, if turning it off after 7pm might feel like torture, try one hour before your typical time for one week and see how that feels.
Try these ideas, you will notice a sense of relaxation and satisfaction. Even better, this will help with that feeling that days and weeks and months are just going by like a fast train. You will find more meaning and pleasure in life. Tell a family member or friend about Life After 7pm and try these ideas together, it will make it easier and more exciting.
Damiana Corca is an Acupuncture Sleep Specialist and owner of Corca Center for Sleep and Radiant Health.