‘I work in two different time zones; here’s how I wind down at the end of every day’

For the past few years, this writer has been working unconventional hours. From weekend work to working partial Australian hours on the other side of the world, she’s gotten falling asleep almost immediately after finishing work down to a fine art.

It’s been a long time since I was in a typical 9-5. Three years ago, I became the Saturday editor at Whimn.com.au (vale) while simultaneously working Monday to Friday in the marketing team of an Australian fashion label. Going out on Friday nights was a big no-no unless I wanted to wake up at 5am for my shift at 6am the next day not knowing what year it was.

From there, I went to US correspondent while following my fiancé to New York, which involved starting work sometime in the afternoon and well into the evening because of the time difference; currently, it’s 2pm to 10pm but come daylight savings, it’ll get later.

I’ve been operating on this topsy-turvy schedule for nearly two years now, and because I’ve been determined these hours wouldn’t disrupt my circadian rhythm too much, I’ve found a few things along the way that help me relax at the end of my shift.

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After dinner

I pop on my blue light blocking glasses and activate my laptop’s night setting to reduce blue light even further. As our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo will tell you, the blue light emitted from our various devices suppresses melatonin, the sleep hormone, and keeps cortisol levels (the stress hormone) high, so falling asleep is more difficult.

About an hour before bed

I brew myself a caffeine-free herbal tea to sip on while I respond to emails. At the moment, I’m loving Yogi Tea Bedtime, which is a mix of liquorice root, chamomile, cinnamon, rosehip, and a bunch of other goodies that help with calmness and relaxation.

As soon as I log off

Poor posture is so common in a work environment, but particularly when you work from home and don’t have a proper ergonomic office chair. And as experts will tell you, poor posture can lead to muscle stiffness and headaches.

Not that long ago, a friend recommended this yoga wheel, and, holy hell, this thing is a lifesaver. Once I’ve taken a few deep, slow breaths, I pull this yoga wheel out and, lying face up, drape my back over it with my arms in T pose to really open my chest up and feel stretching through my pectorals where I’ve been storing all that tension from hunching. I rock back and forth a little for about a minute and breath through any tightness.

An acupressure matt has also been great for those really non-stop days. You’ve probably seen these things on Instagram, which is how I got onto it. This is a foam matt covered in hundreds of tiny plastic spikes designed to release muscle tension, increase blood flow, and aid relaxation.

My personal experience is positive, though these things do take a bit to get used to. It’s uncomfortable at first which is why it’s important to breathe through that, and while it may be tempting to stop after a few seconds, I found immense relaxation after a few minutes. Oh, and it’s no screens from now on, too. My fiancé is a night owl, so we might spend a bit of time catching up on each other’s day and I might have another cup of tea.

Skincare as soul care

I’ve already written about how changing the monotony of my skincare routine to something more mindful has really helped me relax. I’ve forgone a complicated, multi-product routine to just three steps: Double cleanse, niacinamide, and face oil, and not only does my skin feel balanced and healthy but it’s an easy routine to maintain even when I’m tired.

I light a candle, take more deep breaths, wash my face gently and deliberately, and then do about five minutes of gua sha facial massage with a jade tool and face oil to relax my jaw (I’m a clencher, fun).

As I get into bed

Finishing work at 10pm, I try to be in bed by 11.30pm at the latest.

A few spritzes of lavender pillow mist help create a calm atmosphere for sleep, and even when it’s below zero outside, I still open the window a crack to let fresh air circulate.

The light goes out pretty much straight away though I might read for a few minutes, too. We live really close to the Brooklyn Bridge so there’s a lot of traffic at all hours and New Yorkers love their car horns. I have earplugs for that.

I put my blackout eye mask on and then, lying flat on my back, take about 10 really deep, slow breaths. Voila, I’m usually asleep in about 10 minutes and I’m awake at 7.30am ready for a new day.