Sunday evening can often be clouded with “the fear”, especially in January and even if you weren’t drinking last night. And I have found the quality of my sleep on Sunday night can make or break my week – a restful night leaves me raring to go for the week, while spending half the time in bed tossing and turning can mean I feel like I’m on the back foot until at least Wednesday…at which point there’s always a part of me that says “f*ck it, it’s nearly the weekend, there’s no point trying anymore” (And my inner procrastinator shoves half of my remaining work to Monday of the following week – no wonder I give myself the fear).
So many sleep guides and wellness websites advocate a bedtime routine to helping you nod off, and these are great, if you can actually do them. However, one thing I’ve noticed about the Sunday fear is how adept it is at encouraging procrastination and endless phone scrolling, neither of which are likely to help me achieve a decent night’s sleep. So a very long routine simply isn’t realistic, nor is one that I can’t look forward to. I mentioned recently that The Positive Planner has become part of my nightly routine, but I’ve also started a very simple stretching routine that seems to strike a good balance between “not too much” and “feeling like I have a routine”. I definitely find attending to both my racing mind and my tight muscles creates the perfect counterbalance to the tension I usually feel. I don’t think these need to particularly be completed together – if you go for a walk or do you food shopping on a Sunday evening, this can be done when you come in home. The whole point is to make it as easy as you can for yourself, and if that means doing that bit of time before bed, that’s fine – it’s just about doing it!
I like to start any stretching routine with a couple of minutes in savasana and focus on my breath (full disclosure: sometimes I do this from the couch if I’m really struggling to get going). So lie down on your back, let your toes fall out to the side, face your palms up towards the ceiling and close your eyes. Take 5-6 deep breaths through your nose, breathing from your tummy first and then your chest, counting slowly to 4 on your inhale, holding for 4 and breathing out for 4. Focus your mind on your breath, and try and let any thoughts that pop into your mind float along in front of you as if you’re watching them on a screen.
This is a very simple posture, that focuses on the breath once again and can help you breath deeply. It’s also a good one for stretching your back (which anyone with a desk job can usually benefit from), although obviously be careful if you have any back injuries and never push yourself to the point of pain. Get onto all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders, and your knees below your hips, with your feet pointing straight out behind you. Take a deep breath in through your nose, pushing your stomach down towards the mat and looking up towards the ceiling as you do so.
Hold this position for 1-2 seconds and then breathe out, curling your back up towards the ceiling and your head towards the mat. Repeat this for 5-6 breaths, or longer if you like.
Downward Facing Dog
A classic yoga pose, that most people have heard of – and it is probably my most-hated and most-loved yoga pose all at the same time. Downward dog is superb for stretching out your hamstrings and calves, but I always find the more I need to stretch these, the less I want to because it hurts. The key to this pose is not to push yourself too hard, and to breathe into the posture, and see if you can hold it for a bit, rather than pushing yourself in a posture that you can’t maintain for more than a single second.
From the cat-cow position on all fours, lift your hips up towards the ceiling, straighten your legs and dip your head downwards. Straighten out your back and take a couple of steps away from your hands if you need to.
I try and hold this position for at least 6 breaths, (as I pretty much always really need it) and bending your knees one by one can help stretch out your legs and make it more bearable at the same time. Don’t worry about your feet being flat on the floor – the more important elements are raising your hips up towards the ceiling, and making sure your shoulders are pushed wide, ensuring there is space around your neck, rather than being hunched up in this area (very guilty of the hunching, personally, so I really have to focus on this!).
This is a wonderfully restful pose, and it’s up there in my top 5. It is actually quite a good stretch if you keep your arms active, which most non-yogis are not necessarily aware of. It is the perfect one to set you up for relaxation and sleep, and I always feel so safe in this position (take that, Sunday fear).
From downward dog, bend your knees and go back onto all fours. Bring your toes together, push your knees out slightly wider and sit back onto your heels, keeping your hands on the floor in front of you. You can stretch your hands out further in front if you’re able to. Spread your fingers wide and actively stretch forward. Hold this for as long as you want to.
If my head has calmed down by now, I’ll do another couple of minutes of breathing in savasana – if it hasn’t, I’ll journal instead. This routine takes about 10 minutes, so it’s an easy one to fit into your Sunday evening, even if you’ve been lying on the couch scrolling for most of it (welcome to the club, friend), so hopefully that helps in dealing with your Sunday fear. If you liked this mini stretch routine, check out this sequence designed to get your skin glowing.