How to Chill Out at Night and Wind Down (Without Wine)

If you’re anything like me, you equate relaxing with a night big fat glass of wine. I mean, who doesn’t? I won’t lie, the mellow buzz that comes from those first few sips of red is blissful. Light some candles, get a little giddy, and let the stresses of the day melt away while you devour a few episodes of the Real Housewives. This was my nightly routine. Until I realized those few glasses of wine were wreaking havoc on my sleep, my skin, my gut health, and my weight.

The first time I realized I needed to cut back on my evening “wine down” time, I panicked. How was I going to shut off after a long day? Could I get tired on my own? Would I sleep? These were all pretty legit thoughts, as I was using red wine as a bit of a tranquilizer at night. I don’t know about you, but I have one of those brains that does not stop. If there’s a thought to think of, I’m thinking of it. Time for bed! Let’s replay every conversation we’ve had over the last month, think about renting vs. buying, mentally plan out our next vacation, and debate over which shoes would look best with that new dress.

I knew I needed to create a new healthy routine at night that would allow me to chill out without alcohol (at least most nights). I started doing a little research and trying some new things out, and here’s what’s been working for me. And for those who are wondering, I still enjoy wine if I go out to dinner, or on the occasional night I’m really in the mood for it, but I try to keep it out of the house. I probably enjoy it, on average, one night a week these days. And it’s made a big difference.

Bedtime tea. And the one I drink has catnip in it, ya’ll! Yes, CATNIP. But before you envision me sucking on a mouse made of yarn, let me clarify. The catnip herb has relaxation properties in it that also help calm your nerves. It’s soothing and has been known to help you prepare for sleep. I drink Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night. You can grab it in most supermarkets, on Amazon, or on their site. This stuff makes me slightly drowsy and just helps me unwind a bit. Nothing crazy. But it works. I also love Yogi bedtime tea. Both have pretty much the same effects.

Hot pink bubble bath. Okay, it doesn’t have to be pink. But it helps. I love to take a bath at night and throw in a Lush bath bomb with essential oils. I imagine the stress of the day melting off me as I soak. I take a few minutes to replay the high points of the day in my mind and celebrate everything I accomplished.

Limiting phone/screen time an hour before bed. I used to lay in bed with my phone glued to my hand for at least an hour – sometimes more. Like, really Cara? Do you need to be on Instagram right up until your eyeballs close? I read that separating yourself from the phone and computer about an hour before bedtime really helps you disconnect, so I decided to give it a try. It honestly helps so much. I won’t lie – at first I had to get over the crippling anxiety of not knowing what my very last email of the night was going to be, but I got over it (LOL). I now turn on a mindless show like the Real Housewives of Anywhere, and sip my catnip tea in peace.

Lavender essential oil. This. gives. me. LIFE. Diffused or on my wrists, or both. I love lavender. It’s such a beautiful scent that really helps take the edge off. I dab a few drops on my wrists and do a few inhales as I’m getting ready for bed. When I inhale, I imagine myself breathing in positive thoughts, and when I exhale, I imagine myself breathing out the stress of the day. I sometimes even throw a few drops in my aromatherapy diffuser and let the soothing scent help me drift off as I watch Ramona fight for the best bedroom in Mexico. (any Real Housewives fans out there!?)

Gratitude. As soon as I get in bed, I immediately begin thinking of everything I’m thankful for. I list each thing off in my mind. I am usually out by the time I’m on number 5 or so. It’s honestly such a peaceful and happy ritual and it always puts me at ease. Note: this also works for any situation you may feel anxious in. I do it when I’m about to take off on an airplane, or whenever I experience rough turbulence that makes me nervous (spoiler alert: I’m not the best flyer!)

Visualization. If my gratitude list doesn’t knock me out, I turn to visualization. I imagine, in detail, how I want my next day to look. I think about what I’m wearing, what I want to experience – all happy things. Sometimes I even replay really exciting moments in my life that make me feel good. I just allow myself to get lost in my mind and it feels so good. Remember: your thoughts create your reality. Make sure they are fabulous!


With love and moderation,


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Showing 6 comments
  • Elizabeth Resnick

    I’m with you on the wine. Totally enjoy it, but it doesn’t need to be an everyday thing. I’m not a huge tea drinker, but I drink a magnesium drink at night (Natural Calm) that tastes good to me and truly helps me calm down. A sleep mask is awesome too…putting in on is like another signal to my ridiculously active brain that it’s time to take a break.

  • Allison

    I love this post. I was just thinking last night that I am drinking wine too many nights a week and want to break that habit for the most part. Thank you for the suggestions! Also, I just ordered and read Girl Code and it’s really changed my perspective on my life. So thank you so much for that.

    P.S. I’m not a great flyer either and am heading on a flight to California in the morning, so I’m going to try out your gratitude list tip 😉

  • Amanda

    Falling asleep and staying asleep has become a huge issue for me. I can’t wait to try some of these tricks. Thanks 🙂

  • Alex Minto

    Do you have a favorite store to by candles or favorite scents?!

    • caraalwill

      I love Voluspa candles. French Cade Lavender is my fave by them. I also love anything with a woodsy, fiery scent! XO

  • Jen

    LOL this is me in a nutshell! Also Ramona always needing the best room? I can’t! Thank you so much for these tips. I’m definitely going to try them out. I would actually love it if you could write a blog about how you handle drinking in social situations. I definitely use alcohol as a crutch for anxiety in social situations and wanting to fit in and was wondering if you could shed some light on that.

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