The Mighty Logo

7 Ideas for Self-Care After a Particularly Hard Therapy Session

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

After therapy, you might be left feeling drained, angry, or in my case, very weepy. I can’t tell you the number of therapy sessions that have ended with me trying to schedule my next appointment through tears and snot (oh yeah folks, I am not a pretty crier).

Therapy brings up a lot of intense emotions and memories, and you need to take time to recover after therapy. Under the best of circumstances this can be difficult, let alone now, with winter fast approaching and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic raging on worse than ever.

How are you supposed to practice self-care to recover after therapy if you can’t go see friends or go on a walk or any of your other usual coping mechanisms?

I’ve had to figure that out myself the past few weeks, and I think I’ve come up with quite a few helpful self-care ideas to get help you get through therapy in the coming months. Here are seven self-care ideas to try after a particularly hard therapy session. Enjoy!

1. Get coffee from a drive-thru.

Do I drink a cup of homemade coffee during my therapy telehealth session? Yes. Do I still deserve a fancy store-bought coffee after therapy? Absolutely.

If you’re trying to save money and buy less coffee, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy anything at all. Instead, try getting a small coffee from McDonald’s — it’s only $2! Or schedule your therapy appointments for the afternoon so you can get in on Dunkin’s $2 latte deal from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

I’m not saying spend a hundred bucks on yourself after every therapy session. I’m saying go out and spend $2 on yourself, on something that will make you feel good. You deserve that.

2. Listen to a soothing guided meditation.

I’m not great at mindfulness and meditation, but I have found that guided meditations work really well for me. Silence gives my brain too much room to wander and I end up feeling frustrated. But with a guided meditation, I have a soothing voice to keep me focused on one thing in particular.

I tend to look up guided meditations for healing the inner child because that’s usually what I talk about in therapy, but you can search for guided meditations related to your current struggles. One great place to find guided meditations? My podcast, The Healing Unscripted Podcast. Each episode ends with a short, calming guided meditation that helps you work through anxiety, trauma and more.

3. Practice EFT tapping.

OK, I won’t lie, I actually just learned about EFT tapping today in therapy. But already I can tell it’s going to be a really great way to help me recover after therapy.

EFT stands for emotional freedom technique, and EFT tapping is meant to help us accept our emotions by helping move them through the body. One way to do this is through acupuncture, but tapping works by tapping on the same spots used in acupuncture, called meridian points (areas where energy often gets trapped).

It’s a little “woo” sounding, I know, but there’s actually a lot of research proving that EFT works with both anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). So if you find yourself getting overwhelmed after therapy, try typing “EFT tapping for anxiety” into YouTube. There are a lot of really great tapping videos that will guide you through what to do.

4. Journal.

I love journaling. I’m a writer at heart and whenever something upsets me, writing is the best way for me to work through it.

But you don’t have to be a writer to get something out of journaling. Like tapping, writing gives physical motion to your emotions, which helps you process them instead of letting them ruminate and spiral.

If you’re anxious about journaling, not sure what kind of journal to use, what to write about, etc., don’t worry. The truth is, there are no rules, but you can make yourself guidelines if it helps you. Here’s what I do:

  • I write in an unlined journal because I feel like it gives me permission to write wherever I want, however I want, with plenty of space to cross things out and write in the corners.
  • Sometimes I wait to write until my emotions are bursting at the seams, but other times I try to be a little more proactive. I start by just writing about whatever I’m doing (“I’m sitting, writing, and I’m nervous about what to say.”) Then eventually it usually turns into something more substantive.
  • If that doesn’t work or isn’t your style, you can also look up prompts. My favorites are the ones from Haneen Ahmad, a licensed therapist I follow on Instagram (@haneen.licsw). Sometimes my therapist will give me prompts too. You can always ask yours to give you some guidance as well.

5. Try an adult coloring book.

I love adult coloring books, especially the sweary ones. They’re a great way to recover after therapy. They involve lots of color, moving your hands, and letting your mind wander and process in the background.

I actually designed my own swear word coloring book that you can download, print, and color yourself. It’s full of the best swear words and beautiful flowers ready to be colored, peacefully or angrily.

6. Buy something small online.

A lot of the therapy recovery options on this list are free because I know therapy is expensive enough. But sometimes, a little splurge just feels good.

Sometimes (not every time) after therapy, it can be nice to hop on Etsy, pick out a new mug or hat or journal and just buy the thing, without overthinking it too much. I recently bought myself a new, fancy pillow after a particularly emotional therapy session, and I’m so excited. (By fancy, I really just mean it cost more than $5 and isn’t flat as a board.)

Back when we could go out and do things, I used to wander around town, looking in antique shops and I would buy a trinket or two that just made me happy. Now we have to window shop online, and I know it’s not the same, but it can still be nice.

7. Dye your hair.

This is my go-to strategy for any and all emotional distress. If I’m bored, I dye my hair. If I’m having an identity crisis, I dye my hair. If I have a rough therapy session, I dye my hair. It’s cathartic and peaceful and it brings about harmless change that still feels exciting.

But all that hair dying can be hard on your hair. Over the years, I’ve found that some brands are easier on my hair than others.

If I’m going for a natural color that will last a while, I use Ion permanent liquid dye from Sally Beauty because it’s cheap and the color holds great. But if I’m going for a wilder color (like my current Rock n’ Roll Red) I use Manic Panic. It’s vegan and ammonia-free, which means it’s way easier on your hair, but it’s also definitely only semi-permanent and needs to be redone frequently. Luckily, I love dying my hair.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog, Healing Unscripted.

Photo by Alina Vilchenko from Pexels

Originally published: December 1, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home