How to Deal with Therapy Hangover After Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has always been linked with the so-called therapy hangover where a person experiences being drained out after dealing with different complex emotions. The truth is that it can be quite exhausting to discuss your inner state with a therapist. There are even instances when people feel so much worse following a session compared to how they felt when they started. 

To make things worse, most people no longer have the choice to decide when and if they even need therapy in the first place. Since the world suffered from the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of people are searching for assistance, leaving mental health professionals in a serious dilemma of catering to the surging demand. 

The tough competition for appointment schedules might leave you with no other option but to try to squeeze teletherapy into a busy workday. While this is an advantage for those who have access to technology and can afford to do so, it only leads to yet another tricky question: how can you overcome therapy hangovers and return to your everyday responsibilities? 

According to experts, there are several ways to decompress and go on with your day after therapy. And the good news is that therapy hangover isn’t such a bad thing all the time. This may also indicate that your effort and hard work are starting to pay off.  

If your full attention is on emotionally laden topics during psychotherapy, which is exactly what a lot of people do, feeling tired after the appointment is normal and even indicates that your work was fruitful. 

Common Causes of Therapy Hangover

Feeling depleted or tired after therapy is normal and common for people. This is almost the same as other experiences that involve intense emotions, like crying for hours when grieving or having a big fight with a loved one. 

During therapy, you are typically asked to face things that threaten you in some way. The goal here is not to avoid discomfort and to lean into it instead. 

Facing whatever feels threatening to you, like problematic patterns in your behaviour or trauma, can result in a heightened albeit tiring emotional state. Bad and good emotions with such high intensity can both trigger your sympathetic system which can be physically and mentally taxing at the same time. 

A therapy hangover is that feeling of sadness, exhaustion or anxiety after a therapy session.

You will also spend some time talking about upsetting topics. Being afraid of negative emotions following therapy is among the four main challenges that experts have identified that prevent people from being more open to their therapist. 

However, processing those painful memories and facing this fear while engaging in short-term distressing can be very helpful in the long run. This can be considered as a sign of the effort that the person has put into the therapy session. It’s almost similar to exercise in some sense. You will need to recover because you feel exhausted after a nice workout. After some time, things that used to be hard will become easier, and sooner or later, you’ll proceed to more challenges. To reach your goals, you feel more motivated to work hard. 

Now that you know the most common causes of therapy hangover, here are a few tips to help you decompress after your psychotherapy session:

Be Ready and Take Note of Your Schedule

Be prepared to experience being emotionally drained following your therapy in the best way you can. Try not to schedule important tasks and meetings after your therapy appointment to make this possible. 

depression is a psychological disorder
One of the most common and treated forms of psychological disorders is depression.

If the world is perfect, you can just book your therapy appointment during days when you’re off work so you can have lots of time to recoup and rest afterward. However, the world was far from perfect so it’s recommended that you schedule your therapy during times of the day or days of the week when you have a lighter workload. 

Are your Thursdays scheduled for important meetings with your direct supervisor? If yes, then, it means that Thursday isn’t the most ideal day for your therapy session. However, aside from planning, everything depends on one important step, and that is to be nice to yourself. 

You have to be patient with yourself if you’re having a hard time managing your emotions after your therapy session. Following your appointment, you might not be as present or relaxed as you’d wish to be so being compassionate to yourself even for a bit can work like magic. 

Get a Buffer Zone Ready

If you need to go back to work and other responsibilities right after your psychotherapy session, you might want to look for an activity that will engage all your senses and ground you in the present moment. It could be something as simple as enjoying your favourite coffee or trying some deep breathing exercises. 

coffee after psychotherapy session
After your psychotherapy session, you might want to look for an activity that will engage all your senses and ground you in the present moment. It could be something as simple as enjoying your favourite coffee. 

It’s also recommended to take 10 minutes to stretch, perform some yoga, or go for a stroll. These physical activities will help you leave your head alone and focus on your body instead after your therapy session. 

Try Some Reflection Exercises 

It’s also recommended to jot down notes during your appointments to summarize the major takeaways. Take note of the things you learned, the things you like to remember for future reference, and other goals you like to achieve for the week. 

If you need to shift your focus back to work, school, or relationships, transitioning back to your usual routine will be easier if you know that you keep a record of the therapy session. 

breathing exercises after psychotherapy
Take 10 minutes to stretch or try some deep breathing exercises. These will help you leave your head alone and focus on your body instead after your psychotherapy session. 

Imagine putting all of your lingering or unresolved emotions inside a container, securing it, and then keeping it in a safe place before you shift gears to things you have to do next. Once your emotions start creeping in at a later date, just imagine putting them inside the container so you can address them later on. 

Ask for Help from Your therapist before the Session Ends

Just like with exercise, adding too much weight too early will let you work on your new skills before you try again. So, make sure you work with your therapist to help you manage your therapy hangover and use this to move forward.

That dreaded therapy hangover shouldn’t stop you from undergoing psychotherapy. While it’s not an easy job, things will pay off with a collaboration with a trusted therapist combined with diligence.

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