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If you’ve ever come out of a therapy session feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or even “hungover” from all the emotions you felt during the session, you’re not alone. It’s common to feel this way after processing distressing emotions and life experiences in therapy. But there are things you can do to support yourself before, during, and after a session to help make the experience more manageable. Keep reading to find out more.
What is a ‘therapy hangover’?
A therapy hangover is the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical exhaustion that can be felt after a intensive emotional therapy session. It occurs as emotional overwhelm comes to the surface in order to process and understand, leaving us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed as we integrate the new insight our session has offered us.
Often times, it’s been described by clients as being so emotional or mentally drained it feels like a hangover – not just from tears but also from the emotional labour of work done during a therapeutic session. Everyone experiences the emotional toll of this type of processing differently, and knowing what to expect can help you plan for possible self-care following therapy sessions.
Why therapy can feel emotionally overwhelming
One of the most difficult parts of therapy can be the sensation of becoming overwhelmed with emotion. This is especially true for those who aren’t used to talking about their feelings or have difficulty expressing themselves. As you come face-to-face with painful memories of past trauma and unresolved conflicts, it can feel like too much to handle and bring up raw emotions.
Therapy can make clients feel a sense of overwhelm because it requires acknowledging and processing emotions that are complex, uncomfortable and have often been suppressed for many years. However, it is important to remember that going through this process can help us reach a point where we’re ready to change and become empowered as individuals; meaning that through this often difficult, yet rewarding process you will gain a greater sense of acceptance and control over your emotions and outlook on life.
How to support yourself before, during, and after a therapy session
One of the most important things you can do to support yourself before, during, and after a therapy session is to be honest with your therapist. This means being honest about your thoughts, feelings, experiences, and anything else that comes up for you. Being honest with your therapist will help them better understand your needs and how to help you create a plan to support yourself before and after therapy sessions. It will also help you feel more comfortable and safe in the therapy process.
Tips and advice for those struggling with their mental health
As someone who has experienced struggles with mental health in the past and present, I understand how difficult it can be to ask for assistance and support. Nevertheless, that is often what is needed in times like these. Self-care activities such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and simply taking a break from technology can all be useful; however, it’s equally important to reach out to those you trust and connect with professionals when needed.
Counselors and therapists are dedicated to providing a safe space to listen and understand your experiences without judgement. Through exploring internal motivations, understanding your trauma response, building coping skills, increasing self-compassion and understanding feelings of guilt or shame surrounding mental health issues, counseling can lead towards meaningful changes in life.
A therapy hangover is defined as the feeling of being emotionally drained after a therapy session. This can happen for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: reliving traumatic events, exploring difficult emotions, or processing some heavy news. There are a few things you can do to support yourself before, during, and after a therapy session to avoid or minimize a therapy hangover.
First, it can be helpful to have an idea of what you want to discuss in therapy before you go. This way, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed or like you’re just talking in circles. Second, it’s important to process your emotions after the session is over. This can be done through journaling, talking to a friend or trusted family member, or even just sitting with the emotions for a bit. Lastly, give yourself time and space after therapy to rest, recharge, and focus on grounding and self-soothing skills. This might include taking a hot bath, going for a walk outside, or cuddling with a pet.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, know that you are not alone and there is help available. These tips and pieces of advice are meant to serve as a starting point – reach out to your therapist or another mental health professional if you need additional support.