Just like how you take care of your physical health, therapy is an important aspect of taking care of your mental health. Making a therapy appointment can be a tricky task, especially if your therapist’s schedule overlaps with your workday.
It’s normal to experience a range of intense emotions following your therapy session. Understand that it may seem tough to transition back to work if you’re feeling emotionally and mentally drained. There are also a few ways to make going about your to-do list a little easier post-session.
If you plan to schedule your appointment during work hours, aim for a day when your workload may be lighter and you can work from home, if possible. Moreover, try to block some additional “transition time” in your schedule for after the visit, said Katie Duke, a nurse practitioner on the health care advisory board of the Figs clothing company in Santa Monica, California.
If you have the appointment on a busier workday, it is also helpful to inform your therapist if there are any important meetings that are happening after the session so that the therapist can also be mindful about tailoring what is talked about in the visit, said Alyssa Mancao, a therapist and founder of Alyssa Marie Wellness in Los Angeles. She also recommends being aware of time so you can spend the last 10 minutes of the visit on coping techniques to transition back to “work mode.”
And if you need a little extra help beyond that, here are a few expert-approved tips on how to pull yourself together after therapy if your appointment is during work:
Go for a walk.
Mancao recommends going for a 15-minute walk after your therapy session to help calm your nervous system and transition your mind from being in “therapy mode.”
Take some time to get some fresh air and go for a walk outside or make a few rounds in your office building, if possible.
Try a quick breathing exercise.
Deep breathing is a practice that helps cultivate mindfulness, a.k.a. the ability to be present. Mindfulness can help calm your busy mind, improve your mood and reduce any stress you may be experiencing.
“Taking slow, controlled breaths that engage the diaphragm sends signals to our brain to evoke calmness and relaxation,” said Andrea Elkon, a psychologist with Best Within You Therapy & Wellness, based in Atlanta. She recommends trying the following diaphragmatic breathing practice:
- Aim to count to at least four as you inhale, imagining your diaphragm as a balloon filling with air
- Exhale for at least another four counts, releasing all of the air
Give yourself a little pep talk
If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed or drained after your therapy session, understand that it is completely OK to feel this way. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t let your inner voice criticize you.
“Instead, remind yourself that seeing a therapist is one of the best investments you can make for your mental health and well-being. Shift your focus on how seeking therapy has made a positive difference in your life,” Duke said.
Engage your senses with a distraction
When you focus on your senses in the present, it will shift your attention away from the painful memories and emotions that therapy might trigger, Elkon said.
To engage your senses, try activities like coloring, rubbing lotion on your hands, playing with a fidget toy or drinking a cup of hot tea or a very cold drink.
Nourish yourself with a snack
If you scheduled a therapy appointment during your workday, make sure to have a snack and water on hand after the session.
“Your body will likely have a stress response to the therapy session, leaving you feeling depleted, and having a healthy snack with some water is a way to nourish yourself,” said Kristin Meekhof, a therapist and author of ”A Widow’s Guide to Healing.”
Jump into your to-do list or plan an event
It may be comforting to feel in control by tackling some items you’ve been putting off.
“Engaging in some sort of task that involves your thinking or planning brain will quiet the emotion centers and help you feel centered in the moment,” said Neha Chaudhary, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of BeMe Health, a mobile mental health platform.
Chaudhary recommends drafting an email to someone at work (but not sending it!), writing down a grocery list or meal plan for the week, or thinking about the next place you want to travel and what activities you would do there.
Take it slow when going back to work
It’s normal to feel like you need to occupy your mind with work-related things immediately after your therapy appointment. However, be sure to not ignore any emotions you may be feeling.
Take slow steps as you start completing your work duties, and keep a journal handy to write down any of your thoughts and feelings as they come, said Regine Muradian, a psychologist based in California.
“Give yourself some grace, and remind yourself that you don’t need to finish everything today,” she said.