Updated: Jun 12
There are many things a person can get from going to therapy – new perspectives and different ways of understanding our history or experiences, emotional validation, unconditional positive regard, being witnessed without judgment, etc. But therapy continues long after your session has ended.
By now, you have begun to understand the role your nervous system can play in your health (here is a quick refresher in case that isn’t ringing any bells). The role between your mental health and your nervous system really can’t be overstated. Over the course of your lifetime, the stressors and the ways you manage and cope with these stressors all have a lasting impact on your nervous system. For many of us, this has left us in a state of deficit where our stressors have outweighed our ability to cope and repair. A game of catch-up that, over time, has left our nervous system depleted and in a state of dysregulation. As a result, anxiety, depression, pain, an inability to relax, dissociation, and so on.
Now, imagine trying to repair that lifetime of imbalance in a few one-hour sessions. Even the best therapists and the most reflective insights cannot give us those tools. It is therefore the daily, systematic, and consistent practices we engage in coupled with the informed guidance that move us toward regulation and help repair this imbalance. As such, the more healing things we can incorporate into our every day, the better.
To make the already challenging goal of changing our habits (seriously, watch that) and increasing self-care easier on you, below is a list of some gems. Things you can do in your everyday life that have the greatest possible impact on your mental health and nervous system. Also included are links on why these practices work and some hints on how to take advantage of their medicine.
So, if over the coming months you are at a loss for what to do between your sessions or are looking to get a jump start, start here. Pick one and do it. If you feel like you can’t do it well, do it less well. Can’t do 100%? Do 80%. Every bit counts. Over time, very small changes lead to very big differences. A daily 5-minute walk can be the thing that returns your fitness to you. A 3-minute meditation can be the thing that prevents you from yelling at a loved one. A breath of fresh air can be what allows your body to release. A nourishing meal could be what helps you to feel loved that day. And you’re worth it.
Please let me know how it goes.
DISCLAIMER: Take your time. Each piece below has medicine in it but you will only know if that practice is for you if you try them one at a time. Some of that medicine will be for you, some will not. Pace yourself, give each practice a chance to have an effect, and check-in with yourself, choosing those that speak to you. It is not to be forced or rushed, nor will the help of that tool show itself to you right away. So take your time, play with it, have fun, and know that this list is here for when you are ready and the time is right, not sooner. :)
Click the links for more information.
Try… (click to read about why)
End your shower in cold (build up to colder and longer), cold plunge in an ocean or lake, ice bath, splash your face with cold water, hold an ice cube.
Check out yoga and stretches on YouTube.
Borrow a friends pet, check out a petting zoo, visit the SPCA, become a dog-walker, see if you can volunteer for an organization that houses animals
(I am going to assume you know HOW to hug and offer that finding someone to hug can be the biggest challenge for some. Have you tried a co-worker? Your postman? Your therapist?)
Put on some music and shake each part of your body. Allow the muscle to relax and see if you can get each and every part of your body to shake!
150 minutes per week of time moving in any fashion that allows you to get rosy cheeks or where it is hard to hold a conversation. This doesn’t have to be vigorous or take forever. Do what you can.
Bath with bubbles, Epson salts, essential oils, or just a hot shower. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It’s also worth checking if you local pool has a hot tub.
For 15 minutes, grab a blanket to lie on or have on top of you, grab a pillow for under your hips, it can be nice to cover your eyes or place a weighted object on your torse.
Take off your shoes and notice the sensations under your feet. Sit down and notice the weight of your body on your back side.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Going to bed and waking up at the same time and improving sleep quality will have an impact.
How you start your day sets a precedent for what your day and mindset will be like throughout the day. Putting intention into this can change the tone of every day.
Journaling is a way to continue the therapeutic process at home, on your own. You are more likely to reflect on and see things in a different light if you put your words outside of your mind. Here are 70 journal prompts to get you started.
Not only does the Vitamin D and exposure to green help, the microbiome one is exposed to via dirt can also aid health and digestion. Help a friend, community gardens, volunteer in exchange for produce.
Bring your attention to each step, each sense, move slowly.
Get outside and breath.
Call a friend, watch funny YouTube videos, read a favorite joke, make silly faces, play with kids, check out laughter yoga.
Make yourself a nourishing meal
Since our earliest evolutionary history, food preparation has represented an opportunity to take care of ourselves and others, to share stories, and to connect.
Grab a coloring book and pencils from the dollar store, print one off of the internet, doodle on the inside of a cardboard box.
Learn something new, doing something challenging... you can do hard things.
Draw, sing, dance, craft, paint, write, film a video, CREATE! Self expression in non-linear ways can give us new avenues of expressing our feelings and experiences. Have you ever painted your sadness?
Chin and eyes 15 degrees upward, hands in fists, place hands on hips, shoulders back, feet apart.
Spotify, concerts, the radio in the car, play an instrument. Do your thing.
Helping others makes use feel more happy than doing something for ourselves.
Give yourself a light at the end of the tunnel.