A processing session is one where we are doing the phase of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) that involves working on difficult memories or topics, typically using eye movements.
After a session, it can be tempting to jump right back into daily life. However, I encourage you to consider slowing down and taking it easy afterwards. Here are some recommendations of things you can do to prevent overwhelm and get the most out the session you just had.
Plan Time After
I realize this may be a challenge, but if it’s possible, schedule some time after a session where you’re not needed mentally or physically. Having time to decompress is valuable after a processing session. This is especially beneficial on the days that you anticipate working on a difficult topic.
Think ‘slow mo’. Perhaps don’t stand up right away, and when you do, stand up slowly, walk slowly, take a sip of your water slowly. You get the point. This allows your brain to rest and adjust for a bit, without feeling rushed into a new thought process, task, or challenge.
Lay Under a Weighted Blanket
After a session, it can feel nice to be still and embraced by something comforting. You may be recovering from thinking about difficult things or experiencing a newfound sense of relief after releasing trauma you’ve carried for a long time. Enjoy the relaxation and soothing sensation.
Listen to Bi-Lateral Music
Bi-lateral (back and forth) music are sounds or songs that alternate between ears. Our brains tend to find this very calming so when you pair that with soft rainfall, ocean waves, or gentle flutes it’s a recipe for relaxation. This can help your mind calm down and prevent your thoughts from jumping to the next topics, allowing yourself just to hang out and listen for a while.
* Note: You have to wear headphones while listening to these to get the effects of it. Also, typically, the slower back and forth is more calming than faster but feel out what works for you.
* Tip: Open the links prior to your session for a smooth transition over to them and to help you remember that they're there.
Here are some of my favorites (I have no affiliation with these links). You can also browse for “bilateral music" on YouTube, Apple Music, Spotify, or Pandora but just listen to them with headphones and make sure that they play the sounds back and forth as some of them are misleading.
Take a Nap
If it’s possible, go for it. Your brain just did a lot of work and may be exhausted. Sleeping after processing can actually enhance the results because you get a REM sleep cycle, which helps solidify the work you just did.
If this is your thing, and even if it’s not, it’s worth trying out. A lot of new perspectives and interesting things can come up during a processing session, taking the time to openly journal about it can help to sort out your thoughts. You can start with simply typing (or writing) out what happened during the session and let it go from there.
Express what you’re feeling through a creative outlet, if that’s your jam. If you’re a doodler, doodle. If you’re a painter, paint. If you’re a gardener, garden.
Take a few minutes to simply be present. Allow yourself to exist in the moment, without any pressure or obligations. Find a quiet space and give yourself permission to just be.
Get Some Air
It’s easier to recommend this in some months and not so much in others but, weather permitting, taking a step outside and taking a breath can help your mind to re-center, refresh, and gently switch gears. Feel the breeze, the sunlight, the fresh air. Look at the plants and nature around you. Even if just for one single deep breath. You’re honoring yourself for the work you just did and shifting mental focus.
Take a Walk
Walking can do wonders after a session. You not only get fresh air, change of scenery, and vitamin D, the walking motion also provides bi-lateral stimulation, which is calming and helps sort out lingering thoughts.
Whatever your self-care is, see if you can make a little more room for prioritizing it on days that you process. Can a chore wait a day? Do you enjoy taking a bath? Can you go on a walk? Can you work on that puzzle some tonight? Can you cozy up in a blanket (cranking the fan if you need to cool it off to make this possible)? Is today the day to go the gym? or is today the day to take a nap? Do you feel like you need extra nourishment of healthy food? or perhaps an easy dinner night that doesn’t require much mental work? Be curious about what it feels like you need and take extra care of yourself.
Use Some Coping Skills
Go through the skills you have as well as the Coping Skill Squares that I may have sent you, and see if any apply to right now. If you don't have these, ask me and I'll be glad to send them your way.
Talk to Someone About Your Session
If this feels helpful, reach out to your support system and talk about your session.
Give yourself permission sit with your emotions a little longer. Give yourself permission to cry. Let yourself feel some feels without trying to shut them off, and when you’re ready, take a breath and do something else. I have more tips on doing this here.