Therapy is a wonderful tool for our mental wellness, but it’s not the only tool out there!
And in fact, even if you are in therapy, that shouldn’t be the only way you check in with yourself. As valuable as that one hour a week is, leaving your mental wellness unattended all the other hours of the week, might actually make progress in therapy more difficult.
In order to truly progress, changes need to happen around the board. Therapy will help give you the tools you need to understand what areas of yourself and your life need more care, and ideas on how to provide that care for yourself. But forming habits and routines to continue with that care outside of your therapy is crucial.
So what are ways you can tend to yourself between and outside of sessions?
Set reminders to check in with yourself
It’s important to keep giving yourself space and time to check in with how you’re feeling outside of the one hour a week you have in therapy. While that one hour is wonderful, it’s not enough to maintain the entirety of your mental wellness by itself! It can be easy to push uncomfortable feelings aside and tell ourselves that we will “deal with them in therapy” but pushing them down doesn’t get rid of them, and doesn’t actually help us manage them any better. It can even make you feel tense and overwhelmed by the time you get to therapy, because you won’t even know what to talk about!
Setting daily reminders on your phone (or multiple daily reminders, perhaps one for morning, one for afternoon, one for evening, etc.) is a quick and easy way to make sure you’re checking in with yourself. When the alarm goes off, ask yourself:
- How am I feeling right now?
- How have I been feeling all day up until now?
- Am I holding tension in my body or mind?
- Is there something I need to express so that I don’t hold it in?
- How can I find a way to release or express these feelings?
Just like we said above, having an outlet for your feelings is crucial for mental wellness. Sometimes that outlet is therapy, sometimes it’s art or music, or venting to a friend. Another simple way to add it into your routine is to try journaling. Think of the questions in the above point–you can use them as journaling prompts! Or you can introduce a brain-dump journaling practice into your daily routine. Each evening, give yourself a few minutes to dump everything you’re feeling into your journal. Don’t worry about how it sounds or if it makes sense, just let your mind flow and release anything you’re feeling into the journal.
Mindfulness & Meditation
If you find your thoughts tend to run away without you, that you are constantly overthinking, or trapped in anxiety thought-spirals, mindfulness and meditation can be wonderful tools to help you manage that outside of therapy. The whole point of mindfulness is to be fully present in the current moment–meaning all of those stray thoughts that would usually drag you into an endless cycle of overthinking, are acknowledged and released instead of latched onto. Check out our post here on five simple ways to begin adding mindfulness into your life. You can also find beginner friendly guided meditations on youtube, or download a mindfulness app to help get you started!
Learn to identify stress triggers
When you know how stress shows up in your life, you can plan better stress management. Ask yourself:
- What causes stress for me at work?
- Are there things that cause stress for me at home?
- What causes stress for me in my social life?
- How does stress show up in my body?
- What are stress relieving activities that have worked for me in the past?
When you know the types of things that cause stress, as well as the ways in which it manifests itself in your body, you can be more proactive about your stress management. When you know stressful events are coming up, plan in stress relief that has worked for you in the past. And when you feel those stress symptoms showing up in your body (headaches, stomach aches, lack of sleep, digestion issues, etc.) you will know “Hey I must be stressed! What can I do to help relieve it?”
Get enough sleep
A simple, but often overlooked part of both physical and mental wellness. Some symptoms of not getting proper sleep include
- Lack of motivation
- Mood swings
- Head & body aches
- Digestion issues
- Inability to focus
- Memory problems
Figure out a nighttime routine that helps you get ready for bed. This can be setting a time to be done with screens, tidying up your space, having a designated nighttime book to read, meditating, journaling, etc. Establishing a routine can help signal to your body that it is time to sleep, which will help you fall asleep more easily and naturally.
Affirmations are a great example of “fake it ‘til you make it.” Repeating positive affirmations to ourselves helps to rewire the way we think about & speak to ourselves. If you are constantly saying negative things to or about yourself, they get wired into how you perceive yourself–no matter if they are really true or not. Using affirmations and positive self talk is a simple way to help to start to reverse that negativity. If every day you wake up and look in the mirror and say “I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to” that message starts to take root in your subconscious mind. You can find some sample affirmations to try here.