What to do after you survive a meltdown

meltdowns parenting self-care Oct 26, 2022

Your kid is finally done screaming, throwing, crying, and wailing. The meltdown has subsided, and you survived. You walk away and notice your hands shaking. You feel like doing some screaming yourself, or maybe taking a nap.

Your brain is mush.

This is what I call the "let down." It's the sudden release of all the emotions and experiences you just went through, flooding your body, brain, and nervous system. You are finally safe. It's finally over. But what do you do now?



You can create your own Let Down Plan.


Step 1: Find something alerting to wake you up to the present and get your brain back into awareness from dissociation


Step 2: Something regulating to bring your thoughts and body sensations back into order


Step 3: Something calming to help your nervous system feel safe


Step 4: Something releasing to let go of all the accumulated tension and move forward



The basic idea is that your Let Down Plan can happen in 1-2 minutes. It is not an elaborate plan that requires another adult or an hour-long walk.


Tapping out with another adult or getting a hike might be amazing possibilities, if that is achievable for you, and they can absolutely be on the list. But if it requires conversation, texting, decision-making, or any other complex skill, you will need to get your brain back on line in order to complete the task.


This is a plan for what to do before you can think straight.


Also: this is a plan for those of us who can't tap out or who don't get a break.


Notice what your body wants to do, even if it isn't particularly socially acceptable.


If you want to drink a beer at noon, perhaps it is the cold, the bubbles, and the strong flavor that you crave as much as the release from the alcohol.


If you want to bang your head against the wall, maybe you need a sharp sensation to come back into your body, and you could try holding an ice cube in your hand until it stings.



STEP 1: Alerting

Cold water

Ice cubes in your palms

Jumping up and down

Fresh air

Cold air from the freezer on your face

Smelling essential oils or a scented candle


STEP 2: Regulating

Playdough or slime in your hands


Chewing gum


Rocking in a chair

Swaying side to side


STEP 3: Calming

Eyes closed





Visualizing a safe place


STEP 4: Releasing

Deep breath & release

Squeeze muscles & release

Roll head and shoulders

Scream into a pillow

Blow bubbles




Why is everything so hard?


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