I was 19 when I first went into therapy. Thoughts of suicide, major depression, crippling anxiety… it was a dark time and for someone that was still a teenager, it was very difficult and confusing. Everything felt too big for me to deal with most days. Therapy was a saving grace; a place where I could talk, cry, and even scream without judgement. Getting the bottled up emotions off my chest, the words that had started to poison me, started a profound road to recovery and I have held onto many things my first therapist had taught me. She helped me become the introspective, strong person I am today.

There are so many ways that you can calm your body and mind. During my time in therapy, my anxiety, while manageable during the day, felt like a demon at night. That’s when the pounding heart, racing thoughts, and tingling limbs would be so intense that sleeping seemed like something that would never happen again. My therapist told me to shower in the dark. Either do it before bed or when the anxiety would strike, get out of bed and get in a hot shower in the dark. Here’s why…

Hot water, and water in general, has a calming effect on the body. Hot showers help ease feelings of anxiety, lowers blood pressure, aid in the reduction of physical pain, as well as relax your muscles, and may help induce feelings of well-being. Have you ever had a bad day and your shower makes you feel better? It’s because it’s doing those things! Helping you wash away physical and mental stressors.

Some mental disorders can sometimes cause something called “Photophobia”, which is a sensitivity to light, and while you’ll want to fight that as much as possible, darkness is sometimes helpful when you’re working to suppress your feelings of anxiety. Dimly lit, or dark rooms are commonly associated with being calm, so turning the lights off when you’re having an episode may help subdue your emotional response. You need be conscious that you are associating the dark/dim light with calm and not giving into your depression.

Hot Water + Dark = Calm. And I can attest that, for me, it is the ultimate calm. What I like to do before the shower is make sure all the lights in my home are either off or dim. Using candles when I can. This way, when I get out of the shower, the feeling of calm can remain. You’re not going to want to come out of a dark bathroom and walk into a fully lit kitchen, it’s too jarring for the body. If it’s nighttime, get right into bed. If it’s daytime, give yourself 15-30 minutes after your shower before opening your blinds or turning on any lights.

It’s a simply technique that helped me completely transform my response to anxiety. Next time you’re in a battle with your brain, hop in a hot shower in the dark. Let me know if it helps you at all!