After a psychedelic experience you may find that transitioning back to everyday life can feel strange, even challenging. This is especially true if you’ve just had your first psychedelic experience ever.
These experiences can be powerful, indescribable, and even bewildering. They have the potential to allow you to see the world (and yourself!) from such a vastly different perspective, so returning to the ordinary world can be disorienting.
People have psychedelic experiences for many reasons whether that be for recreation, spiritual growth, self-improvement, or to address a particular mental health issue. Regardless of your reason, you can’t expect to have a profound psychedelic experience on a Saturday night and expect to go to work the following Monday as if nothing has changed. It has.
You are different, but you may not be sure how or what has changed. The experience provided you with all kinds of insights, downloads, and realizations. And you may be left with lots of unanswered questions about the experience itself and what to do in the days and weeks after.
Rest assured that this article will discuss how to make the integration of your psychedelic trip a meaningful one, regardless of how confusing, challenging, or discomforting an experience. We’ll give you some tools and insights on how to process your experience healthily. And we’ll address how to understand and fulfill your needs in a way that incorporates the lessons your psychedelic journey taught you, integrating them instead of suppressing them.
A Note on Individual Context
The incredible and incomprehensible thing about psychedelics is the sheer variability of experiences they can induce. This makes sense—entheogens perform some pretty unbelievable actions in the brain, such as adjusting chemical balances and rewiring neural pathways which gives access to conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche that would otherwise be inaccessible.
And given that no two psychedelic substances are the same and no two human bodies are identical, no two psychedelic experiences are the same either. Psychedelics lie at that intriguing, intangible intersection between the physical and the ethereal and the mental and spiritual, which is different for each person.
Because of their nature, it’s difficult to predict beforehand exactly what you’ll experience on your journey. Even seasoned psychonauts will tell you that trips vary immensely depending on their context.
To further explore this topic, we can take examples from indigenous cultures around the world, both ancient and modern, who have used psychedelics in spiritual and religious ceremonies full of traditions passed down generation to generation. Perhaps this is why psychedelic sacraments tend to be highly ritualized in many of these cultures—ritual is creating context, which we know changes the experience.
The time after your trip is about understanding your psychedelic experience and integrating any lessons in a meaningful and enduring way. As such, the context of your own journey will greatly influence the lessons you receive along the way. Your intentions, motivations, health, mental state, physical surroundings, and even life stressors not only affect your psychedelic experience, but influences how best to go about the integration process.
What About “Bad Trips?”
While we discuss psychedelic experiences in a positive light due to their massive potential benefit, we understand that “bad trips” are a part of psychedelic use. However, we would challenge you to reframe your definition of a “bad trip” as the majority of these difficult and overwhelming experiences end up being very meaningful and positive once properly processed.
We wrote an article on “bad” trips and why they are important, but a key point is that these experiences are largely due to improper dose or lack of preparation. What’s more, these experiences are temporary and typically avoidable altogether.
And sometimes, these “bad” trips are actually a part of the healing process. If you find yourself in a challenging psychedelic experience, we wrote a guide covering 10 tips on how to navigate a bad trip.
Our goal at Psychedelic Passage is to provide you information and knowledge to feel supported in your psychedelic journey, no matter which direction it takes. We hope you find this information useful! If you are looking for more personalized help, you may benefit from a one-on-one call with one of our vetted psychedelic coaches.
Immediately After Your First Psychedelic Experience
Immediate after your psychedelic experience, it’s important to first take care of your physical needs. Psychedelic trips can be taxing on the body, so it’s a good idea to rest and replenish after your first psychedelic trip. Use the bathroom, drink plenty of water, eat when you are hungry, rest as much as you need to, and be gentle with your body.
Don’t worry about trying to solve all the mysteries of your experience and answer every question right away, you’ll have plenty of time for that later. Just focus on getting comfortable, staying present to the current experience, and enjoy any lingering sensations.
You might find that your senses remain heightened for a little while after your psychedelic experience or that you can’t fall asleep right away. This is normal and will pass with time.
Wearing sunglasses, adjusting room lighting, putting on relaxing music, or getting under a blanket can create a safe environment until your senses return to baseline. Enjoy the comfort of your private home or space.
If you had a particularly challenging experience, ideally you were not alone and had a sober and experienced trip sitter to support you through the process. You may continue to feel a heightened sense of discomfort or fear after your difficult encounter, so it’s important to communicate with others about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. The presence of another individual can help comfort you and increase your safety, especially if this person is trained in harm reduction techniques.
The Days After Your First Psychedelic Experience
Hopefully you planned for some days off immediately after your experience. Usually 2-3 days is enough, but some may need longer (7+ days) to get back to their daily routines. These days following your trip are especially important and you should be mindful about what type of stimuli, content, and situations you encounter.
Some equate the psychedelic experience as a way to organize the contents of your mind, so be thoughtful about what new information you let in during this important restructuring process. With that being said, we encourage healthy activities that stimulate the mind, body, and spirit and provide the following suggestions.
As soon as you are able to, we recommend writing about your first psychedelic experience. This is because human memory is a funny, fallible thing. You’ve just had this intensely sensory experience with expanded consciousness, and you are the only witness. Each time you recall this experience, it gets revised (and reimagined accordingly), removing it from the actual experience you had.
By writing down your feelings and perceptions from your psychedelic experience, you’re better able to recall it for what it was, and not a romanticized or sanitized version. You’ll also create a record of images and ideas that can be exceedingly helpful in supporting the ongoing healing process.
This is especially true if you are taking a therapeutic approach to healing, as imagery and sensations from your journey may be important messages for your conscious self. The more thorough you are in recording these memories, the better prepared you will be to integrate the lessons and healing from your experience.
If writing about your experience feels too linear or literal for you, that’s valid. Language is not the only acceptable or appropriate form of communication. Recording audio or video of yourself just freeform talking about your experience can achieve the same goal. The important thing is to record or document the experience in some way so that it doesn’t solely live in your mind.
Do Something Creative
We encourage exploration of other creative expressions of your insights. Activities like painting, drawing, coloring, or playing an instrument can be every bit as effective and healing as writing words.
Sometimes words reach a limit when trying to describe the expansive psychedelic state. By creating art, you’re aligning your conscious and subconscious mind. This not only channels your energy positively, but can help the unpacking process in the days following your event.
Move Your Body
The body is the vessel that contains your mind, soul, and spirit, and therefore moving your body helps maintain alignment across these different realms. You may also experience some pent up energy post trip, and light exercise is great for releasing that energy. Moving your body is a healthy way to stimulate your mind as it works through understanding the psychedelic experience.
Please remember that you just endured something significant, so be gentle and keep it light. Activities like yoga, cardio, and even dancing are great options. Going for a hike, bike ride, or walk around your neighborhood can also be beneficial.
Align Your Intention
Before you set out on your entheogenic journey, you have (hopefully!) set an intention for your experience. An intention is any goal or outcome you wish to explore.
Hopefully, the intention you set was clear and direct, but we understand that is not always the case. The more precise you are in setting an intention, the more likely you are to receive lessons that help you toward that end.
Now that the trip has happened, it is time to reexamine that intention. For example, you may have just wanted to have a fun time, but the experience made you replay and analyze an important period of your childhood. Or you may have wanted to use psychedelics to improve your work performance, but realize that you’re not fulfilled in your current career.
It is common to start with one intention before the trip, and come out the other side with several more. With each new psychedelic experience the purpose and context of your healing journey expands. Consequently, your intention may need to be revisited or revised accordingly. Not only is it okay if your intention has changed, it’s a tangible sign of progress.
The Weeks and Months After Your First Psychedelic Experience
Most of the psychedelic healing traditions that survive today include some form of reintegration after a spiritual journey. For example, the Bwiti initiation ritual of Gabon entails a period of about a week confined to the village after the psychedelic experience. Far from being isolated, however, the new initiate (called a banzi), talks over their experience with family, friends, and elders.
During this time, the banzi is considered to exist between the material and spiritual worlds. After this period of reflection and self-insight concludes, the banzi is ceremonially named before their whole community.
This new name is chosen by the banzi’s community based on the prevalent imagery revealed in their vision. Their new name symbolizes their rebirth into the community, and is celebrated all through the night.
Though you may not feel like you’re going through a Bwiti initiation ritual, it is just as important for you to have your own personal introspection as well as share your experience with trusted individuals. It is also important to create some significance around your event, even if you had your experience for casual reasons.
This is particularly important in the weeks and months after as the afterglow effects have usually faded at this point. Your psychedelic experience may feel like a distant dream, and the insights that felt so vivid before may begin to fade. On top of that, you’re back to your usual daily routines with plenty of distractions and responsibilities to account for.
Our society doesn’t have many rites of passages, but many are finding that psychedelics can help one evolve into their fullest potential. By allowing ourselves the time we need to slow down, reflect, and recover, we can improve our ability to heal and reintegrate.
Ongoing Psychedelic Integration
Now that we understand the importance of integrating lessons from your psychedelic experience back into your daily life, how exactly do you go about that? You may not feel like you have anyone you trust that would understand what you went through, or don’t have the right outlet or tools to do so yourself.
Your entheogenic experience also might have highlighted an unsavory or negative part of your psyche or released previous trauma. Take time to sit with those aspects of yourself, listening and understanding without blame or judgment. And when you’re ready, find a trustworthy and unbiased person who has direct experience with the psychedelic substance you consumed.
This person should be a trained professional and are called psychedelic integration specialists. They can help you process your experience and apply it to your life in a meaningful way. This can include revisiting the imagery, emotions, and sensations you received, and exploring the connection to the most important issues in your life.
This specialist can help you develop a framework and plan of action for the weeks and months following your trip. This improves your retention and maximizes any potential benefits. They can also give you knowledge and information to optimize your next psychedelic experience should you choose to have one.
This usually takes on the form of weekly or monthly one-on-one integration sessions. This is one of the main reasons we started Psychedelic Passage, and we’d be honored to hear your story and help you integrate your experience into everyday life.
Your first psychedelic experience can bring on a whirlwind of emotions and ideas. It is perfectly normal to feel as though something has changed upon your return to your baseline consciousness.
In many respects, something has—your perception. Consciously integrating the lessons revealed to you during your experience ensures that you receive the most benefit from your psychedelic journey. Book a call with us today if you need help in that process.