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the importance of aftercare.

All scenes, no matter what their focus is, should include some kind of aftercare component. In its most basic form, aftercare can be thought of as the willingness to support your partner after a play session to ensure return to an everyday state of mental and emotional equilibrium (Dexter, 2012). This time is used to provide comfort and support to both players. It signals to both parties that they are valued and appreciated (A Submissive's Journey, 2013) and is one of the distinctions between engaging in BDSM and abuse (Peyton, 2013).

BDSM scenes, no matter where they range from pain causing elements to mental power exchanges, can change a person's headspace and include a certain high caused by endorphins flooding the blood stream (Fox, 2012). These endorphins are joined by other neurotransmitters such as dopamine. As endorphins inhibit the pain receptors, the brain floods with dopamine which activates the reward center and fills you with euphoria. When the dopamine levels subside in the brain, a neurochemical called prolactin is released. Research has shown that prolactin is a stress hormone that keeps the dopamine levels in your brain in check; this neurochemical has been linked to feelings of depression and alienation (SirReal, 2007). It is easily understandable why coming from this high can cause some players to feel emotional and in need of some type of support, physical or otherwise (BedroomBondage, 2013). Engaging in aftercare can strongly increase the intimacy between two players and while often geared towards the bottom, it benefits the top as well (Peyton , 2013).

Regrettably when people first get into kink, and sometimes even with experienced players, aftercare is not something that is discussed or done. You may also be without a reliable play partner or perhaps playing with someone at a public event and this aspect is overlooked. Aftercare may also be overlooked if playing with an online partner (Abode, 2013). In case of emergencies, it is good to have your own aftercare kit (lunaKM, 2009).

If you need to do your own aftercare be sure to take care of your immediate physical concerns and treat any injuries. You may wish to clean up a bit, use the bathroom, change into more comfortable clothes. Once this is taken care of, be sure to have a bite to eat and some water. Foods chosen should help give you a boost and rebalance your hormones; good choices could include: chocolate, fruit juice, energy bars, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, herbal tea or hot chocolate (Abode, 2013).

After this initial phase, ensure that you have a safe way home, presuming you are not home already. If you are unsure if you are driving after half an hour, check your pupils in the mirror to see if they are highly dilated. If you are still feeling out of it, consider calling a friend or a taxi to get home. When you get home ensure to stay hydrated and stay warm. You can try some yoga or stretching. If you are feeling social, meet up with some friends (Abode, 2013).

It can be helpful to take a good dose of vitamins after play to help promote healing and reduce any lingering negative emotions (Abode, 2013). This can be a helpful alternative to having someone to cuddle with, it will not be the same but it can help.

Why Have an Aftercare Kit?

Aftercare is an important part of seeing to the physical, mental, and emotional health of you and your play partner. When you are packing up your kink toys, it is easy to have an aftercare kit ready to go. This is a great idea because it ensures you will have what you are likely to need no matter where you are. It also shows your partner that you are thinking ahead and ensuring safe play.

What Should Be In Your Aftercare Kit?

You should tailor this pack to the type of play you are engaging in or your play partner as different items may be needed. There are some items that you may wish to consistently keep in your kit as they will always be applicable such as a blanket or first aid kit. Some suggestions of things that you might wish to consider placing in your pack:

Small snack - It is common for people to get hungry after the release of endorphins. Someone's blood sugar may drop during play as well so it is always a good idea to have something for you or your partner to munch on afterward. It can also help return someone to a everyday world state of mind by grounding them.

Water/sports drink bottle - You or your partner may get dehydrated during the play session. Staying hydrated is an important part of being safe during a play scene.

Ice/Heat pack - Ice packs can be used to cool down and reduce bruising by applying them to the impact area. You may also want a heat pack for any potential injuries

First Aid supplies - Always a good idea to have a first aid kit on hand

Blanket/bathrobe - It can be common for people to feel cold after the endorphins of the play session ebb.

Change of warm, comfortable clothes - After an intense play session, you or your partner may wish to relax in something warm and comfortable. It can also be more comfortable to cuddle.

Warm socks - To ensure you or your partner remains warm enough

Sterilization/wet wipes - Depending on type of play you do, these can be great for quick clean up.

Incense/scented candles - A calming and soothing scent can add to creating a relaxing aftercare environment

Journal - You or your partner may wish to record feelings or thoughts of what went well or things that can be improved.

Stuffed animal - If you or your partner wants one for comfort

Vitamin E/K cream or Arnica gel - These creams can be used to reduce existing bruises after impact play

Tube of heparinoid - Found in first aid sections and has several brand names. Used to increase blood flow and reduce bruising and inflammation from occurring

Customize Your Kit

What you choose to include in your aftercare kit should be dependent on the type of play that you and your partner typically engage in as well as the aftercare needs of your partner. There is more than one way to carry out aftercare and you should discuss what will make you and your partner the most comfortable.

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