Sometimes play can be emotionally taxing and/or physically demanding for both the bottom and the top. It is important for both sides to be informed and take personal accountability for good communication surrounding play, particularly in negotiation. Negotiation involves discussing not only what happens during play, but also after. The time taken to 'wind down' after a session is called aftercare.
What sort of aftercare happens should be established in the play negotiation period and is individualized to the person receiving it and any requirements they might have. Aftercare is about returning to a normal head-space and physical ability for all involved. It can range from simply talking about the emotions experienced during play to dressing any wounds that might have occurred. Sometimes, if a bottom reaches subspace during a session, it can linger after the play has ended and aftercare can help eliminate the possibility of drop occurring.
We usually think of aftercare as being specifically something that a top does for a bottom, though in some instances the top may require aftercare also. It is important that both sides feel comfortable after play and that communication remains free-flowing.
Aftercare can deepen the relationships of those involved and is one of the core BDSM practices surrounding play. Creating a mutually beneficial and consensual agreement about what is to occur before, during and after play enhances overall satisfaction and gratification of play sessions.
There is no one correct method of aftercare. Likewise, there is not incorrect method, so long as the people involved feel safe and secure after their session, with a positive frame of mind being central to it's success. Some people may require a lot of aftercare while others may not and it is in negotiation that this will be discussed.
After a scene has occurred, returning to a normal mindset is important and can be achieved in a variety of ways. Taking it slowly and cautiously is a good idea, in general, until you are able to gauge where your partner(s) are at mentally.
The environment in which aftercare occurs should be a peaceful one. Clearing the space of any harmful materials and addressing any physical wounds should be an immediate priority.
When messy play occurs, some people may specify that they want to be cleaned or clean themselves immediately afterwards, while some may want to be left dirty for some time after the play as part of their aftercare. Aiding in dressing or cleaning of your play partner may be required and, if necessary, should be done so in a nurturing way.
Temperature control is important as it is common that bottoms will report a drop in body heat after play. Having a blanket nearby or providing a warm place for unwinding is a good idea. A shower or bath might be beneficial also.
Having clean drinking water nearby is always recommended. Players will also often have something sweet, like chocolate, nearby to help increase blood sugar and oxytocin levels after play. Similarly more substantial snack or even a full meal may be necessary.
When there is a lack of aftercare, it can be emotionally and physically detrimental. If a player is left alone after a scene, they can feel abandoned and/or experience emotional unrest.
In the days after the session and initial aftercare, checking in and communicating about the play is recommended. Having the time to contemplate the play and it's outcomes allows for more opportunity for free-flowing feedback and support if needed.