When people come into my office, often they’re highly stressed. Some are even bouncing with anxiety because too many things feel out of their control. Grounding techniques help you shift energy so you can focus on what you can control.
They are upset with a situation at work or at home, or in the larger world. They feel powerless, helpless, and worried or scared.
Can you relate? Do you ever feel your mind racing? Does relationship stress or adversity have you worried? Want to have a better chance to solve a problem you feel stuck with?
Finding new answers to lingering problems often takes a shift in perspective. But when anyone’s mind is caught up in a lot of distress, it’s hard to see new ideas. That’s where grounding practices can really help.
Grounding techniques help re-set your senses to the present moment and calm the mind and body. As your brain and body start working together, you create a frame of mind that allow you to discover options you haven’t thought of yet.
A Sitting Grounding Technique to Calm Your Stress Response
Here’s a favorite grounding technique I use to open many counseling sessions.
A Sitting and Breathing Grounding Technique
- Sit fully into your seat, with your back against the chair or sofa you’re sitting in.
- Place both feet flat on the floor.
- Place a hand on your belly.
- Inhale through the nose so your belly expands.
- Relax and gently breathe out through your mouth. Exhale fully.
- Then breathe in again through the nose feeling the cool air in your nostrils
- Exhale completely through your mouth and pause before taking the next breath in.
- Take several rounds of breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth pausing for a few seconds and the end of the completed exhale.
- Turn your attention to the seat against your body.
- Rest in the chair so your body feels fully supported.
- Notice the feeling where your back and legs touch the chair
- Feel your feet on the floor.
- Wiggle your toes.
- Take one more breath.
If You Can’t Change The Cause, Change the Response
Grounding exercises like this give you immediate feedback that you can change your response to stress. You can’t change that your body automatically launches a flood of stress hormones in response to something upsetting. Your heart pounds, your muscles tense, and your body prepares for danger.
But with a grounding exercise, you can take an anxious state, and calm it, even if you can’t change the cause. That’s part of what it means to be grounded.
Becoming grounded is becoming aware of how your mind and body are responding. Then, you can calm them in order to take sensible action. Once you’re feeling more grounded you’re likely to respond to the situation in a productive way in line with your overall values and goals.
Recognize Your Resources
Your life isn’t limited to what happens to you. From a grounded stance you can reflect on your values, wants and needs, and identify your resources and supports. You make thousands of decisions every day including how you choose to use your available resources.
When you are feeling grounded, you can recognize what options you have. You can look at your personal resources and how you are spending them.
What are your resources? Think about the options you have regarding:
Your emotional energy
Your state of self-awareness
Where are you spending your resources? What different choices might you have? Grounding techniques give you the mindfulness you need to see new ways forward.
You chose what time to get up this morning. You decided what clothes to put on. You figured out whether or what to have for breakfast. Likewise, you can choose where to spend your time, emotional energy, and where to build relationships. Being able to ask for help or focus on a task is more likely to result in a desired outcome if its intentional instead of reactive or done from a place of fear or anxiety.
Look at New Ways to Use Your Resources
So now we can ask: What feels so out of control?
Is this something new? Is it something longstanding? Do you need to face an issue that’s been under your radar for a while?
Let’s take a non-personal example. Sometimes people will come in and talk about politics. They talk about how distressed they are. So much feels out of our control. We can’t change the White House; we can’t change Congress in this moment. But we do control what kind of media we’re consuming, and how much.
We also choose how we channel the anxious energy. Do we worry and complain? Or do we take some kind of action that aligns with our value system?
Being among people who care about similar problems can be encouraging. Surrounding ourselves with people who have similar values who want to do something productive can feel so empowering. These are choices we have and actions we can control.
Feeling Well Grounded is Linked with Self-Care
It’s impossible to feel grounded if you are not taking care of yourself. Your ability to calm yourself depends a lot on being well rested, well nourished and engaged in activities that are nourishing and joyful to your soul.
Sometimes, self-care means making hard decisions now, so that you feel better later. Sometimes we need to stay in bed a little extra. But we can’t hide out in bed. Sometimes it takes a decision to deliberately shift your perspective from one of helpless to hope. Self-care is unique to you!
We Are Here for You
When people say they want to feel more grounded, they’re also saying they want to feel more in control of their life. Grounding techniques help you get unstuck if you’re paralyzed by stress or worry. In therapy, our goal is to help you shift your energy so you can make sound choices that align with your values. Having thoughtful conversation (with yourself, a friend or a therapist) is a good place to start.
Grounding your awareness in the moment instead of living in the past or future allows you to take care of yourself by identifying your short and long-term needs and desires.
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