Have you ever felt ungrounded from your body and mind? This feeling is common, and easy to remedy with a few different techniques. The feeling of being ungrounded can come from operating at different levels throughout the course of your work day (as in going from detail-oriented work into strategic work); feeling flooded by your emotions and thoughts, as is common in people suffering from anxiety; trying to accomplish too many tasks at once, or finding yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Emotional stressors come as a result of the busy times we live in, and feeling overwhelmed by it all is an unfortunate side-effect. The good news is that there are multiple techniques to help ground yourself, and the more you utilize these tools, the easier grounding yourself will become.
While there are many grounding methods, these grounding techniques tend to fall into one of three key categories: Physical, Mental, and Emotional. Today we’ll talk about a few different ways to ground yourself that fit into these three categories.
Physical grounding techniques foster calm within your body, or help with your physical well-being. With these techniques, you can focus on how your body feels and work to regulate your nervous system.
Conscious breathing, where you focus on your breath and how it makes your body feel, works wonders in a tight spot. Any sort of pranayama, or regulated breathing exercise, can help you ground yourself in your environment. With any sort of breathing exercise, you can take note of your connection to the earth; reminding yourself of the solidity of the ground beneath you helps you ground yourself quite literally.
Taking care of your body is of utmost importance, even when life feels too busy to get in the self-care that you need. Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising are three ways we can easily take care of ourselves, just by being conscious enough to keep up with them. A routine sleep schedule will help your body fall into a natural, healthy routine, and good sleep will help your body recover and rest. Consistency in your diet will also help your blood sugar levels in good shape, and nourishing yourself will provide energy that you need to stay well. There’s a few different ways to exercise that can help the stress in your body get unstuck; getting out into nature with a walk or a run can help ground you very quickly if you step outside and look up at the sky. Dancing to music releases dopamine and channels your energy into an active boogie, so put on your favorite song and shake it out! If you’re unable to dance the night away, you can always sing along.
Grounding yourself can also come through doing more tactile activities; using your hands to engage a different part of your brain can help soothe and relax you. Bringing attention and focus to your brain to accomplish the task at hand can come in many different activities. Knitting, crocheting, gardening, washing dishes, stroking a pet, chopping vegetables, painting, or even throwing a ball against the wall and catching it can help distract your mind and place you more firmly in the moment.
Cognitive mindset shifts take some practice, but ultimately bring mindfulness into your life and create a good set of skills for you to ground yourself if you don’t have the physical tools (or energy) to do so. There’s a few different mental exercises to help you ground yourself.
If you feel absent and ungrounded from your mind, it may be a result of letting your worst fears dictate your thoughts. Allowing our brains to spiral to that worst-case scenario is called catastrophizing, often associated with anxiety. To avoid catastrophizing, take some long, deep breaths to calm your nervous system, and take note of what you’re feeling. Perhaps your hands are sweaty, or your body feels tense; by naming what your body is reacting to, you’re providing distance from the panic, allowing yourself to see it as it is. Then, ask yourself a few questions: Is this scenario you’re imagining a true reflection of life, or am I telling myself to prepare for the worst? What might make me think this way? Am I experiencing flashbacks? During an amygdala hijack like this, your brain senses a threat and your body reacts accordingly. Even if the threat isn’t real, your body and mind react as if there is one. We wrote another blog post about the effects of a malfunctioning amygdala here, if you’re curious for more information.
Getting a different perspective on what’s troubling you often helps you ground yourself in reality as well. Talking to someone about what’s going on allows you to take a step back and view it from where the other person sees it, and quite often, it’s not as big of a deal as your brain made it out to be. With the help of a friend or loved one, you can take small steps to help maintain your focus. Through those small steps forward, you can identify the things that you can control– and work on accepting the things that you cannot.
Emotional grounding techniques nurture compassion for yourself through connecting with other people. Whether they be friends, loved ones, or fellows in therapy groups/clubs, finding support through connection can help you ground yourself in the reminder that you’re not alone.
When it comes to finding connections, Veterans often struggle to find like-minded individuals who can sympathize with their stories. With Operation Red Wings Foundation, Veterans get the chance to meet other Veterans and share their thoughts with those who understand. Take a look at our website and various programs for resources to help ground yourself with those who get you.
Making friends with those around you is important, but so is making friends with yourself. Everyone has an “inner critic” that judges your every move; there are a few ways to work with your inner critic, rather than be dominated by it. For one, ignoring it always helps, but if that’s not possible, you can appreciate its input by telling your inner critic that you’re thankful for its ideas, and will consider them some other time. You can also engage with it by asking your inner critic questions.
During the moments where you feel like you’ve lost all your spoons to stress and multitasking, take a moment to see what made you feel that way. Perhaps you’ve taken on too many commitments at once without the time or energy to do all of them, and your boundaries are broken without realizing it. Ask yourself which commitments best link to your purpose: what you want to accomplish for yourself and what will bring the most fulfillment. Filter out some of the tasks you don’t need to focus on, let some things go, and manage your time to see through the things that you need to do. Finally, remember that this too shall pass. All things are temporary, and constantly in a state of flux. Remind yourself that in time, whatever bothers you shall pass eventually.
While everyone’s feeling of ungrounded-ness feels and looks different, but these techniques are universal for assisting in grounding yourself and finding peace. In time, practice, and patience, you’ll achieve clarity and calm with ease.