Clients often come in my office saying they feel like they’re mind is going a million miles per hour, like they have so much on their plate that they don’t know where to start, or that they feel like their brains are disconnected from their bodies and they can’t seem to get a grip. It’s difficult to be efficient at our jobs or to feel connected to those around us or simply to enjoy doing activities we’ve previously found pleasurable when our bodies and our brains are in two (or three, or twelve) different places. We all experience periods of stress, anxiety, depression, chaos, etc. but we don’t have to allow those mental stressors to affect our daily functioning. grounding
When my clients tell me they’re feeling out of control, I often teach them about grounding. Simply put, grounding brings us back to the present. That feeling of overwhelm often comes from allowing our brains to hop on the thought train and ride far, far away from what we are attempting to do in the moment; when we can come back to the present, to focus on one task at a time, we regain that sense of control. So how do you ground yourself? First, it helps to know what being grounded feels like — focused, calm, sharp minded, productive, efficient, content. It may feel differently to different people, but knowing for yourself what your stable place feels like can make it easier to know when you’re getting back to that.
One of the easiest grounding techniques involves using your five senses. This can be done inside or outdoors, though I often recommend clients try it outside if possible — getting some fresh air is rarely a bad thing and a change of scenery can be helpful, but it can be discreet enough to do in a meeting.
As you go through your five senses, try to keep slow, steady breathing, deep into your belly, then begin to notice what you hear. Simply notice, don’t assign judgment to the sounds, just listen. Can you hear things you couldn’t before once you took some time to slow down? Notice the quiet sounds, notice the louder sounds. Take a couple moments to just listen. Then move onto what you can smell. Have you ever noticed the way your office smells? Can you smell the grass or a restaurant nearby? Continue your deep breathing through your nose and take in the scents around you. Now what can you see? Notice the colors, textures, patterns, shapes. Let your eyes follow the lines of the room or the movement of the clouds. Again, without judgment; don’t make note of the messes, but rather make note of the details in the stack of paper or the clothes waiting to be folded. Move on next to taste. If you have a snack or food nearby, take a little bite, paying close attention to all the flavors as they move across your tongue. Or take a drink of water, try to notice the flavor. And finally, your sense of touch. Feel the chair beneath your legs or the grass under your feet. Feel your clothing against your body, the surface in front of you. Touch the objects in front of you, bringing you back to the present, the space you’re in, and the task at hand.
This whole process can take anywhere from two minutes to twenty. If you find you’re still feeling chaotic at the end, try it again, noticing different sensations the second time. It can take repetition and conscious effort to bring our brains and our bodies back to the present moment, so don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult in the beginning or if some days are harder than others. It’s about practice, not perfection.
Written by Elise Browne, MS, LAMFT
Photo credit: pexels.com