You might have read the word somewhere, or heard that it is a good idea… but what does “grounding” really mean, and why would you want to “ground yourself”?
It’s good news – you haven’t been naughty and you don’t need to go to your room to think about what you’ve done! Put very simply, grounding is coming back to the here and now. It’s snatching your mind from the talons of worries, sorrows, problems, fears. It’s drifting back from a daydream, and landing safely back where you are, in your environment, inside yourself.
When it feels like stress or anxiety are battering you with their angry waves, staying rooted in the present will help you to surf those breakers, and in time, with perseverance, calm them down again. Grounding has been shown to stop the progression of a panic attack when implemented at the first trigger signs – or to reduce the intensity of a panic attack in full swing.
There are countless ways to get grounded – as anything which reconnects you to your environment will do the trick. Here are three suggestions:
Use the breath. If you find it hard to keep your attention on it, try counting the breaths – one on the inbreath, two on the outbreath, three on the next inbreath, and so on. Or visualise it as a colour or a light, coming in through your feet and gradually filling your body on the inbreath, all the way up to the top of your head – then coming out of your feet again on the outbreath. Or choose words to alternate – for example, think “deep” while breathing in, and “peace” while breathing out.
Use the body. Put all of your attention into your feet. Feel the contact with the floor. Feel into the toes, the heel, the sides, the top. You could even try to become aware of the muscles and bones inside. Or clasp your hands tight together, and notice the tension in your fingers, your wrists, the muscles in your arms, your shoulders – and how far can you follow it? Your chest? Your neck? Your jaw? Then release your hands, and notice how the relaxation spreads, and what it feels like.
Use your senses. Hold any object between your fingers, and without looking, notice the consistency, the texture, the temperature, the shape. What does it smell like? Now pretend that you’re seeing it for the first time – notice the colours, the shape, how the light is hitting it, how the shadows play on the surface. Then stop and listen out for sounds around you – you will probably realise how much auditory input you don’t normally notice. Even when you think you’re in silence, there’s often a background hum – from appliances, or traffic in the distance.
Like all new behaviours, it takes practice for grounding to become your default action in times of emotional intensity. Keep welcoming your mind back home, gently, tenderly - home with you, where you are, where it’s safe.