7 ways to be more grounded
There’s been a lot about the past year that has been unsettling and can be disruptive to your mental health.
Work schedules have changed, kids are going to school from home, and even the football season has been unusual. Sometimes, you just need to find a way to be more grounded.
“Like many other things this past year, or during general times of stress, unanticipated events or changes to familiar routines can impact mental health. In football, intentional grounding is something to be avoided, but when it comes to our mental health, grounding should be at the top of our playbook,” says Rebecca Westrate, a nurse practitioner with Advocate Medical Group based in Wauconda, IL.
Grounding exercises are small practices you can do to bring you to the here and now. The aim is to keep your mind and body connected and working together.
These exercises can help in many situations where you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or distracted by distressing thoughts, memories or feelings. Grounding practices can help bring you back down to earth from anxiety, anger or painful thoughts.
Not all grounding exercises will work for all people or in all situations, so pick and choose the ones that work best for you and keep them in mind for when they are needed. Like with many things, the benefits will increase with practice.
Westrate has put together a list of exercises that you can apply in your daily life. Most are best done slowly and in a quiet space but can be adapted as needed.
- 5-4-3-2-1: Empty your mind to slowly focus on your senses identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can physically touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Deep breathing: Close your eyes, place both feet flat on the floor, and practice deep breathing feeling expansion into the bottom of your abdomen. Breathe in through the nose for five counts and out though the mouth for 10 counts and repeat for 1-2 minutes, or longer as desired.
- Word focus: If the deep breathing exercise works for you, you can identify a positive word you want to focus on while inhaling, and a negative word you want to blow out when exhaling. An example might be breathing in peace and exhaling stress. If you are religious, try including the practice while praying.
- Head to toe: While sitting in a comfortable chair or lying in bed, imagine yourself relaxing from the tips of your toes, up to your ankles, through your knees, and then working your way up, focusing on relaxing each body part, all the way up to the top of your head.
- Categories: Look around the space you are in and focus on all the items you can find of a certain category, such as a color or material. This can also be done as a mental exercise coming up with a category and slowly recalling as many things as you can that apply.
- Object focus: Select an object, close your eyes, and focus on how it feels while you hold it/ feel it. This could be something you hold in your hand like a pen or a rock. Alternatively, it could be something like a blanket that is covering you or a chair you’re sitting on. Is it cold or warm, smooth or rough, heavy or light, soft or hard, can you describe its different parts?
- Mental vacation: Imagine a location you find relaxing. If that is the beach, imagine how all your senses would perceive that. Can you see the palms blow in the breeze, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the waves meeting the shore, smell the sunscreen that was just applied, maybe even taste the salt in the air?
Physical and psychological health can be positively impacted by grounding exercises like the ones above. Now that’s a touchdown and a win for everyone!
About the Author
Amy Werdin, health enews contributor, is a provider public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. She has been with the organization for 19 years, starting out in marketing for Advanced Healthcare, then Aurora Health Care and now in her current role. She enjoys reading, movies and watching her two daughters dance and her son swim.