Tools to Calm Anxiety & Ground Yourself
We have left 2020 behind, and we are embracing a new year.
So, why do we still have so much anxiety and stress that 2020 seemed to generate?
The turning of a new year doesn't mean that all our hardships or worry are behind us. Even, if say this pandemic were resolved tomorrow, we would still have residual stress and anxiety from a year of hardship & many unknowns.
This anxiety and stress can creep up at any time even if it's not related to a situation. These feelings or energies can especially erupt when you least expect it.
Let's say you're ready for work and drinking your coffee, when suddenly your dog comes racing past you to get to the door, knocks your knees, and coffee spills onto you and everywhere. Even though this was an accident - your heart spikes and your instantly become frustrated and anxious that now you have to change your outfit and rush to work.
While this situation "isn't a big deal" it may be given more gravitas because of residing anxiety in the body and mind. Maybe you're worried about a project at work. Maybe you didn't sleep well because you have much on your mind.
Whatever the residual anxiety is, if it isn't acknowledged and addressed - it will come bubbling up in any situation where a "curve ball" is thrown in,
You know you doggy didn't mean to cause a situation, but you're anger and anxiety are accentuated because of unresolved - or unprocessed - events/emotions.
So, how do we handle these moments of anxiety? How do we navigate moments where we get overwhelmed from 0-60 in .05 seconds?
Here are some grounding techniques that help calm the body during moments of overwhelm, irritation, or anxiety:
The first thing to almost always do is stop and BREATHE.
When we mindfully breathe, we allow our mind to shift from the flurry of thought and connect the mind to the body and present moment. Slow, intentional breath, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and brings our reasonable brain "back online". Meaning, intentional breathing helps us manage triggers and promotes psychological resiliency in rocky situations. This kind of breath work empowers us while simultaneously calming us. It gives us more agency over our body and experience.
PRACTICE: When feeling charged with any situation, allow yourself a deep inhale through the nose and a full exhale out the mouth. Repeat this 5 times. Then take notice of how you feel. Maybe a greater sense of calm? That triggering situation isn't so big anymore? If still feeling anxious, continue with "box breathing" 4 counts inhale - 4 counts exhale. Come back to this breath whenever needed.
#2 SENSE the 5-4-3-2-1
The second thing we can do in any kind of overwhelming thought or situations, is activate our senses.
If you're cramming out a work project and a spiral of negative thoughts start to enter you mind, after some intentional breath, tune into your 5 senses.
First, look around the room and notice 5 things you see and really take them in. What are they? Do they evoke emotion from you? What colors are there?
Second, touch 4 things. I usually encourage folks to touch their feet to the ground. Take in how that pen feels in your hand. Stroke a plant nearby and see how it feels in your fingertips.
Third, Listen. What are 3 sounds you can identify? The fridge humming, geese squawking outside, a baby crying, the pitter patter of your cats feet, neighbors in the unit above. Take in these 3 sounds and connect to them. Do they make you feel a certain emotion?
Fourth, notice and identify 2 smells in the room. This could be the smell of your coffee, new carpet, the fireplace, maybe you smell something musky or clean laundry. Anything.
Fifth, take in one taste. What? I'm not eating anything. Well, if you had to identify what your mouth tasted like right now, what would it be? Have tea or coffee near by? Sip it, savor it, really take in it's tastes and how the body responds to them.
The body is extremely intelligent and holds A LOT. Just by breathing in a supportive stretch to the body, we can do wonders for our vessel.
There are so many stretches we can utilize to bring calm and grounding to our being. If you're an athlete, yogi, pilates, or even just an avid stretcher...pick your favorite stretch and breathe into each movement, each transition of the stretch. Notice how the body feels, any sensations, openings in the body from stretching. How does it feel to have the breath encourage the body open?
PRACTICE: One of the most accessible full body stretches is a side bend stretch. Begin in standing position, feet hip width distance apart. Inhale arms up toward the sky, extending the side body. Exhale, left hand clasps right wrist, bend body right. Repeat other side.
This lateral stretch opens up the whole side body and creates extension in the spine. This is a great stretch for first in the morning and if feeling stressed in the middle of your day.
Another beautiful source of grounding ourselves when our thoughts become a hurricane of anxiety, is to pause and find 3 good things that happened in your day or that you're grateful for.
This could be something as small as you had a delicious cup of coffee. It may be that you got an unexpected check in the mail. It could be that your hunny made you breakfast. It may just be as general as recognizing that you all working appendages and can walk nimbly and easily to and from you car! Whatever the are, write them down. After you write them down, bring a hand to heart, and re-read these 3 things. Breathe deep into your heart-space and feel into these 3 good things and notice how your body and being are affected.
These are just a FEW grounding practices you can utilize during times of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
Whether it's a life event or thoughts that spark these feelings, use these practices to bring yourself back into your body and back to your center.
These small mindful actions can really ground us by reminding that each moment is passing. Nothing is permanent. We are not our thoughts nor our emotions. When we practice these subtle yet profound acts, we support ourselves toward positive change and resiliency in any life situation.
Here are a few more grounding practices you can use along with the above:
Hold an item in your hand and focus on it
Talk a walk outside in nature. Soak in your surroundings and be with each step
Play a favorite "soothing" song that brings you comfort. Relish the sounds. Allow some movement in the body
Call a friend or Play with a pet - this is a form of distraction to take you away from negative thoughts and bring you into the moment. (Be mindful of utilizing distraction techniques too often. It's a way of avoiding the issue, so be sure to come back to it.)
I hope some of these grounding tools help you in times of overwhelm, stress, or anxiety. We are all human, and we all need tools and disciplines to help us navigate life, and ourselves, with compassion, awareness, and agency.
Until next time,