Like many of you, I’m heartbroken about the horrific events in Uvalde, TX.
When we are taken aback by overwhelm or are in fight/flight with constant stress, it can be hard to figure out what to do especially when a few days go by and life seems to sweep us off our feet again.
Taking action is incredibly important and so is your physical and mental health. It’s ok to rest or slow down before speeding up and acting. Below you will find 5 simple, effective grounding techniques designed to soothe the body and mind. These techniques may help refocus on what’s happening in the present moment rather than what happened in the past or what will happen in the future, thus slowing racing thoughts.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing: A growing number of studies have revealed that diaphragmatic breathing may trigger the body’s relaxation response and benefit both physical and mental health. Slowly inhale as you fill the lower lungs or belly up with air, then exhale all the air out. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath.
2. 5,4,3,2,1 Grounding Method: Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. If this list feels overwhelming and hard to remember (it does for me) then you can do 3,2,1 instead. What really matters is that you are using your senses to ground yourself into the present moment.
3. Visualize Your Favorite Place: Your body reacts to your thoughts. For example, when you think about a stressful situation, your body and mind become tense. If you think of something peaceful your body and mind will do the same. Use all of your senses to create a mental image. Think of the colors you see, sounds you hear, and sensations you feel on your skin. Really try to paint a vivid picture in your mind.
4. List the Positives: Write or mentally list five things in your life that bring you joy or are grateful for, visualizing each of them briefly. When our mind is swirling it might be flooded with negative thoughts. When we create a list of positives it helps change our thoughts, mindset, and emotions.
5. Link Breath with Movement: Linking our body and mind together helps calm racing thoughts. Movement can help release tension build-up especially when minds are racing. Inhale arms up, exhale arms down- repeat 3-5x or until there is relief. Another option is inhaling arms up, exhaling, and folding forward. Stay in a forward fold holding opposite elbows with a soft bend in the knees. Gently nod the head yes and no to release any built-up tension.
A Few Ideas to Keep in Mind
Practice It can help to practice grounding even when you aren’t experiencing distress. It may take less effort when you want to use it to cope in the moment.
Start early Try doing a grounding exercise when you first start to feel bad. Don’t wait for distress to reach a level that’s harder to handle. If the technique doesn’t work at first, try to stick with it for a bit before moving on to another.
Compassion When we feel anxious, we might talk to ourselves more harshly. Shower yourself with care and understanding. We are all human, doing the best we can.