This post is part of the Reduce Overwhelm & Anxiety Series.
Everyone experiences anxiety or a sense of overwhelm from time to time. This can be especially true for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), who can become overstimulated more easily due to a more “finely-tuned” nervous system. Additionally, folks with PTSD or complex trauma can feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially when triggered or due to being hyper-alert. This series will include tools and techniques that I often explain and practice with my clients to support them in settling their nervous system, increasing relaxation, and feeling more grounded, calm and present. Each post in the series will have one or a few strategies to practice. If used regularly, it can support you in better managing your emotions and quieting your mind.
My previous post about present moment focus was a form of mentally grounding yourself; getting connected with yourself and current environment. I wanted to focus on physical grounding to help manage the physical sensations of overwhelm. It can calm the nervous system and also distract you from whatever is overwhelming or triggering.
Some brief, simple ways to physically ground are:
- Eat something tart, bitter, or that has a strong flavor you can focus on.
- Move your body. Shake, jump around, stretch or create tension in your muscles and release.
- Pay attention to your body.
- Notice what you are sitting/laying/standing on (chair against your back, cushion underneath you, weight of your body on whatever surface you are on);
- Notice sensations (wiggle your fingers/toes or touch or rub something near you and notice the texture)
- Washing your hands/face in cool or warm water.
- Dig your heels into the ground.
- Similarly, putting both feel flat on the floor (see below for a more detailed visualization).
Here’s a visualization exercise that expands on the feet on the floor technique:
Being barefoot as well as being outside can be especially helpful, but not necessary for it to be effective. This is sometimes called “earthing,” when your skin is in direct contact with the earth.
Take a deep breath, and breathe deeply throughout the exercise. Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Next, put both feet flat on the floor/ground, either standing or sitting. Really notice your feet connecting with the ground. Notice the sensation of your socks and/or shoes, or the texture of the earth/floor, on your feet. Pay attention to the points of contact your feet have with the ground, each section of your foot: your toes, the ball of your foot, the inner side, the outer side, the heel.
Now, imagine you are sprouting roots, like a tree, out the bottom of your feet. Visualize the roots growing through the layers below you, through your shoes, the floor, the foundation of the building, the dirt and all the layers of the earth. Imagine the roots going down and reaching the center of the earth and connecting with the core. Now visualize the energy from the earth’s core being drawn up through your roots.
Take a deep breath in, and bring that energy back up through the layers of the earth, the foundation of the building, the floor and into the bottom of your feet. As you continue to breathe deeply, pull that energy up through your whole body. Feel your body filled with grounding earth energy. When you are ready, flutter your eyes open and notice how you feel in your body.
Remember to practice
Try these out and see what strategies work best for you. As always, remember to practice to familiarize yourself with them. Sometimes one will work better than another, depending on what’s going on and what you might be needing.