How to stay grounded, when life gets wobbly
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Worry, stress and rumination go hand in hand with joy, happiness and good vibes.
Finding ways to feel more grounded when times invariably get challenging can be a strategic way to be the best version of yourself.
So what makes you feel grounded? You know, that feeling of being firmly rooted, within yourself, your body, and your mind. I liken the sensation to coming home to your house after a long-haul trip, walking through the doors and knowing you have arrived back to a place of safety, comfort and ease.
It doesn’t always have to be a place, like home. It can be a person, your mother, partner, best friend or colleague. Someone that offers you a reminder of who you are and where you are, where you don’t have to be anyone for anyone.
Better yet, perhaps it’s a feeling.
In meditation practice this feeling of being grounded is believed to be found in the present moment. The present moment is this moment, right here, right now. When our minds are focused on the here and now, our attention is switched onto what is naturally occurring inside and outside of us, this means we are not lost in our thoughts of past experiences and future expectations. And let’s be honest, we all tend to get lost in our own minds from time to time.
As the new year begins and we have 24 brand new hours for 365 brand new days, there’s bound to be days where our thoughts get the better of us and we begin to feel anxious, overwhelmed and stressed.
It’s important we know that we ALL go through patches in our lives that are manic, as a 10-year meditator, I have moments of feeling completely ridden with self-doubt, fear and sadness “Why am I such a bad boyfriend?” “I’m so exhausted, how can I possibly do more classes,” “i’m a terrible teacher, i’m never going to be as good as that person” “I’m just not a good writer.”
These are a few of the nonsensical conversations I play out in the soap opera of my mind.
Over time i’ve realised that these are simply thoughts, mental projections of an imaginary future or a past memory. They are not who I really am, if I am noticing my thoughts, how could i be them? This insight has got me out of so many tense situations over the years. I’ve also picked up a few more along the way.
Here is a list of strategies you can also use to feel more grounded and calm when times get testy.
Feel the sensations of your body
Take off your shoes, place your feet on the floor or carpet. Then take a few moments to feel the sensations of your feet, against the texture of the floor. Scan for sensations around the toes and the tops of your feet, maybe even against your socks or leggings. You can do this from the soles of your feet all the way up to the crown of your head, or however long it takes for you to get your out of your mind and into your body.
Getting into your body is a reminder of this moment, you are experiencing sensations right now, not through your memories or through expectation.
Notice your breath
When we are fearful and anxious, our breath quickens around the chest and heart. This gives us that panicky, anxiety feeling. It can sometimes feel uncontrollable. Without getting into a dialogue about why it is so on this particular day, take a moment to take three deep breaths into your stomach and chest, pausing for a moment then exhaling out of your mouth. Do this three times.
Then begin this short and powerful practice taught by the legendary Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. Find a comfortable seat, with your spine straight, preferably in a place that is quiet. Resting your hands on your thighs, allow yourself to breath again into your stomach, exhaling gently. On your next breath in, mentally say to yourself “breathing in I calm my mind” as you exhale “breathing out I smile” and actually smile. Do this for 2–5 minutes. This mediation has helped me during times where I have felt particularly anxious.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Don’t visit your local coffee shop for another round of caffeine or find solace in some real therapy. These as we know are impulsive, temporary fixes and more often than not, make us feel worse afterwards.
If you have a park or a tree lined street close-by, take a short stroll. Along the way not judging yourself and your thoughts or what you see, instead paying close attention to noticing and listening. It could be the sound of the birds singing or the kids playing or perhaps it’s the colour of the trees and the sensation of the wind against your skin.
Then take a seat somewhere comfortable and listen some more. Maybe with your eyes closed, not analysing the sounds, but genuinely curious about how each sound touches your ear.
You will realise after a few moments you are connected through your senses to this moment. Fully engaged. Mindful.
Recognise where you are
The final strategy is probably the hardest, but the most empowering. It’s the recognition you are lost in your thoughts. It’s also the admission that your mind has wondered off into regretfully replaying the past or fearfully projecting yourself into the future — how many emails you have to finish before the end of the day or how you’re going to miss pilates if this old lady crossing the road doesn’t hurry up.
This final strategy is pure presence, noticing you are not here and redirecting your attention to this moment.
The more often you flex this mindfulness muscle in you brain by bringing your attention to the here and now the stronger it becomes and the more times we are able to gather ourselves before slipping into mental chaos.
Try this next time you feel like you’re about to fall of your feet, I’d love to hear your how you go.