When should I ground?

When you feel ungrounded, stress seems to have a larger sway on your emotions and ability to cope.  It is hard to get started on taking action, and your thoughts and energy seem to race all over the place without giving you insight into how to handle each situation that arises.  If you find yourself in a state where it almost feels as if all your focus is on your thoughts and you feel detached from your physical body, this is another sign of being ungrounded.  Practicing grounding techniques is a great way to rebalance and refocus, it also has wonderful and measurable benefits for our immune systems, nervous systems, and overall health.

Becoming ungrounded is quite easy in our fast-paced society and can come from many different directions.  It can come from medications, stressful situations that you haven’t taken the time to process, overfilled schedules and lists of responsibilities, and distance from nature are all common causes.  Having too much energy work or bodywork can also cause you to become ungrounded.

Here are some simple tips you can try.  Not every option will work for every person, the goal is to identify a handful of practices that work in different situations that you can call on to help reground you as soon as you notice a need.

Breathing –

Our breath is one of the vital functions that we can easily control consciously or allow to happen by reflex.  This ends up being a fantastic tool that bridges our conscious and unconscious nervous systems.  Also, as we breathe out long and slow, this engages our relaxation response and as we breathe in (especially quickly), this triggers our fight or flight response.  By focusing on taking deep, long, and equal inhalations and exhalations, we can ground quite quickly.  This is why many meditations include a focus on the breath. 

Exercise:

Sit on the ground or in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, close your eyes and notice your breath.  When ready, take a deep inhale to the count of 3, 4, or 5.  Pause for a count of 2 then exhale for the same number of counts you inhaled.  Repeat for a total of 10 breaths.  If this exercise was particularly difficult, this is a good place to work, lower your counts and repetitions until you can build up to a count of 5 and 10 repetitions.

Body Scan –

This is a quick trick that can be done in almost any situation.  Here we are focusing in on the body instead of our racing thoughts to see where we are holding tension and allowing it to release. This can be a great way of feeling more connected to our body and more solidly “in” it.

Exercise:

While standing, sitting, or laying down, take a good 30 seconds to scan your body from head to feet or feet to head.  At first, just notice where your body feels relaxed, warm, and pleasant as well as where it feels tense, painful, or cold.  Once you have a good idea of where things need some attention, focus on relaxing the muscles in the area.  Is your jaw clenched, open it up and wiggle it around, you could even give your cheek muscles a nice massage.  Are your shoulders elevated near your ears?  Take a deep breath and let them relax down.  Does your chest feel tight, and you are taking shallow breaths?  Try taking a long deep slow breath to stretch our your ribs and let your belly expand with the breath.  Continue through the body.  You can also follow along to a body scan meditation

Earthing:

Contact with the bare soil or grass of the Earth allows an electrochemical exchange to pass between us.  This is similar to grounding a battery and can be very soothing.  If you can try it without shoes on, this is even better.  There is a lot of research on this topic, so if you find yourself skeptical, I invite you to read some studies.

Exercise:

Go outside.  Sit, stand, or lay on the Earth for 5-20 minutes.  This is best done daily to get the best results.  While there, pay attention to what you feel where your body meets the Earth.  If inclined, look at the plants and animals around you and remember that you are part of nature.  If inclined, have a conversation with Mother Earth, the trees around, the sun, the plants, or any other peoples you feel drawn to have a conversation with.

Nutrition:

Yes, of course, I will go here.  One way to use our diet to focus on grounding is to make sure we are eating real food and avoiding foods that are inflammatory.  You know the drill, avoid refined grains, sugars, alcohol, stimulants, packaged foods, and factory farmed meat, dairy, and eggs.  Focus on root vegetables and greens.  Pay particular attention to what is in season around you and eat more of that.  Drink a cup of herbal tea made from roots such as burdock or roasted dandelion, or try a nettle leaf infusion to increase your mineral intake.

Connection:

When all else fails, call or visit a friend.  Have a conversation with someone who makes you smile regularly and feel less fatalistic.  If you are having difficulty with your current connections, consider joining a group of like-minded individuals in an activity.  You can visit the library to view offerings on their bulletin boards, join a book club, or a crafting club.  You can visit meetup.com to search for groups in your area with upcoming gatherings.  You could also start or join a circle of people who meet monthly to support each other. Isolation is a pretty easy way to get caught up in our own thoughts and lose a bit of our connection to the world around us and our physical bodies.

Meditation:

There are many, many forms of meditation, so if you have tried meditation in the past and not found it helpful, consider trying a different form.  Some prefer to meditate in silence focusing on clearing their mind like a blank slate, but many more find this difficult and more aggravating than helpful.  If you like to meditate alone but with some sort of guidance, I like apps like Headspace, Calm, and Pause for this.  You could also do a moving meditation such as dance, yoga, or take a meditative walk where you focus on noticing the sights, smells, and other sensations around you.  You could try something a bit more esoteric like a shamanic journey – I do suggest finding training for this before trying it out. 

Simply Feel Your Feet:

This is my favorite for a quick centering.  I will take my shoes off and press my feet firmly into the ground and shift my weight into the center of my feet, take 3 nice long breaths, and usually allow a saying, mantra, or song lyric that fits my situation to play through my head.  Currently, my favorite two are singing the chorus of Settle Down by Kimbra or this quote from Pixie Lighthorse’s new book Prayers of Honoring Grief: I have come too far to abandon myself now.

Give these a try you may surprise yourself by how effective they can be.  Also, remember there is no such thing as a switch that can take us from all the way ungrounded to a fully grounded state.  This is continual work that will follow you through your life.  Finding the right fit and changing things up when something no longer works as well is key.  You may even be able to help others ground once you recognize and are familiar with the practice yourself.  This is particularly helpful for children and teenagers.

As always, To Our Health!

Dr. Currey

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