Grounding: The sweet science of getting back into the moment, resetting, and re-engaging
Imagine you find yourself in a boxing ring as a fighter, and your opponent in the match comes out swinging. The other boxer lands a couple of hard-hitting blows, and they send you down. You still have fight in you, and you’re ready to go. What’s the first thing you have to do with your body before you can do anything else?
From the prone position, there is no fight. The match is over, and you are overwhelmed and out. To do something different from lying on the mat, you have to get back on your feet.
Intense and distressful emotions and thoughts can feel like blows in a boxing match. Grounding is a way to become present, get back on your feet, and allow the emotions and thoughts to be so that you can then re-engage in life. Getting your feet under you in a boxing match does not make your opponent vanish. However, getting back on your feet allows you to do other things (e.g., fight again or head to the corner to take a second to steady yourself) while the other boxer is still in the ring. How do we get back on our feet in the presence of difficult emotions and thoughts? Try out the following steps below and notice your experience.
Three Steps for One Important Skill (as adapted from the World Health Organization )
Step 1: Notice
Notice how you are feeling and what you are thinking. Notice by saying to yourself, “Here’s anger/sadness/anxiety,” or “I am thinking about xyz” with openness and without an attempt to change it.
2. Slow Down and Connect with Your Body
The World Health Organization (2020) suggests slowly emptying your lungs and slowly refilling them up while pausing for a second or two before emptying/refilling, pressing your feet firmly in the floor, and stretching your arms out wide. This step is about knowing through experience that you have more control over your body than you may think.
3. Re-Focus and Re-Engage
The step is about re-engaging in the world around you. Note five things you can see, four you can hear, three you can feel/touch. Re-engaging sometimes means restarting what you were doing before feeling overwhelmed by emotions; sometimes, it means engaging in a self-care activity (going for a walk). By realizing that this situation presents an opportunity to do something different than what you’ve tried in the past (such as attempting to reduce or get rid of painful thoughts and feelings), you may be able to identify and deploy a new skill to more effectively engage in in the world around you.
While fighting against your emotions or thoughts is a never-ending struggle and can make you feel stuck in a loop, you may find that using these three steps helps you get back on your feet and do something useful. After getting back on your feet, try reconnecting with what matters to you, mindfully re-engaging in what you were doing before the hits came, or talking with a caring friend. Remember, like in a boxing match, you may have to get on your feet many times during a rough moment to do what matters.
If you would like to learn more about this approach and build skills to manage life’s struggles differently, contact Dr. Glenn Sloman at 321-345-0579 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consult.