Have you ever had that feeling of being unsettled? Like no matter what you do, you just don’t feel comfortable in your own skin or this nagging doubt is occupying your thoughts? It can be a very uncomfortable experience because we as humans crave stability and groundedness. We enjoy the feeling of being secure, knowing where we stand and what to expect.
However, life as it is, does not follow a predictable, linear path, so sometimes the we have to take initiative in seeking out this stability. Recently, I have been faced with a tangible example of an unsettled environment. For the past two weeks, I have had to live out of a hotel because my home was flooded. Fortunately, the damage is replaceable, but it still disrupted my nice, predictable routine.
Unsettling experiences can be tangible and physical like in my case, but can also come in the form of a mental or emotional “rocking of our world” experiences as well. This unsettling can range from a mild, uncomfortable feeling to a total disconnect between our consciousness and the external world around us.
Something that can be helpful when we experience these types of unsettling feelings is to do activities that reconnect us with the external world around us, in essence, grounding us in our immediate surrounding environment. The goal is to direct our attention away from the internal, uncomfortable and unsettling experience and towards what is outside of that experience.
These activities are simple and can be done almost anywhere. Depending on the intensity of the discomfort, someone may only need to do the activity for a minute or two or may need to continue for much longer. Also, to track helpfulness of these grounding activities, it can be helpful to identify your level of discomfort on a scale of 1-10 before engaging in grounding and then identify your level of discomfort according to the same scale after.
Here are some examples of grounding techniques you can try: Pick a category (for example car makes or clothing brands) and name (either out loud or silently) as many of items you can think of in that category; read to yourself slowly, focusing on taking time to identify each word; count up/down slowly; repeat a favorite quote, mantra or song lyric; describe to yourself your environment in detail, making sure to identify what you are seeing, smelling, touching, and even tasting; run cool or warm water over your wrists or even take a warm soothing shower, focusing on the feeling of the water running over you; run your fingers over an object like a bracelet or smooth stone; notice and focus on your breathing; identify things you are looking forward to in the near future. The list doesn’t stop here; basically the goal of these activities is to redirect your focus from the unsettling feelings to something neutral or positive outside of these feelings. As long as the activity is meeting this goal, grounding techniques are only limited by our creativity.
Life is full of twists and turns, varying from a slight veer to the left or right to intense hairpin turns, but with the help of some adjustments to ground and stabilize out of our own efforts, we can navigate through these a little bit easier.