My wish for you this January is that you will find your way to be grounded, to manage stress and anxiety and to be able to find your own way to stability, strength and yes peace no matter what stormy weather you encounter. In Ireland as in many other parts of the world many of us are weary of Covid and all its impact on our lives, the losses, and the stress and anxiety of ongoing uncertainty. I am especially mindful as I write this of the strong, resilient, can do, generous and gifted women who have kept on, keeping on these past couple of years.
And here we are in January, a traditionally dark and often challenging month as we wait for Spring to break through. January is also a time of great resolutions, new beginnings and often increased expectations of ourselves. I am all for self development and self improvement, or self-regulation as we might say from a mindfulness perspective. But while still living in the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic, dealing with the divisions and polarisation that often comes with masks and vaccinations, and at the same time living with the ‘ordinary’ struggles of day to day living, our nervous systems are in a way under ongoing attack. It is really challenging to feel stable, grounded and at peace while we are in this state of hyper-vigilance. It is why some of us strong , can do, generous and gifted women might be unusually stuck, stressed, anxious, maybe feeling spectacularly ungrounded as we continue to push through, to keep on keeping on.
So I am going to be controversial here. I want to invite you to consider this January of all January’s to take the foot off the pedal a little, to go gentle and slow. Please consider the following five ways of grounding in times of stress and anxiety. See if you might alight on one that makes sense to you. Better still discover your own practise of grounding and make space for this in your day, everyday. Let this grounding practise then be a part of your daily routine for January so that you not only manage stress and anxiety of challenging times, but you build your own core strength, your own core peace and your own inner clarity no matter what the external circumstances.
Using the Five Senses for grounding and managing high levels of stress and anxiety
When you are feeling upended and unsettled, ’ungrounded’ if you like, you need a way to settle your mind and body. By engaging the areas of the brain associated with your five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch, you will immediately put yourself into the present moment. This is such a simple step and yet the evidence is in as studies show that when you help the wandering mind by an action that brings you back, again and again to the present, you will connect with your own inner peace and clarity, and you will feel much better. That is because when you are present, you cannot be at the same time worrying about what’s ahead, or ruminating about the past. Simple and effective brain training that will not only cut through your heightened sense of stress and anxiety but will also give your brain a break and restore your parasympathetic nervous system so you find yourself in a calm, resting state.
So how about each time during January that you feel stress and anxiety rising and you want instead to feel grounded, to settle down and gain some stability, instead of engaging our often habitual energy of keeping on and pushing through, you try one of these or another preferred grounding technique?
1. Take three slow, intentional breaths
We know from research that slow breathing improves your psychological and physiological well-being. Fortunately, you can access this simple practice anytime, anywhere. Try taking a slow inhale through your nose and a slower exhale through your mouth. It might be helpful to count, so see if you can breathe in for four slow counts and then breathe out for six initially and then as you get used to it, to eight counts. Make this a habit by doing it at least five times throughout the day.
2. Take a walk…barefoot if you can
Go outside for a walk- not an exercise fast paced walk but just to walk. As you walk, pay attention to the feeling of your feet on the ground. Notice the feel of the earth beneath you, and notice how your muscles move.
Studies show that being outside in this way, feeling the earth beneath you can lessen pain and improve your mood. Challenging for those of us in the northern hemisphere at this time of the year, but see if you might walk in this mindful way even for a few minutes – transformative.
3. Soothe yourself
A core practise in Mindfulness teaching and especially in Mindfulness and Self Compassion is learning to be as kind to ourselves as we more naturally are to another. Simple soothing practises involving touch engage the parasympathetic nervous system and calms the body right down.
Try this. Placing a hand on your heart, and tune into the feeling of your hand. Perhaps you will notice your heart beating. See what it feels like to gently pat yourself or to rub your chest in a circular motion.
Other ways to self soothe is to place both hands on the heart, or if you prefer you can place your hands in other areas of the body. Or try gently cupping your cheek, offering soothing touch to your belly, holding your own hands, or giving yourself a hug.
4. Look at a bare branched winter tree
Go outside and find a tree in its winter nakedness – perhaps now with signs of new growth or buds just beginning to appear. Notice the strength, stability, rootedness, and beauty of this tree just as it is right now. Now with your eyes closed imagine the strength of the tree coming into your own body, so that you too are connecting with your own inner strength, stability and beauty just in this moment. Scan your body –by which we mean just travelling slowly from the crown of your head right down to your feet in contact with the earth. Notice each part of the body, connecting with its own inner strength and stability, and then how, just like the tree, the whole body is rooted, grounded and stable.
After you scan the body, open your eyes and notice the sky and whatever else you see in your field of vision. Feel the air, maybe wind or rain on your skin and notice your chosen tree again.
5. Eat a mindful meal
When’s the last time you really tasted your food? In our fast paced 21st century living, many of us don’t just eat our meals. While we eat we are reading, scrolling through our news feed, watching tv, chatting with someone, often doing several other things while also eating.
So a simple if radical suggestion here. We know that eating a meal mindfully not only brings you back to the present, but It also makes the food more enjoyable, because in this case you are actually tasting your food. So for one meal a day try this. Pause and look at the colours and textures of the food you are putting in your fork. Notice how it smells and then take a bite. Take time to notice the texture and taste of the food, and be curious about how your tongue moves the food around. Chew slowly and pause before sending your fork after the next bite.
Do not hurry
See how a flower grows
She is not in a hurry
She doesn’t compare herself with other flowers
She doesn’t long to change her colour
Or find another form
She doesn’t try to grow
But when the conditions are right
She will blossom
And the flower is trusting this process. So relax … and stay in contact
With your own inner reality
– Leonard Jacobson
If you would like to learn more practical practical steps to not only manage stress and anxiety but also to blossom as a strong, passionate woman leader check out my next powerful free masterclass at the link below. Places are free but limited. I hope you will gift yourself this time and join me.