We are currently living through uncertain and scary days. No matter where you are in the world, I'm sure you're affected by the Coronavirus situation. However your days look like right now, I guess you find yourself worrying and stressed from time to time. And it's the most natural thing to happen, right now.
However, you don't have to suffer from it all the time, and you do deserve to feel better. How? By learning to use grounding – a simple mind-body technique that will help you regain control over your emotions, physical symptoms, and thoughts.
No worries, I got you covered. In this episode you'll learn two techniques that are known to help with lowering stress:
- Dropping Anchor
- Body Scan
You'll also learn how to connect to your values to help you navigate better in these times.
Resources Mentioned in The Episode
get the grounding refrigerator sheet
Download the free grounding guide. I recommend printing it out and hanging it where you'll easily see it whenever you get stressed, such as on you refrigerator, front door, etc.
Body Scan Meditation
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How are you feeling these days? What’s on your mind? What’s in your body? Are you experiencing new levels of stress and anxiety? I know I am. And I wanna dedicate today’s episode for teaching you a simple, yet powerful technique to help you de-stress. It’s all about dropping an anchor, and I’m gonna teach it to you right after the intro.
So hello my friends and welcome to this episode of The Apparently Parent Podcast. Usually, this is a place for talking about parenting and psychology, but today’s topic is relevant to you all, even if you’re not a parent. And if you are, the technique you’re gonna learn will be useful both for you and your kids.
So in the last couple of weeks, we were all thrown into a kinda crazy reality. No matter where you live in the world, I’m sure you’re affected by the Coronavirus somehow. And I think that none of us - or most of us - have never experienced something similar.
One of the hardest things in this kind of situation is uncertainty. The fact that we dunno what’s gonna happen makes room for tons of stress and anxiety.
But the truth is that we live with uncertainty our entire lives. We never really know what’s gonna happen. We have no idea how long we’re gonna live. And people who are wiser than me have already said that the only certainty in life is the end of life.
However, our brain does a really good job of dealing with this uncertainty. Because - and you heard me say that before - our brain has one seemingly simple job - to keep us alive. That's Why your brain is constantly seeking order, in everything. It wants to explain things, rationalize them, put things in neat little boxes. And it’s also constantly looking for danger, in order to keep us safe.
And usually, it works just fine. You get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, or school, or whatever. You go through the day, and then there’s another day and so on. And, if sometime during the day you encounter something that your brain interprets as a danger, you feel scared. You feel the emotion we call FEAR. And fear is an emotion with a sole purpose - to make us alert to the danger in front of us. And fear’s action tendency - the thing that it wants us to do - is to run away. I know that sometimes we have a FIGHT response, we wanna fight the danger. And sometimes we FREEZE. But the first thing we wanna do is run away.
However, sometimes our brains recognize the danger in stuff that isn’t really dangerous. That’s where anxiety kicks in. For example, if you have what’s known as “stage fear”, or a fear of public speaking, you can feel the exact symptoms of fear when you go on a stage as if there’s a saber-tooth tiger in the bushes. But there isn’t. Your life is not in danger when you get on that stage. That’s the main difference between anxiety and fear.
But - these days are not usual days. There’s this thing that’s happening in the world that is scary. And we can’t see it. And there’s a feeling that it can creep up on us from nowhere. And that. Is. scary.
So there’s a lot of uncertainty and you may feel that you can’t control anything right now. What was considered known and safe suddenly isn’t. Think about shaking hands! Did you ever consider that to be dangerous before? And you may have been told to stay at home - where I live schools were shut down two weeks ago and for the past week people have been told to stay at home as much as possible. Some people lost their jobs or were put on unpaid leave, and we watch the stock market and none of us know what will happen in the economy. And we can’t even meet our friends to relax or see our extended families like we’re used to.
So what I’m gonna offer you here today is a way to get back a sense of control and bring yourself back into some sense of being centered when the stress or fears become too much. And just for start, let’s acknowledge that you live in a weird reality right now. Those are kind of uncharted territories and we don’t have a lot of control over what is going to happen. In situations such as these, fear, anxiety, and stress are completely natural. And our minds tend to fall into ruminative loops, trying to get some sense of control. Thoughts about the future, what’s gonna happen - for good or bad. But as natural as these thoughts are, they’re not really helping us out.
So what I want you to do is to focus on the things you do have control over. You can’t control the economy, you can’t control what your politicians do, and you can’t control how the virus behaves. But you can’t control what you do. And that goes a long, long way.
And I’m not talking only about washing your hands and being distant from other people. Those are things that you can, and should, do. And they do have some influence on how things will turn out, right? But today I’m focusing on what you can do for the sake of your inner world.
I’m no sailor, but if you’ve listened to this podcast before you know how I love sailing metaphors, this situation brings one to mind. Imagine your life as sailing on the sea. And up until recently, the sea was quite calm. You may have had some bad weather, even storms, but nothing too big. But all of a sudden this huge storm gathered on the horizon. In the beginning, it was far away, but now it’s here. And this storm brings really strong winds, and rains, and lighting, all causing really huge waves of bad emotion such as fear, anger, worry, and sadness.
And what does a ship do when a storm comes? It drops an anchor into the ocean. And the anchor lodges itself in the ground and its weight helps keep the ship from turning over during the storm. And then the ship has to weather the storm until it ends. And it always ends.
So how do we drop an emotional anchor? We do so by using a simple technique called “grounding”. I use it a lot with my clients who suffer from panic attacks and I used it on myself and taught it to my kids as well. It’s really useful both for adults and children.
Grounding has a few simple steps that you can follow. So when you feel stress building in your body, or a flow of panicky thoughts stops what you are doing and push your feet into the ground. You can sit down, or stand up, it doesn’t matter. Just push your feet hard into the ground. Feel yourself being grounded into the Earth.
Take a couple of long, soothing breaths.
Now, notice what’s going on in your body and in your mind. Tell it to yourself. Name it. “I’m feeling my heart pounding. I’m having this tightness in my chest. I’m afraid of getting sick. I’m scared of losing my home”, etc.
Ok, now after you’ve done this, I want you to look around you and search for five different colors in your surroundings. Notice five things with different colors. Take your time. Breathe.
Now, try to notice five different sounds in your surroundings. Keep breathing slowly.
You may notice that by doing so, your mind will divert back to those scary thoughts. That’s ok. That’s your mind doing what it knows how to do. Notice your thoughts, or sensations, but keep going back to breathing, to grounding your body, and again notice five different colors and five different sounds.
The whole point is not to stop thinking or feeling. It’s all about learning to be with what’s coming up while also diverting our attention to somewhere else. Because those scary thoughts? They’re just thoughts, and they don’t serve you right now.
As you do that, usually you’ll start feeling the pressure lift and your stress levels go down. Not instantly, but it will happen.
Another technique that I like to use here is called “body scan” and it’s a great way of putting our attention into our bodies. Imagine that your attention is like a laser beam, scanning your body from the top of your head to your toes. Slowly. And in each part notice what are you feeling. What do your eyes feel like? What does your neck feel like? What does your chest feel like? And so on. Don’t try to change anything. Don’t judge yourself. And if your mind wanders, go back to where you were and keep going. Notice where your body feels good and where it doesn’t.
Now I do suggest that you search for guided grounding meditations or body scan - there is a lot to be found on YouTube, and I’ll put some up on the show notes of this episode. Just go to /https://www.apparentlyparent.com/7 and choose what you want.
Now, I wanna talk about something else that is related to dealing with this sense of no control. This day and age are giving us an opportunity to tune inside and reach into what is most important for us, and I mean our values. And those are not the values that society tries to instill in you. I’m talking about the values that come from within you. They define not who you are, but who you aspire to be. What kind of parent you wanna be. What kind of spouse? What kind of son or daughter? What kind of employer or employee? What kind of person, do you want to be?
And now, more than ever - what kind of person you wanna be in these times? I bet that your mind had words popping into it, such as “caring” or “strong”. Just notice what’s coming up.
You know what? Here’s a nice exercise. Take a moment, and if your comfortable close your eyes (unless you’re driving), and imagine yourself in the future when everything is behind us and we’re back to normal. And you sit with someone who cares about you. It can be your spouse, or a good friend, or maybe your parent or one of your children. And that person tells you about what you were to them and what you meant for them during this time. And it’s really important that you try and imagine what do you want them to say about you. Not what you think they will, but what you want them too. Take your time and do that, and this will tell you what your values are.
Your values represent a certain quality that you’re trying to achieve, but you will never fully get there. This is where values differ from goals. Because with values, you’re trying to get to the horizon, so it’s an ongoing, never-ending journey, but a very satisfying one.
However, you may feel right now that everything is just frozen. Right? You may have lost your job, or maybe you’re trying to work from home while taking care of little kids, or whatever, you just feel that your goals are frozen. And that may be true in a sense. But your values are still there and very much alive. So, what can you be right now for your partners? For your kids? What can you be for your parents? And what about who you can be for other people in your community? And not less important - what can you be for yourself!
It’s so important that you make space for yourself in all this. This is especially true if you have a responsibility for someone else like children. Just like on an airplane, if the oxygen masks fall down, you must first put one on yourself and only then on your child. Why is that? Because your children need you to be confident and breathing. So please, find whatever helps you feel good and gives you air. You deserve it and your family deserves it as well.
So, that’s it for today. If you have anything that you wanna ask me, or if you’d like me to discuss something specific in the podcast, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can find me on Instagram at @apparentlyparent and you can also go to the show notes of this episode at .https://www.apparentlyparent.com/7 where you’ll find more resources for these ties and you can fill out a form to send me your questions.
Stay safe everyone, wash your hands and don’t forget - every storm has an end. See you soon.