We have all been in situations that make us feel anxious, frazzled, confused and panic-stricken.
And yet, some of us seem better than others at dealing with influxes of drama, pressure and demand than others. What is the secret to being cool, calm and collected? And if there is a secret, how can we find our inner peace amongst the chaos in everyday life?
Learning how to ground yourself in any situation is an invaluable life skill that, although seemingly confounding, is far less complicated than you might have originally thought. Once upon a time I used to be completely dumbfounded and annoyed by those who breezed through life, seemingly impervious and infallible to the thousands of little dramas that arise daily. I used to wonder whether this cool serenity displayed by certain types of people was a result of luck: perhaps they were just born as impenetrably tranquil demi-gods who were always, somehow, in control of life 100% of the time?
My belief that being grounded stems from being “in control” has led me down some pretty painful paths. Eventually, after a lot of self-imposed anxiety, I learned that the key to grounding yourself doesn’t lie in controlling yourself, other people, or situations, but letting everything flow its natural course.
The paradox is that the more you try to control or resist a situation – whether by demanding it to be a different way, by desiring something else, or by forcing yourself to “look” a certain way – the more physical, emotional and psychological turbulence you experience.
On the other hand, the more you accept a situation as it is – without trying to change it in any way, or change yourself in any way – the easier it is to remain centered and whole.
Ironically, the more you relinquish control, the more power you have, and the more control you seek, the less power you have.
Life is strange, isn’t it?
So if you are struggling to keep your feet on the ground and stay present, learn from my mistakes and try adopting some of these techniques into your daily life.
1. Focus on your inhales and exhales.
You might have heard this advice over and over again ad nauseam … but don’t take it lightly! Focusing on your breath when learning how to ground yourself is one of the easiest and most immediate ways of centering yourself in the Now. You might notice that when you are frenzied or emotionally unstable your breathing becomes shallow and quick, stemming from the center of the chest. In order to ground yourself, consciously focus on each breath that you take, feeling your breathing deepening to the stomach.
You might even like to couple breath focus with conscious counting. For example, if you are in a particularly tense situation, allow yourself to stop and start counting each breath you take, e.g. “One, (breathe), two, (breathe), three, (breathe), four, (breathe), five (breathe) …” until you have grounded yourself again.
2. Practicing self-remembering.
We have been conditioned since birth to create, build and promote a certain image of ourselves to others. For example, your identity might be that of an autonomous, outspoken and successful business woman, or mine might be of a thin-skinned, artist who puts everyone first because that has been my self-concept since childhood. Whatever your image of yourself is, it is imperative for us to look beyond the veil of the self’s beliefs, memories, ideals, feelings, sensations and inner dialogues to the greater Self’s true nature.
Ask yourself, are you really something as finite, transient and changing as the feelings, thoughts, beliefs, ideologies and assumptions that arise and fade each day within you? Stripping away your identity, your body and your personalities which all strengthen and weaken, come and go, grow and die, brighten and dim, who are you? What remains?
Self-remembering is the practice of stopping yourself in any moment and asking, “Is this really me?” Once you learn that any situation, any person, any success or failure, any sensation is not really “you” and has nothing to do with who you really are, you can relax in the wholeness of your true Self. You can honestly realize that the nasty way your co-worker treated you, the failure of your exam, the pressure of having to make a good impression, all have nothing to do with “you” – only your fabricated identity which is subject to growth, change and decay.
3. Practice the “looking back” technique.
The looking back technique is very simple and works on the following premise: in 10-20 years’ time, will your current problem really matter? Most likely it won’t make much difference, and even if it does, has the problem permanently ruined your life? If so, you might like to reconsider what “happiness” and “success” mean to you and how they are helping or hindering you to live a fulfilling life.
The fundamental principle of life is that “everything will pass,” and so will your source of irritation, frenzy or anger.
4. Incorporate somatic mindfulness into what you do
Somatic mindfulness is best paired with focusing on your breath which helps to anchor you into your body. Somatic mindfulness, which is also known simply as “body awareness” helps to redirect the energy you are focusing on your thoughts, fears and emotions, to the sensations in your body. For example, when I’m feeling particularly ungrounded, I like to focus on my breath and roll my shoulders up and down. Focusing on my body in this way helps me to not only dispel somatic tension that tends to accumulate easily, but also to center myself in the present.
Other people like to scrunch their fingers and toes into tight balls and release them, clasp their hands together, stretch their limbs, and many other body-centered techniques that are grounding and centering.
5. Create physical distance
While walking away from a situation is not always possible, it is often extremely helpful to physically take a step back and wind down allowing your mind and body to process whatever has happened. Finding solitude in nature is a particularly helpful way of grounding yourself and reminding you that life is so much more than your fears and troubles. Making solitary time for yourself each day is a good way of bringing everything back into perspective without getting lost in the details.
Learning how to ground yourself in any situation requires patience, discipline and persistence. But while it takes genuine effort to center yourself, the good news is that you are just as capable of being calm and collected in daily life as anyone else and the recommendations I’ve made in this article will help you to establish a foundation for that.
If you have any tried and tested ways of grounding yourself that you would like to recommend, please share in the comments!