There's feeling anxious, and then there's feeling ANXIOUS. That's when a good grounding technique comes in handy 😉 You're going to love this one!
If you think of your body as an energy container then "grounding" is a way to reduce the amount of the charge it contains. "Grounding" effectively drains the energy in the same way a ground wire safely draws away electrical current. (That is, you're not going to get completely zapped when you put your finger in a wall socket!)
In the same way that a ground wire secures physical safety, psychological grounding techniques bring comfort to the body.
Many folks use the strategy of planting their feet firmly onto the earth as a grounding technique. Others use the breath. By the way, in this context the feet and breath are known as "resources".
The first thing to do is to find yourself a comfortable place to sit. You can also ground standing but for now let's just try sitting.
Notice your sits bones under you. Notice the chair (or couch) supporting you. Feel the chair against your back. Find where you feel a good connection with how your body makes a contact with the chair. Notice the sensations in your body.
Sensations in our body might show up in any number of ways. You might notice sensations as a feeling of lightness overall, butterflies in your tummy, tightness in your shoulders, curled tight toes, warmth in your chest, tired in your arms, wobbly in your head.
Track any number of sensations as your body settles. You might notice for instance that by staying inside your body, you feel a little heavier after a few moments.
You'll also notice that as you ground energy is released or discharged through your body. You might feel some heat in your face, tingles in your legs or even lightheadedness for a few moments.
These are good signs that your body is letting go. And in order for it to settle it needs to let go of pent up energy. Grounding does that.
Just so you know, there's a difference between grounding and relaxation. Grounding, by definition, contains the element of awareness. For instance, as you ground, you are likely aware of energy flowing in your body.
Relaxation may also have an awareness component (I might notice my shoulders are no longer hiked up around my ears) but it's not necessary.
I bet you've noticed that willing yourself to relax is practically impossible if you're all charged up. You see, you just can't force it.
In fact, it's logically impossible - how do you make an effort not to make any effort?
Paradoxically, this same pent up energy may naturally dissipate as you walk alongside the ocean. Before you know it, you're feeling relaxed and calm.
Keep in mind that grounding is a method, whereas resources are the tools. I might track the sensations of feeling my body on the chair. The chair is my resource and tracking sensation is part of the grounding technique.
I often get anxiety/panic attacks, usually in escalating chains, and they are exhausting and often incapacitating. They can also prevent me from sleeping or leaving the house for days at a time. They have been occurring on and off since I was around nine, but of course at that age I had no idea what they were.
I have been prescribed valium in the past as a temporary reprieve, but I am aware that valium is addictive and due to this I wound prefer not to use it if I can avoid it. I sometimes use aromatherapy and breathing exercises to calm myself down (though I can't use valerian as I am allergic), but if I don't manage to calm an attack in time its often too late.
Can you suggest some natural or non-addictive alternatives that may be able to help me with this problem? Thanks.
Annie (Goulburn, Australia)
I can imagine how your life is quite restricted owing to these limitations Annie. Good for you that you're continuing to look for answers.
And yes, I do know of alternatives to valium which when you reflect on it, is basically just another way of hamstringing your life.There are supplements that might help also - however given I can't make these types of recommendations (as a Psychologist), it's best to check with a naturapath. You can also try Chinese Herbal Medicines which several of my clients have found helpful.
It's sad to say that the word is still not out about self-regulating techniques. Because there is a way to overcome anxiety Annie and it needn't hold you back from living a normal and fulfilled life - which is what I would wish for you.
From your symptom description and the suffering your'e going through, I'd want to get relief sooner than later. So, I'd recommend seeing a body-based therapist - that way you'll be on the road to deep healing much faster than just using supplements alone.
Using body-based techniques you'll probably feel an almost immediate relief and certainly in time you'll develop some great tools. Long term work will give you a freedom you've probably never experienced before.
I wish you the best on your journey,
P.S. If you've never heard of body-based work Annie, you might enjoy the movie I did on how it helped me.
I am curious. Do you have to have your feet 'on the ground' (or floor) to ground yourself? If you can use your breath then maybe not? What about sitting up in bed? Or in a car? (I often feel the very strong need to ground myself while driving because of certain thoughts coming to mind). I will be interested to know.
Good questions Sandra. It usually helps folks to feel their feet against something (except in the case of trauma associated with one's feet). That said, it isn't an absolute necessity.
For instance, while sitting up in bed you could ground through your seat. I've certainly grounded by deliberately focusing on my seat while sitting in my car - at the end of a long journey I'll wait a few moments as I sense into the buzzing I almost always have. I've also sensed into my seat at a red light just to bring myself more into the present.
Personally, I don't always use my breath. That's quite an individual preference. Breathwork has usually been activating for me for most of my life and it's only recently that I've been able to feel it as a resource.
When I work with clients, I encourage them to just "watch" their breath rather than try to control or force it. That's because it's best to work with the body than against it. It's more effective generally.
Thanks again for your comments Sandra,
Your so right on with your article! With the stressful times we live in this is one of the easiest things people can do to relax and recharge. Check out www.livingearthed.com for the science and research tab for the recent studies saying the same. Loving Living Earthed
Barefoot Bob (Carlsbad, CA, USA)