Grounding yourself: quick techniques for calming anxiety, panic, flashbacks and challenging emotions
We all can fall victim to having a bout of anxiety or panic surrounding challenging emotions. Which is why it’s important that, if we do become aware that we’re undergoing a panic or anxiety attack, we have some useful tools available to us in our arsenal to resolve the situation.
First of all, what do we mean by being grounded?
Well, if we use the analogy that our body is an electrical circuit, then it’s possible that we can have too much positive charge which causes us to feel anxious and possibly panicked and we need to reduce the excess charge i.e getting our body back in balance with positive and negative flows in order to establish an equilibrium.
How to ground yourself
So how do we go about doing this?
Here are some simple and practical tips:
1. Becoming aware of the present moment, body scan:
This can be one of the easiest or one of the hardest simultaneously. It’s easy because it’s so simple and if we are anxious then the option of doing a quick body scan and becoming “present” is an easy enough task to carry out.
However, it’s hard because if we are panicking then the last thing we want to do is confront that emotion as it feels so uncomfortable. But, the fact is, by bringing our conscious attention to the area of our body that feels the most uncomfortable and confronting these anxious emotions it can help to start the process of emotional clearing needed in order to re-establish an equilibrium in the body.
So by simply closing your eyes and “feeling into the area of anxiety” we can start to dissipate its effects by allowing it to naturally arise and be dealt with.
The more we become conscious and aware of these uncomfortable emotions, the more we are able to deal with them appropriately and allow them to be felt and then naturally pass of their own accord once they’ve been adequately processed.
2. Breath-work, breathing into the emotions
Going deeper into the idea of becoming present to the uncomfortable emotions is the idea of “breath work”.
If you find that the emotions are just too uncomfortable to sit with and give your present attention to because you just want to escape them, then it can be very useful to start focusing on the breath.
Just close your eyes and take a deep breath in counting to one, and then a deep breath out counting to two. Continue this until you count sixty breaths (so thirty inhalations and thirty exhalations) then you can reassess how much these anxious emotions are affecting you.
Ideally, you will find that the act of focusing on the breath and counting your inhalations and exhalations helps you centre your consciousness, but you will still have enough distance with the uncomfortable feelings that are arising. So breath work acts as a good go between because you aren’t directly focusing on the uncomfortable emotions.
You can continue this for 5 to 10 minutes perhaps, until you feel that some of the anxiety has left you and you’re beginning to feel more grounded.
3. Physical Exertion / Workout
Whilst the first two techniques for becoming more calm, focus more on a meditation / mindfulness approach, the third is all about embracing your physicality and that is why a good workout, jog, hike or run can help you relieve yourself of a lot of the anxious feelings that bother you.
There’s a reason why people who are feeling highly strung or “charged” like to get down the gym or at least just get out of the house and go for a run. All that pent up emotional energy can build and often there is no better way to get rid of that excess than exerting yourself physically whether it be getting down the gym and lifting some weights, going for a long bike ride or really just running it off.
It’s no surprise that a lot of people who are drawn to doing marathons or Iron Man competitions for example, are said to have a lot of deep work they need to do physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
That’s not to say you have to sign up for the next marathon, but just consider getting some physical exposure in order to exercise some of your demons.
4. Switching up your diet
It’s said that “you are what you eat”, according to some schools of thought there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that earthy vegetables that grow in the ground and have their “roots” in the soil have a lot of grounding properties because they soak up the tranquil energy of the earth.
So that said, another good idea to deal with feeling more grounded and fighting anxiety is to switch up your diet and incorporate more wholesome foods such as carrots, sweet potato, potato, beets, turnips, parsnips etc. in order to get as much earthy nutrition that will help you embody the same qualities of being down to earth.
Regarding whether eating meat can be grounding, there is some disagreement about this, but when it comes to eating earthy vegetables there is much more consensus amongst shamanic practitioners so having the idea to cook some vegetable soups and stews may help you in this regard.
5. Walking barefoot and lying on the ground
This is another way to essentially try to ground yourself physically. If you do feel “charged” and feel like there’s a build-up of positive ions in your body, it may be a good idea to try taking off any shoes or slippers and lying on the ground barefoot for anywhere from 5-10 minutes to perhaps even 20 to 30 minutes or an hour.
You’ll find that just lying on your living room or bedroom floor helps bring about a more grounded and balanced feeling and helps take away some of that excess charge.
Similarly, the same effect can be had by going into the garden or just taking off your shoes and socks to walk in the house or outside (maybe even at a park barefoot). Earth is a natural grounding element and when you consider that our ancestors evolved to walk barefoot in hunter-gatherer societies, then it is no wonder that by wearing shoes and socks for so long there is a build up of positive ions in the body, that doesn’t have a chance to be drained off.
That is why just walking on some earth for 5 minutes here and there can have amazing results for your overall well-being and sense of grounding.
6. Self-Enquiry / Self-Reflection
So far we’ve covered a lot of techniques for how to ground yourself in the face of panic attacks and anxiety, but a good technique for dealing with flashbacks and challenging emotions is to have some self-reflection and self-enquiry.
If you can take some time out of your day to confront challenging emotions, and then you can begin to ask yourself where are these thoughts / emotions coming from? Why are they arising now? And what’s the best way to deal with them?
It’s said that questions are the steering wheel of the mind - if we ask better quality questions, we live a better quality life.
By asking these questions you’re enabling the power of the sub-conscious mind. Consciously we are only aware of less than 5% of the information are mind is taking in. When we direct our focus to ask the right questions you’re recruiting the power of your subconscious to essentially run a search query and try to find an answer to why you’re dealing with these challenging emotions and what you can do about them.
If you try incorporating some self-reflection and self-enquiry you’d be amazed at the kind of answers that naturally arise from your subconscious, and if you act on them you might find some pretty unique and creative ways to deal with challenging emotions and flashbacks in the future.
This is a way to try to incorporate some self-reflection into your analysis of these challenging emotions, and how to get to the root cause of them so you can effectively bring these issues back into harmony with yourself by hopefully resolving them.