The last few weeks have been a lot.

Daylight savings messes with my head, even when I think it won’t. Then, I had a lot of things I wanted to get done and absolutely zero motivation to do any of it. The news has not been good. My heart aches for the people of Ukraine and those in Russia who’ve been lied to for so long. My migraines are not under control (yet). Not far from where I live and even closer to my workplace, tornadoes touched down.

And there’s just SO much, because we’ve been “doing” the pandemic for 2 full years now. I was both in my head and out of it, and I needed to find my way back to here and now.

Fortunately, I learned a lot about this kind of grounding while I worked at a mental health clinic specifically for veterans and their families. Perhaps less fortunately, I’ve had lots of practice the last few years, working on this for myself.  

At any rate, here are five things I do that help me find “here and now,” grounding myself in the present so that I can be fully present.

  1. Write it all down, but then destroy it Journaling has long been known to help with mental health. Even a quickly scribbled list of emotions that you are feeling in the moment can help you identify what is happening in your head. 

Sometimes, we don’t journal because we are worried someone will find it, but writing it out has benefits that go beyond the historical ones. The act of destroying what you have written, in whatever fashion fits your mood and circumstance, acts to reset your mind and “put away” whatever you have just finished writing. No, it doesn’t delete the emotions or the circumstances. The good will still be there; the bad will still be there, too. But it does help to physically “put away” the writing. 

My personal favorite way to do this is to just shove the papers in the shredder.  The brrrrrrtttttzzzzzz sound of my mood being eaten alive is very satisfying.  

The second step to this is optional.  I write down the things I am thankful for, here and now.  You can also add the next activity to this.

person holding a pen to a notebook

2. Take 5. Sit comfortably, then slowly look around your space. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel (such as the chair under you, or the softness of your shirt), 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. It is up to you whether you write these down or not, but these are things that are right here, right now, in this moment.  

3. Box breathing. This is super simple, and it helps me keep my mind from racing headlong (ha) into things. I use the Headspace app fairly regularly, and the way Eve does the deep breathing is as follows: breathe in for 4 beats, hold for 4, breathe out for 6, hold for 4. Then repeat. 

Scrabble tiles that say "exhale, inhale, repeat"Box breathing is usually considered to have 4 beats for each of these 4 pieces, but following the app and breathing out for longer seems to help me more. You don’t need an app or anything – just a little quiet time, even sitting at your desk. In for 4, hold….

 

 

4. Go for a walk. Seriously! Even a five minute walk down to get the mail or a quick walk down the block and back can clear your mind. It’s good for your body, good for your brain, and does help you reset from whatever felt boggy or overwhelming.

I generally work from home these days, so I use my Apple Watch to remind me to stand up. I walk through the house, into the backyard, or down the street a little bit. By doing this a few times a day, I find that I can access my motivation and energy better.

5. Practice your memory. My stepdad was a police officer and encouraged teenage me to be very aware of my surroundings. This included car models, license plates, etc, but oddly enough, I find myself using this more often just to remind myself of my surroundings. 

Look around you for a count of 5, then close your eyes. Mentally list all the things you see.  Where is your pet? Where is the pen you just put down (or threw)? What screen is your computer on? Then, open your eyes and see if you were correct.

I got this idea from this site, and it really helps. There are loads of other ideas, too. 

Remember, you can (and should) care what is happening in the world. And there are things you can do to support the things you care about.

However, you do no one any favors by burning yourself out at work, at home, or by thinking of “the world we live in.” By staying present and taking time to refresh yourself in small moments, you can help yourself stay grounded and in the here and now.

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