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    Grounding: A Simple Technique to Help Manage Stress

    Our species survived by being on “alert” against all manner of dangers: from large animals, from intruders and from nature. Our brains evolved into exquisite predictors of peril that game out things that could go wrong and how to avoid them. That’s one of the reasons we’re at the top of the food chain.

    Good for survival? Sure, but not always so great for our mental health.

    In rocky moments, the brain can go into overdrive, playing and replaying images of threats and catastrophes that might be just around the corner. This can heighten feelings of anxiety and sap us of vital energy we need to deal with current challenges. It can also stunt our ability to enjoy the moment.

    Grounding is a form of mindfulness that can help us cope with “what ifs” by tethering us to the present. We can tune in to “the now” by engaging the five senses: touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. Like an anchor, attending to these perceptions helps us connect to what’s really happening — instead of what could happen in the future. That helps us be more present and appreciate what’s right in front of us.

    So how do you do it?

    Start by simply tuning in to the physical sensation of your feet touching the ground, or the slight coolness of your breath as you inhale and the warmth as you exhale. Focus on that and let it quell all those swirling, worrying thoughts.

    Visually notice and name the objects around you. Concentrate your hearing on the sound of the distant hum of an air conditioner or a chirping bird. Notice the smell of something pleasant like a flower’s perfume or the air after a rainstorm. Savor the taste of a small treat like a slice of orange or a raisin.

    The mind can be restless, but learning how to do these things even for a short time can increase your ability to be more intentional with wandering thoughts. And, eventually, you can train your brain to remain still for longer periods of time. That brief hiatus and the reminder of the here and now gives us the opportunity to consider if we’d rather ruminate about unlikely threats or choose to spend the moment in a more productive or beneficial way.

    Mindfulness can reduce chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline that, in excessive amounts, can be detrimental to health. This activity also generates endorphins, which can help make us feel better. These simple biochemical changes, in themselves, can mitigate feelings of anxiety.

    Grounding can help you choose whether you’ll worry over all the ways a business deal could go wrong or turn your attention to calling a new prospective client. You can ruminate less about a potential pink slip and concentrate more on your partner’s needs instead. Would you rather think of all the things that might go wrong or go for a walk on a sunny day? Grounding is a mental and emotional reset that helps us consider what we’d rather be doing — and focusing on — in any given moment.

    Sometimes it’s prudent to monitor for threats. Millions of years of evolution aren’t “wrong.” But getting stuck in that headspace for too long doesn’t serve us in the long run. It doesn’t contribute to better health, a better relationship or more happiness.

    Grounding is not a panacea for all problems, but it’s an easy tool to add to your mental health toolbox. If, however, you find yourself struggling with persistent feelings of depression or anxiety, it may be time to seek out professional help — call 407-579-2070 for a complimentary consultation.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.