So often what I am inspired to share in my blog is advised by the skills I see clients most seeking, or find I am most frequently recommending. This particular skill- grounding- you may have heard of before (especially if you have sat in my office!) and I have referenced in past posts. But- it is so powerful and has gotten so much clinical mileage for me lately that a blog post dedicated to the skill seemed apt.
Let’s test what you know. I was in an HR based skills training trying to get clinicians to buy in to some organizational changes several jobs ago. The hook to the training was about tying your shoe. The presenter said things that you think you know how to do and have been doing for years, you may be doing wrong. To prove the point, the presenter showed us all the “correct” way to tie our shoes- which was different by one move for most of us. I share that experience to say to you- you may think you know grounding- but there may be more to learn to do it more effectively for yourself. (I think I am in a story-telling mode to illustrate points from listening to Caroline Casey’s audiobook- which is wonderful by the way).
Grounding, put simply, is focusing on “lizard brain” things and not “prefrontal cortex” things. In other words, I am not interested in what your inner cerebral committee has to say during grounding exercise. I am interested in sensory experiences and direct data input happening in real time from the world around me. What happens is, since we are higher brain capacity and cognitive beings, we can become tied up in those parts of ourselves to our detriment. Life experiences can also take control and get us “stuck” in our heads. Grounding is essentially doing something, or a series of somethings, to bring you back into basic functioning and absorption of immediate experiences.
Something you may have mislearned: meditation does not mean grounding. Meditation can be relaxing and has a great many therapeutic benefits (I definitely use them myself and in client work!) but they are not what I mean by grounding exercises. Oftentimes, we hear meditation and mindfulness used interchangeably and together, and so equate them. In fact, meditation is not the same as mindfulness, which is closer to grounding activities.
I also want you to understand that while grounding exercises are be necessity very simple, there is power in that simplicity and such is the point. When you are doing these exercises your goal is to engage in them at a length of time that is proportionate to the amount of stress you were under before you began. You are trying to bring yourself out of your head and into the present, so you have to spend as much time coming out of the rabbit hole as you spent going in.
Grounding exercises are also not the same as coping skills. While grounding can be used as a type of coping skill, and some coping skills are certainly grounding, an association does not a mirror make. Remember too, that coping skills are meant to help you survive a period of time or a certain thing- that is their function. The function of grounding is to accomplish a very specific thing- take you out of your intellectualizing prefrontal cortex altogether.
Of course I wouldn’t share an article with you about grounding without giving you some grounding exercises to try. While these are good exercises for anyone, I have found this particular list to be especially useful to creative people:
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The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.