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Pandemic Response 3/3. How to find your reset button using grounding techniques

This week we conclude the mini series on our Pandemic Response. In Parts 1 and 2 we looked at how to remain socially connected during lockdown; and how we responded to the Government on the impact of the pandemic.


This time, we’re going to be taking a look at how you can build your resilience while in lockdown, by using what we call grounding techniques.


What are grounding techniques?

Grounding techniques are mental skills that we can learn and develop. They help us to improve our mental well-being, which we know is an important indicator of resilience.


First, it might be helpful if we break the term down. Grounding is the practice of bringing your attention back to the present moment – the here and now. Techniques are simply the tools that we apply to help to achieve a sense of being grounded.


Some examples of grounding techniques include:


  • Focusing on breathing

  • Going for a short walk

  • Becoming more aware of things around you

  • Visualisation

  • Positive self-talk


Benefits of grounding techniques

There are many benefits to using these tools. For example:


  • They can be used anywhere and at any time

  • You can choose which ones work best for you

  • They are a mental skill that we can practise and get better at

  • They can help to build our resilience

  • They are great for managing difficult emotions

  • They help to raise our self-awareness


Where do I start?

When we’re still developing our grounding techniques or testing out what works, it might be helpful to seek out times when we feel calmer and spaces where we feel comfortable.


Take a moment to think about where you feel most calm and comfortable. This might be in your garden, perhaps before you go to sleep, or maybe just chilling out on your sofa.




These could be great places to test out some grounding techniques as our brain is likely to be more receptive to new ideas when we’re calm and can think more clearly.


Like with any skill, the more we practise grounding techniques, the more likely we are to use them effectively. So, test out a few different techniques to understand what works best for you.


We know it’s helpful to practise our mental skills when we are feeling calm. But what about the times when we face challenges controlling our stress levels or our emotions?


The next stage of our blog will discuss high intensity emotions. If this is likely to trigger some emotional distress, we advise reading this blog with someone you trust (if this is possible), who can help you to manage unpleasant emotions. If you’re on your own, it’s a good idea to reach out for support in managing your emotions, for example by making a phone call to someone you trust.

Grounding techniques and intense emotions

Now, more than ever, you may be facing challenges when it comes to feeling calm. Grounding techniques are most helpful at a time like this. When we are experiencing more intense emotions, we can use grounding techniques to help to calm us.


The most common time to use grounding techniques is a situation where you feel highly stressed, anxious, depressed, excited, nervous or generally out of control. During this time, it is difficult for the brain to function effectively as it tries to process highly charged emotional reactions. Because of this, you might find that your thoughts feel scrambled or disorganised. You might also act more irrationally.


If we can implement a simple grounding technique, such as deep breathing, we can calm our emotions and manage our thoughts more effectively. When our emotions are less intense, it is likely that we’ll be able to think more clearly and make more rational decisions. In highly emotionally charged situations, being able to calm your mind and think clearly helps you to perform to your best ability.


Some situations where this could be beneficial include:


  • Exams and tests

  • Difficult conversations at work

  • Presentations

  • Family, romantic or professional relationships

  • Managing difficult life decisions


To understand a little bit more about high and low intense emotions, you may want to check out our Emotional Awareness Grid. By using the grid, you can identify when might be a good time for you to practise grounding techniques and times when you might need to apply them to help to manage your emotions.


This tool features in our Mental Skills Training Toolkit.


Mental Skills Training Toolkit

In our Toolkit, we identify 6 grounding techniques that can help you to build your resilience:


1. Categories game

2. Bear hug

3. Counting backwards

4. Short walk

5. Breathing

6. 5-4-3-2-1 technique


We intentionally included techniques that were a little bit different. They are also flexible and can be changed depending on our environment or situation.


Let’s take a closer look at three of these techniques, that we think could be the most helpful during lockdown when we need to focus on our well-being and self-care.


Short walk

A short walk outside is one of our personal favourites, as we find our emotions are calmer when we’re in the outdoors and closer to nature. Now that we’re in lockdown, any time to spend outdoors feels even more valuable. But of course, we also have to be mindful of Government guidelines and our social responsibility.


Perhaps it might be helpful to plan your walk for a time when you feel it might be most helpful to reset your emotions. In other moments, even getting up to walk into a different room could be a good strategy to find some psychological space, by changing your physical space.


Grab a blanket and give yourself a BIG bear hug

As we all know, we have to be mindful of our physical and social distancing right now. And what better way than to wrap yourself in a blanket and give yourself some love! And yes, we’re aware of how odd this sounds. But actually finding some time to be cosy, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and just be present in a moment when your feel comfortable, can very beneficial for our well-being.


The 5-4-3-2-1 technique

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique helps us to slow down and become more aware of what’s going on around us.


Here’s how to use it. Working back from five, all you have to do is think of five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.




This a common technique but now might be a good time to use it, to really become aware and appreciate the little things around you. For example, when was the last time you noticed how many different plants are in your garden? Or, when was the last time you actively thought about the tastes and flavours of your lunch?


Are grounding techniques different from mindfulness?

Grounding techniques and mindfulness are actually closely related. If we consider a tree analogy, mindfulness could be considered the trunk – the main point from which lots of different methods grow to help us be more present in the here and now. From this ‘mindfulness trunk’, grounding one’s self is one branch (or method) to achieving a present state of mind. Finally, the leaves from our ‘grounding branch’ are all the different techniques we adopt to be more grounded, such as those discussed in this blog post.




Thanks for reading our mini series on the Pandemic Response. We hope that you’ve found it helpful and that you’ve learnt some new tips for improving your resilience during lockdown.


What are your top tips for self-care during lockdown? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below, or on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life.

You can check out our Mental Skills Training Toolkit to find out more about using grounding techniques when working on personal development. You can also try out our Emotional Awareness Grid and other free resources.

References

https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques#physical-techniques

https://www.livingwell.org.au/well-being/mental-health/grounding-exercises/

Photo credit

B.P. & Anna Flemke on Reshot

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Contact

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

University of Birmingham

Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

UK

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