Get Grounded: Plant Yourself Firmly in the Present
As a teacher, you’re used to a little bit o’ chaos in your life. Even if you’re cool with it and pretty good at dealing with it, its cumulative effect over time can start to unground you. Stress builds. And proactively working to bring yourself back to center, will help you assert power over your body and your mind.
What does being grounded mean?
Think of it like this: Being grounded is like being firmly rooted. Balanced and peaceful. Nothing can knock you down or break you. Like a tree, you are stable and confident and strong.
When you aren’t grounded, you’re susceptible, easily affected, and sensitive. You’re vulnerable and things can easily throw you off your game. If being grounded is like being a big, mighty oak, then being ungrounded is like being a leaf in a windstorm. Shaky at best.
What does being ungrounded look like?
For a lot of people, being ungrounded creates a feeling of being detached — like a helium balloon floating to the clouds. This is usually deployed as a self-preservation technique, to avoid feeling and dealing with hard emotions or profound stress. Other people get really sensitive and feel like they’re click-clacking their way up the emotional rollercoaster. And some of us — hand up over here — find ourselves with debilitating panic attacks.
Being ungrounded can also be as simple as feeling more fatigued. Or moving from one glass of wine a night to three. Having trouble concentrating. Or losing patience with your students or family faster. It’s something everyone deals with from time to time, but having the skills to bring yourself back to the here and now regularly will decrease your stress levels and increase your happiness.
How do you ground yourself?
Learning how to ground yourself is an invaluable skill that’s actually super simple once your learn how to do it. And there are a ton of ways to do it. Feel free to find out what works for you. Getting out into nature is always excellent, as is cozying up to your pet. But, when you’re in the heat of the moment, in your classroom, in the Target checkout line, or wherever else you may start to feel yourself a little off-balance, it’s good to have some go-tos that work absolutely anywhere. Take these three for a test drive to see what really resonates with you and truly gets you where you need to be.
Belly breathe. Inhale through your nose for four counts and down into your belly. You’ll feel your stomach rise as the air fills your body, and fall when you exhale through your mouth, for eight counts.
This is such an easy technique to calm your mind and your body, clear your thoughts, and bring you back down to earth. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system — which shuts down your fight-or-flight response. And it can so easily be done anywhere at all. Plus, the more you practice, the more natural it will become, and eventually you’ll find yourself breathing more deeply and more measured without having to think about it at all.
Meditate. You don’t have to go all incense and velvet floor pillows for this to work. Simply do it wherever you are, whenever you need to. First, just focus on your toes. Wiggle them. Notice how they feel in your socks. And how your socks feel inside your shoes. Next, focus on the very top of your head. Reach up and touch it even to really connect your mind to the area.
Once you’ve sufficiently brought your awareness to your toes and the top of your head, imagine a beam of warm light shining into the crown of your head. Imagine that beam moving straight into your neck and your chest. Feel the warmth of the light beam continue down, through your legs and finally down into your toes. But don’t stop there. Picture the beam continuing straight down from your toes deep into the earth, connecting you to this planet in sturdy and stable light and love.
Practice sensory awareness. In any given moment, you can bring your awareness to the present by simply noticing what your senses are experiencing. Be still and observe your immediate surroundings. Then run through a list of what you’re experiencing for each sense. For example, you might say: I see a red car. I hear a bird chirping. I feel the sun on my face. I smell my laundry detergent. I taste the watermelon gum in my mouth.
This simple practice can move mountains when you start to feel yourself losing your center. Sometimes all it takes is just acknowledging the most basic things to pull you out of your head and into the world around you.
The more you practice these three techniques, the easier and more natural they’ll become. And in grounding yourself more frequently, you’ll find you feel more energized, more connected, more joyful, more engaged, and more at ease than you’ve ever been before. The best part? Now is the perfect time to get started — by the time the new school year rolls around, you’ll be an old pro at keeping the peace and finding your balance.