“A ‘grounding technique’ to decrease worry during these uncertain times” by guest blogger and Fibromyalgia London Group member, Dr. Rhonda Gilby, mother of two daughters with Fibromyalgia, and clinical psychologist for over 30 years, helping people cope with the various problems that they are experiencing. Rhonda has taught psychology courses at Western University (UWO) and its affiliates, worked with troubled children and provided psychological counselling to University students. Dr. Gilby recognizes that “it’s not always easy” and writes about how findings and ideas from the field of psychology can be applied to help everyone to cope better in their day-to-day lives.
Life is full of uncertainty, and the current pandemic has only added to that uncertainty. We are unsure of what is going to happen. When will be out of this lockdown situation? Will there be enough tests, enough food? What will happen with our finances and the economy? Will I and my loved ones stay healthy? As human beings, we crave security. We want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. Fear and uncertainty can leave us feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless.
Whereas most species are stressed by threats and dangers as they are occurring, our species can also be stressed by potential dangers that MAY lie in the future (but MAY NOT). We may go over the situation in our mind , imagining everything that might go wrong (catastrophizing), and worrying about how we might handle it. We begin to dwell in that future experience, which can interfere with what we our able to accomplish at the present time.
Imagine that someone comes to you, requesting some money from you. You ask them what the money’s for. They tell you, it’s the interest you need to pay on a loan that you MAY take out in the future. You tell them that you haven’t borrowed any money from them. But you might, they say, you could owe me money in the future. Would you pay them the interest?
It’s very similar with worry. Worry is the interest you pay in advance on a debt you may never owe. The thing that you’re worrying about may never happen. You’re wasting important mental energy on something that may never happen, when your energy would be better spent in preparing for what needs to be done now.
So what can you do so that you don’t worry as much. One helpful tip is to return your mind to the present. That’s where you should be focused. Worry is, by definition, about the future, so placing your attention on the present is a powerful way to reduce your worries. One straightforward way to do this is called “grounding”.
Grounding brings you back to the here-and-now, helping you to let go of the worry, calm down and bring your focus to what’s happening right now. Grounding techniques often use the five senses—sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight—to immediately bring all your attention to the present moment. Hold a favourite object in your hand and notice all the details about it, blast your favourite song and really listen to it, massage your temples and notice how it feels, smell a perfume or lotion that you enjoy, taste a piece of chocolate slowly melting in your mouth. Through these actions, you are strongly engaging with the present.
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
Another commonly used grounding technique makes use of all five senses at the same time. It is called the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. It starts with you sitting comfortably, closing your eyes and taking a couple of deep calming breaths (in slowly through your nose, hold, out slowly through your mouth, hold). Imagine letting your worry go. Now open your eyes and look around you.
Find 5 things around you that you can see.
Notice 4 things that you can feel right now.
Listen for 3 things that you can hear.
Find 2 things that you can smell.
Notice 1 taste in your mouth (maybe put something in there to taste).
Then, finish with a deep breath.
By re-focusing on your body and what you’re physically feeling, you get out of your head and divert your mind away from anxious thoughts about the future. Now that you are back to the present, you can focus on what it is that you need to be doing right now. Like any other skill, if you practice grounding techniques initially when you are calm, they will be more available to use when get caught up in your worries.
Take care, and don’t let your mind run away with worries during this difficult time.
Dr. Rhonda Gilby is the mother of two daughters with Fibromyalgia, and has been a clinical psychologist for over 30 years, helping people cope with the various problems that they are experiencing. She’s taught psychology courses at Western University and its affiliates, worked with troubled children and provided psychological counselling to University students. She recognizes that “it’s not always easy” and writes about how findings and ideas from the field of psychology can be applied to help everyone to cope better in their day-to-day lives. Contact/Connect: firstname.lastname@example.org