Grounding: Emotional First Aid

Grounding is a tool I often use with patients. In CBT it is usually used to help people who have been through a traumatic experience, for example to ground someone back in the present moment if they are experiencing a flashback.

However, in my opinion, you don’t have to have been through a trauma to benefit from this simple yet powerful technique.

 

What is grounding?

Grounding is a technique that can be used immediately in the moment when you feel your emotions are at a high level to help to bring them down to a more manageable level.

The aim of grounding is to re-connect with the present moment by using your senses.

In this way, it is similar to mindfulness.

An example might be to literally stamp your feet and feel the contact of your feet on the ground.

Other examples might be:

  • Rubbing your hands quickly together and feeling the heat you can generate.
  • Deliberately spotting all the green objects you can see around you.
  • Listening for the next 5 sounds you can hear around you.
  • Smelling essential oils/your perfume/your coffee.

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When to use it

Crucially, the aim of grounding is not to get rid of emotions.

Emotions are there to help you to make sense of your situation.

However, if the emotion is very distressing, unmanageable or overwhelming, then grounding can help to bring the emotion down to a point that you can cope with it and allow it to pass.

 

Emotional first aid

I like to think of grounding as emotional first aid.

We all know that from time to time, we might cut ourselves and bleed.

If the cut is small, we don’t need to do anything. We can leave it alone and it will heal itself.

This is the same with most of our emotions.

We will all feel difficult emotions from time to time but if they are at a manageable level, they will pass by without any need for us to intervene.

At this level, we don’t need to use a grounding technique to manage our emotions but we could choose to use relaxation techniques, meditation or mindfulness practices to boost our overall wellbeing.

 

If we cut ourselves a little deeper, we may need to cover it with a plaster so that we can get on with our day.

The cut is still healing itself underneath the plaster and it wouldn’t necessarily harm us if the plaster wasn’t there.

The plaster is helpful in that it is stopping the cut from bleeding all over the place and preventing it from getting caught on things that could hurt it or slow down the healing process.

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At this point, we might think of the emotional level as being difficult or distressing but not completely unmanageable.

Grounding could be helpful at this point to help to re-group (i.e. not spill all over the place).

Just as the plaster helps to prevent a cut from getting caught on things that could hurt and slow down the healing process – grounding yourself in the present can help to reduce dwelling, worrying, and over-thinking that could exacerbate the difficult emotion.

This is where I believe many of us could benefit from grounding.

 

However, from time to time we might be unlucky enough to sustain a serious wound that needs pressure applying to it until medical attention can be sought.

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This could be the emotional equivalent of flashbacks, nightmares or ‘zoning out’  following a traumatic event.

Here, grounding can be used to manage severe distress until you can receive help from a therapist or mental health professional.

Just as you would go to A&E with a serious wound, if you are experiencing these kinds of symptoms, it is important to seek appropriate support.

Your GP or your local Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service may be a good place to start.

 

Want to know more about grounding or building your emotional resources?

You can learn more about grounding at my upcoming Emotional Resource Building Workshop. Details of workshops and events can be found on my Facebook page here: Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing Facebook Page

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Building Emotional Resources

(Because sh*t happens)

When you first think of resources you may think about things like time and money. These things are undoubtedly important but I would like to invite you to think about your emotional resources.

If you were going about starting a practical project like building an extension on your house, starting up a small business or even a small project like baking a cake, it would seem very sensible to start by gathering your practical resources.

If you are building an extension, you need plans, building materials, experts to help you, money to pay for it, time to build it.

If you are starting a small business, you will need a product or service, somewhere to work from, insurance, promotional materials, a computer.

If you are making a cake, you need some ingredients, a mixer, a cake tin, an oven, and some time.

Yet people can often expect to be able to meet life’s challenges without investing anything into their emotional resources.

Even in the day-to-day life of working, parenting, caring for someone, being a friend, running a car, maintaining a home, there are bound to be many and varied problems along the way.

 

Just as you need building materials for your extension, you need emotional resources to deal with life!

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How do you know if your emotional resources are lacking?

Feeling drained?
Tired?
Irritable & on edge?
Tearful, fretful, harassed or over-stretched?

If it only takes a small thing to tip you over the edge or if you think you couldn’t possibly cope with one more thing going wrong, this is a sure sign that your emotional resources are depleted.

Even if you are OK, it makes sense to keep you emotional resources topped up and it certainly can’t hurt to have more resources available to you.

 

How can emotional resources help?
Let’s do a quick thought experiment to demonstrate the difference between running on empty and having good emotional resources…

Think for a moment about a time when you have felt really overwhelmed or drained.

  • Really picture yourself in this scene…
  • Notice how you stood or sat
  • What was the expression on your face
  • Notice your tone of your voice
  • How did you feel in your body.
  • Notice what kind of thoughts you would have when you feel this way.

Now imagine your car breaks down.

  1. How would you feel?
  2. What would you think?
  3. How easy or difficult would it feel to sort it out?

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Now contrast this by thinking of a time when you felt confident, on top of things, strong or competent. Picture yourself again:

  • Notice how you stood or sat
  • What was the expression on your face
  • Notice your tone of your voice
  • How did you feel in your body.
  • Notice what kind of thoughts you would have when you feel this way…

Now imagine again that your car breaks down.

  1. How do you feel this time?
  2. What would you think?
  3. How easy or difficult would it feel to sort out?

Which starting point would give you more resilience?

 

And…
When we invest in our emotional resources, it can save you other valuable resources too.

If you can solve a problem without worrying as much about it, you will save the time, effort and energy you would have put into worrying.

When you can think in a more constructive way about a problem, you could save yourself wasted time and effort chasing your tail on ineffective solutions or time spent dwelling about how bad things are or how difficult life is.

Whatever level your emotional resources are now, investing some time into building them is time well spent.
You can’t prevent sh*t from happening but you can build up your ability to cope when it does!

Did you know that Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing offers a Building Emotional Resources Workshop for the workplace?

Check out Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing Guided Relaxation & Workshops

The first step in building emotional resources is noticing and naming your emotions.

You may like: Why I Don’t Like the Terms ‘Stressed’ and ‘Depressed’

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5 Signs of Burnout at Work (apart from feeling tired)

One of the most obvious symptoms of burnout is tiredness and this is usually fairly easy to recognise. Here are 5 more signs that you may be burning out and top tips for dealing with them.

 

1. Irritability or tearfulness over small things

Have you ever bitten someone’s head off over something small?

Found yourself crying over a mug you just dropped and broke on the floor?

Felt like it would only take one more thing to ‘tip you over the edge’?

 

In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy we often use the analogy of a ‘stress bucket’ when this kind of thing is happening. The idea is that we have a certain capacity to deal with stress. If you have a lot in your bucket already, you have less space for daily hassles so it takes less to ‘spill over’.

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Usually, you are able to contain the small things but when you are burning out you have less room to deal with them.

The reaction you have – usually shouting or crying – is not just in response to the small thing that has just happened, but to the build up of all of the things in your stress bucket.

 

The answer…?

A metaphorical release valve on your stress bucket.

This may be having some ‘me time’, engaging with activities you enjoy, eating well, exercise, being around people you feel connected with or relaxation or meditation.

Whatever it is, it should be something that helps you to feel re-charged. It should free up some space to cope with the day to day hassles that life throws your way.

 

2. A boom and bust pattern of activity

Are you running around like a headless chicken all week, then feel absolutely worn out and unable to do anything at all by Friday?

Then you may be in a boom and bust pattern of activity.

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A boom and bust activity pattern is often associated with chronic conditions.

When someone has a good day, they can often try to cram everything in. Unfortunately, people can then feel like they are paying a heavy price for the next few days.

However, it doesn’t only apply to chronic conditions and anyone can fall foul of boom and bust.

If you are burning out, maybe you are trying to fit in as much as possible on any given day to feel on top of things. Then at the weekend, you feel like you need to do ‘nothing’ to recover.

 

The answer…?

It is all about balance.

Aim to do a little less on your boom days and a little more on your bust days.

Dialling it down may feel counter-intuitive when you have a lot to do but consistently working at 80% may actually be more productive than working at 100% one day then 20% the next.

Of course, if you do have a chronic condition, there can be more to it than this. It may be helpful to ask your GP if they can refer you for additional support.

Many Improving Access to Psychological Therapy (IAPT) services can support people with long term conditions using CBT and CBT-based techniques.

 

3. Putting things off

On the flip side of over-working to catch up or feel on top of things, you may be procrastinating.

Are you putting off opening your post because you don’t want another thing to deal with?

Are you ignoring that e-mail you know you need to reply to?

 

The answer…?

There could (and will be) a whole blog about procrastination.

When we procrastinate, we are really trying to avoid the anxiety we are anticipating the task will cause.

Here’s the thing – you feel anxious about it anyway and it is lasting longer.

Try to ask yourself why you are avoiding the task and whether putting it off it going to make it better or worse in the long term.

If it is a large task, break it down into manageable steps and aim to do just one step to get you started.

Notice when you are doing the task or once it is completed if it was as difficult as you expected and give yourself credit once it has been done!

 

4. Heart-sink

When you think about going back to work on Monday morning, do you get a sinking feeling?

Do you dread going back into the office and facing the next working week?

Everyone feels this way from time to time but if this is a regular experience for you then maybe you are at the point of burn out.

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The answer…

I think this one really comes down to a question of values.

Maybe your job really doesn’t fit with your values or maybe your values have changed since you started working in your role.

In which case, maybe it is time for a change.

Maybe you do still value certain aspects of your work but you have been bogged down by other aspects of what you do. If this is true, then can you re-connect with your values?

If, at the heart of your job you are helping someone and this is what you value, can you keep a journal of the good that is coming from your work?

If your values are linked to learning and development, can you apply for training courses or get into a good book or podcast about your subject area to re-connect with your interests that steered you towards the job?

Can you proactively bring your personal values and passions into your job role?

On a more practical note, if you are bogged down with other tasks – can you say no to any of them? Can you delegate any of them? Can you ask for help?

 

5. Numbing out or distracting yourself.

Are you consistently numbing yourself or distracting yourself to avoid how you feel?

Are you spending way too long scrolling through social media?

Do you need to collapse in front of Netflix with a bottle of wine to numb yourself from your emotions?

There is nothing wrong with social media, Netflix or drinking wine (in moderation, of course) if these things connect you with genuine interests and enjoyment. But if you are using them to get rid of something bad, rather than to gain something good, then maybe it is a sign that you are burning out.

 

The answer…

The same as point number 1!

Regularly caring for your wellbeing  by using relaxation or meditation practices, connecting with your emotions and learning how to self-soothe effectively, connecting with the things you value and enjoy, spending quality time with people important to you…

Don’t know where to start?

Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing is here to help.

You may like these 5 Relaxation Myths

Visit here for information about wellbeing workshops and guided relaxation sessions in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

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We think mainly in opinions

When you opened the curtains this morning did you think:

‘It’s a lovely day!’ or ‘it’s a miserable day’?

Or did you think:

‘The sun is shining and the sky is blue’ or ‘it is raining and the sky is grey’?

I’m guessing it was something more along the lines of the former than the latter.

 

As we go through our day, most of what we think probably feels factual.

On the whole, people treat most of their thoughts as though they are facts most of the time. Often this isn’t really a problem. After all, life would be pretty dull if we didn’t have opinions and preferences.

 

Sometimes though, it can be useful to check in with your thoughts and notice that many of them are actually opinions rather than facts.

 

Why?

Our thoughts impact on how we feel emotionally, and on how we behave. If you have a negative thought and treat it as though it is a fact, it is likely you will feel an emotion that matches up with that thought and then behave accordingly.

Imaging how you would feel if you had the following thoughts and believed them to be 100% true facts:

‘I’m not good enough’

‘Everyone is laughing at me’

‘I’m socially awkward’

‘I am a disappointment’

‘My work is rubbish’

‘I’m a bad parent’

Then imagine how you would behave if you believed these thoughts to be true.

In actual fact, all of the above statements are opinions. Someone else could take a completely different view and at a different point in time, so could you.

 

Thought experiment…

To get an idea of how many of our thoughts are opinions rather than facts, take a look at the picture below and list all the thoughts that automatically come into your mind about the picture.

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How many adjectives did you use?

How many judgements (positive or negative)?

How many statements of fact did you make?

 

When is a fact not a fact?

For the little experiment above, it was probably pretty clear which thoughts were factual and which were opinions. It can be a little more tricky when we encounter social facts.

Take the example of someone who just won 3m on the lottery.

Most people would think ‘they’re rich!’ and think of that as a fact.

However, those on the Forbes rich list would probably disagree.

 

When it is an opinion, there is an alternative…

To return to our negative thoughts, if we can identify these as opinions rather than facts, this means that there is an alternative. Maybe there is a more helpful alternative.

Sometimes, just acknowledging the thought is not a fact can be enough to change the emotion we feel and what we do as a result.

It also gives us a bit of distance from our thoughts and for those of you who like mindfulness, this is similar to taking an observer perspective as you would in mindfulness practice.

What’s more, re-stating something in a factual way can sometimes help you to gain a more balanced perspective.

Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments!

You may also like: Stress: Is It All In Your Head?

Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing has now launched Guided Relaxation & Workshops
in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees!

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Are You Feeling Comfortable?

Here at Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing I want you to feel comfortable. Wellbeing is the aim of the game, after all.

Comfort is a funny thing though and lately I got to thinking about what it really means to be comfortable.

In therapy, we often talk about getting out of comfort zones.

On a daily basis, I encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones so that they can learn something new about themselves, other people or about how they view the world.

All from the safety of my own comfort zone!

Don’t get me wrong, I have stepped outside my comfort zone plenty of times before.

But actually for most of the time I live well within my comfort zone, as do many of us.

Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with this as long as your comfort zone is not restricting you or causing you any particular problems.

There is something to be said about being content and grateful but maybe there is a fine distinction between comfort and stagnation.

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The difficulty is that growth, change, or just starting something new are not going to feel comfortable.

They just aren’t!

Discomfort and uncertainty are best buddies!

I push my clients to get out of their comfort zones so that they learn something important to help them in their recovery. Perhaps it is only when we are not so comfortable that we learn the most important lessons.

Comfort is in doing what we already know.

Comfort lives in the familiar and predictable.

Comfort likes you to stay exactly the same.

That is not to say that everyone should all be participating in extreme sports or even that we need to do something far outside our comfort zones for it to be worthwhile.

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Often it is the small step we take to give our opinion where we might otherwise have remained silent. The small risk we take to make a new connection or rekindle an old one. Risking failure at something, no matter how small.

It could be speaking up in the team meeting, it could be busting some moves on the dance-floor or working on your self-improvement.

It could basically be anything that feels a bit scary.

Here is my confession now – as I write this Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing is just an idea. It does not yet exist.

I have this business aspiration and a desire to carve out something new but it is a bloody scary prospect and I fear that nobody will want it, people won’t be willing to hire me, people will think I am stupid for trying when I already have a rewarding, safe and comfortable job (and many more fears and worries).

So, if you are reading this you can be sure that I am practising what I preach and I have stepped out of my own comfort zone to create my business.

The good news is that our comfort zones are adaptable and what is scary now will not be scary in time.

We all remember doing things like learning to drive or starting a new job which felt terrifying at first and now feel – well – comfortable.

Comfort is great. Comfort is lovely. Discomfort can be awesome too if we do it right!

 

You may also like: Remember You Can Cope

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