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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It Isn’t All Bad

Blue Monday is just around the corner and is said to be the most depressing day of the year. But maybe it isn’t all bad?

I’m guessing the immediate reaction for some of you will be along the lines of ‘it bloody well is’!

Certainly, if you happen to be going through a difficult time in your life then it is likely to feel that way. Even if you are not going through a major life event you may still feel like this from time to time.

It is very easy to get bogged down in the day to day hassles that life presents us with.

When someone simply tells you to look on the bright side or some similar well-meant but largely unhelpful platitude, my guess is that you internally tell them where to stick their bright side.

That said, there is something about the way our attention works that could prevent us from seeing a bright side if we think that everything is going wrong or if we are feeling bogged down.

 

Focus of attention

Our focus of attention is not an objective thing; it is subject to numerous biases and we tend to filter out some information while paying particular attention to other information.

This is a very necessary way for us to operate because if we took in all of the available information to the same level, we would struggle to process it all or to get anything done!

Our brains, sometimes helpfully but at other times less helpfully, tend to take short-cuts.

I will talk about 3 short-cuts in particular that work together to maintain the belief that everything is awful.

  1. We pay particular attention to the things that support what we already believe and these things are generalised and magnified.
  2. We largely ignore information that contradicts what we already believe.
  3. We distort neutral information to fit in with what we already believe.

 

To flesh this out a bit, let’s imagine person A has the belief that everything is going wrong and person B has a belief that things are going pretty well.

Now let’s say that the same 3 events happen to person A and to person B.

  1. They each go for a job interview and don’t get the job.
  2. They each get positive feedback from the interview despite not getting it.
  3. They each get stuck in traffic on their way home that night.

Person A will definitely turn their full attention to the fact that they didn’t get the job but it is unlikely to stop there.

If they have a belief that everything is going wrong they are likely to be thinking:

‘I knew it’, ‘I never get the jobs I really want’, ‘I’m always really bad at interviews’, ‘I’ll never be able to get a promotion’, ‘nothing ever works out in my favour’, ‘what’s the point in even trying’.

It becomes about more than just this one job interview. It becomes about every job interview they have been unsuccessful in and it about every job interview they will go to in the future.

It may also be generalised to other unrelated events that are not going well – maybe the boiler broke last week or their car needs to go into the garage – it all becomes lumped together and gives more weight to the belief that everything is going wrong.

So later, when they receive feedback that they did very well in the interview and that it was just down to the other candidate having a little more experience, person A doesn’t really acknowledge the positive feedback. It is simply discounted.
Later still when person A gets stuck in traffic (which I am classing here as something fairly neutral) they are likely to give that their full attention and interpret it as being terrible because it fits with the way they already think and feel.

Maybe it goes something like:

‘Oh, this is all I need after such a bad day’, ‘what else can possibly go wrong’, ‘I hate being stuck in traffic’, ‘now I’ll miss out on time this evening’.

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Person A still holds the belief that everything is going wrong and probably feels pretty de-moralised.

 

A different focus

On the other hand, person B is less likely to focus as much attention on the fact that they didn’t get the job. They may feel disappointed but if they already believe that things are going well they are more likely to dismiss it:

‘It is disappointing but there will be plenty more opportunities out there’, ‘It wasn’t the right kind of job for me anyway’, ‘it was good experience to go to the interview’, ‘I’ll do better next time’.
Later, when they receive positive feedback and are told it was just down to the other candidate having a little more experience, they will give that positive feedback their full attention and they are likely to generalise and magnify it.

‘That was nice feedback’, ‘I am pretty good at interviews’, ‘They seemed impressed with me, I’m sure I’ll get the next one’.

Then, when person B gets stuck in traffic they may think:

‘I don’t mind having a bit of time for my brain to unwind before I get home’, ‘I can listen to that podcast I have been wanting to listen to’, ‘I’m not in any rush anyway’.

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Person B still holds the belief that things are going pretty well.

Neither way of looking at these events is right or wrong. They are both biased. But person B is going to experience far less negative emotion than person A.

 

Changing Focus

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So, if you wanted to challenge the belief that everything is going wrong, it is going to take a change of focus.

Not so much looking on the bright side, but purposefully seeking to alter the attentional biases at work.

Step 1: State only the fact, rather than generalising and magnifying.

Step 2: Acknowledge the positives, rather than discounting them.

Step 3: Ask yourself if there is a different way of seeing the same situation. How would you view it if you felt better? How would someone else view this situation?

Have a not so bad day!

Lemon Squeezy makes wellbeing easy!

Remember You Can Cope

I was recently invited to a hen do by a very good friend which was a small gathering for afternoon tea.

Now, afternoon tea is right up my street and I have been friends with the bride to be for many years, so I was surprised to find myself feeling nervous as I got ready to set off.

I could feel the churning sensation in my stomach and a rising sensation in my chest as I got into the car and waved to my partner and my kids.

 

But why?
The first explanation I had for the nervousness was that the hen do was somewhere I was unfamiliar with and I wasn’t too sure how to get there but I had my sat-nav on and this didn’t feel like a good explanation for why I was feeling this way.

Nonetheless, I took a few deliberate deep breaths into my diaphragm as I was driving.

As soon as I did this I realised that I was actually thinking about not knowing many people there and imagining myself making awkward small talk.

I don’t think of myself as someone who is anxious in social situations.

As a rule, I really enjoy being sociable and I am quite happy to talk to people I don’t know but we can all fall along many different spectrums of anxiety and on this occasion, I was feeling nervous.

 

Why it helps to remind yourself of coping
Generally speaking, we feel nervous or anxious when the perceived threat is bigger than our perceived coping.

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Threat vs. Coping

I was focusing on the potential to:

  • say something stupid…
  • feel awkward myself…
  • or cause the other people to feel awkward.

This was the perceived threat.

What I did to help was to balance this out by remembering my ability to cope.

Once your perceived coping outweighs the threat, there is no longer a reason for your body to respond with anxiety.

If you are wondering, this is what I reminded myself of:

Years ago, I was invited to a hen do for a friend of my partner at the time.

I didn’t know her well and I had met a couple of other people who were going maybe a handful of times.

I was going out with them in a city I had never been out in before and not one, but two of my partner’s ex-girlfriends were also in attendance!
I had massively mis-judged what to wear, felt far too hot all night and feared that I looked like a beetroot on all of the pictures of the evening!

hen do photo

And clearly needed to drink a lot of water to cool down…!

I made some awkward conversation with one of the aforementioned ex-girlfriends.

But everything was fine!

Nothing terrible happened, I coped with the situation and had fun!

 

The result?
As soon as I remembered this, the nervous feeling in my stomach dissipated completely.

My perceived ability to cope outweighed the perceived threat and I enjoyed a picturesque drive, met some lovely people and had a lovely time!

 

How to do it
Next time you are focusing on thoughts of things going wrong, why not try it:

Step 1: Breathe
Step 2: Notice what the perceived threat is about
Step 3: Think of a time you coped with something similar or something even more challenging than this situation.
Step 4: Remember what happened? What skills did you use? What qualities did you have that helped you to cope?

Struggling to Think of Something?
Look for times you have used similar skills or qualities.

Have done something of faced a challenge that makes you think ‘if I can do that, I can do anything’?

Most of us have experienced challenges in daily life:

  • Delivered presentations at work
  • Given birth
  • Survived a really difficult job interview
  • Got through a challenging university course
  • Passed your driving test…

The key thing is to remember that you have coped before and that you can cope again.
If you remember your ability to cope, the task in hand will start to seem more easy!

Lemon Squeezy makes wellbeing easy!

Image Credit: Pixabay (apart from the one of me!)

I am launching guided relaxation sessions for workplaces in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees this month! If this sounds like something your workplace would love, you can contact me at info@lemonsqueezywellbeing.com to book your relaxation session!