Shifting Your Mental Focus
Human beings are adaptable and resilient. As the COVID-19 crisis shifts from weeks into month, we are all adapting to shifting circumstances – from stay-at-home orders, to navigating what it means to be an essential or non-essential worker, to coping with illness and even loss. All of us have experienced many changes to our day-to-day-lives, and let’s be honest: it can feel very overwhelming. Collectively, anxiety is in overdrive, as is fear, frustration, and loneliness.
When navigating intense emotions like anxiety, disconnection, panic or grief, grounding becomes an essential skill. Grounding ourselves can help alleviate intense feelings, and can help us re-center ourselves. A wide variety of techniques exist for cultivating a sense of grounding. The intent behind these exercises is to take you out of whatever has elevated your distress and bring you back to the present moment. Focusing on things nearby, objects and your own sensory input allows for both your body and mind to calm down. At Reasons, we are each feeling the need to leverage these skills in today’s times, and have been sharing our favorite techniques amongst colleagues, patients, alumni and friends. We wanted to share a few of our staff favorites with you, too.
Grounding Through Your Senses
“We talked about this 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding/anxiety reducing skill today:
5 things you can see
4 things you can physically feel
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
I like that it involves the senses and is an embodied skill.” – Nikki Rollo, National Director of Program Development
“I like to use the 5 senses for mindfulness in nature. Stepping outside and identifying what you see, then hear, then feel, then smell, and then taste. I encourage patients to identify which sense felt the strongest and to spend a little more time with that sense to more deeply experience the nature. At the very least, it gets me out of my head!” – Rachel Cannon, Program Manager, San Marino Residential
“I use the ‘333 rule’ as a grounding technique. Look around the room and name three things you see. Sound, name three things you can currently hear around you. Finally, move three body parts like wiggling your toes, fingers, etc.” – Vita Vizcarra, Clinical Outreach Specialist
“Naming all the colors you see in a painting or print. Grounding and art appreciation rolled into one!” – Fiona LaRosa-Waters, Director of Business Development
“A technique I have used is actually holding onto a frozen lemon. Apparently, the texture and cold and the scent of the lemon all help to force your brain to focus on the current sensation that’s happening in your hand, taking you away from all the other anxious thought roaming in your head. It works!” – Vita Vizcarra, Clinical Outreach Specialist
“There’s gratitude journaling or even an out loud gratitude list.” – Rachel Cannon, Program Manager, San Marino Residential
“I always like the reframing thoughts or fact checking to help ground. We do this with or without tracking sheets.” – Lisa Arroyas, Director of Clinical and Nutrition Services
Dance, Breathe, and Laugh
“Maybe at home dance party when you’re feeling cooped up! Upbeat music can be helpful” – Rachel Cannon, Program Manager, San Marino Residential
“One of my favorites is box breathing! Inhale for 4 sec, hold for 4 sec, exhale for 4 sec and then hold again for 4 sec. Also, I find great comfort in music and find myself repeating certain lyrics from songs that comfort and ground me. Just this morning, it was a David Bowie song where one of the lyrics is “no, you’re not alone!” and it soothed my jitters about being away from the rest of my family.” – Christina Martinez, Director of Admissions and Case Management
“This is simple, but I think humor and laughter (make yourself laugh!) are also necessary right now and can do much to relieve anxiety.” – Nikki Rollo, National Director of Program Development
We hope some (or all!) of these tips help you reconnect and regroup when you find yourself dealing with intense emotions. Share some of your ideas in the comments! As always, if you are looking for additional support, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are currently offering a virtual support group for Reasons EDC alumni, as well as telehealth options for PHP and IOP.