Grounding yourself to help relieve overwhelm

Mindfulness #101 

Life can feel so overwhelming at times that it’s not uncommon to feel like you would just like to step off of the constant hamster wheel for a while. The more life is filled with busyness and complexity the more stressed we become and the more disconnected we become from present moment awareness leading ultimately to anxiety. 

When we feel stressed the world can quickly begin to feel like a threatening place, we can start over-reacting to the smallest of triggers and anxiety can whisk us away to the future, where we waste our time trying to magically solve situations that haven’t even arisen yet. 

Thankfully  there is a remedy for this feeling and it isn’t as unlikely as winning the lottery or as improbable as waking up in the morning without any problems it is a more tangible technique which can help right now and that you can start practising today. 

It’s called Grounding and is a way of bringing our awareness back into the present, back into the body and back into the senses. 

To be consciously present in the senses and the body is a powerful way to regulate overwhelm, create connection, passion, compassion and creativity. An anchor to the present moment can aid clarity and focus. 

Grounding  yourself is easy to do and can be of benefit immediately..

Here’s where to start: 

1.   Find somewhere you can sit comfortably for a moment with a straight back and a relaxed body. Make sure both feet are squarely on the floor. I find resting my hands openly, palms up, on my thighs helps me to remain open,

2.   Close your eyes and focus in on your breathing. Breathe slowly and each time you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out some of the tension you are feeling right now.

3.   Notice your connection to the ground through your feet and as you continue to exhale tensions, see if you can notice the sensations in the bottom of your soles.

4.   Now shift your focus to the weight of you body in the chair. Can you feel the connection of you body with the present?

5. Keep breathing deeply and slowly, inhaling peace and exhaling tension. Continue to focus your awareness on the sensations in your feet and the weight of your body in the chair.

6.  Now I invite you to extend your awareness to your entire body, how does it feel in your body, in the present moment, if you mind starts to wonder bring your focus gently and kindly back to your breath. Use your breath as an anchor to your present awareness.

Continue with this until you feel settled and centred, that might be a few minutes, it may take longer on difficult days.

Every time you become overwhelmed of find yourself engaging with anxious thoughts, make a mental effort to hit the STOP button, take a moment and ground yourself.

Michelle Brown dip.couns. MBACP is an experienced registered counsellor practising Integrative Counselling in Tunbridge Wells.

 

Where do I begin?

Working through any developmental trauma takes time and courage and it’s important that we are kind to ourselves as we do so. Perhaps you’re not ready yet to delve deep into that trauma be it caused through incest, abuse or perhaps an emotionally unavailable parent, but can you risk taking a few first important steps?

Finding a warm and empathic therapist could be the first step towards this goal. Someone who has perhaps set out on that journey themselves can attune themselves to where you are, pacing your route with what you are ready to deal with in this stage of your unfolding insight.

One of the most important things my therapist shared with me, was the knowledge that it was OK to take out my memories and examine them but put them away until later if need be.

Later might be when my circumstances were better, when I had more knowledge about myself or even just after that important interview or party I’d been looking forward to. The next time I got those memories out I might have more insight to bestow upon them, giving me a different perspective and allowing me to re-frame them.

The point is, whatever you have been through, has touched you deeply and may have made you look at the world in a different way. You might feel like you don’t belong, that you’re not good enough, perhaps that you can only be loved if you are flawless, that you must always put others before yourself, maybe you struggle to deal with relationships because you fear you may be rejected…

That’s a lot of stuff and the journey to healing is going to be long and sometimes hard, but you don’t have to do it all at once. You might have thought long and hard about taking a chance in seeking help and once you’ve finally decided to jump in and share how you’re feeling with another human being, it might be tempting to rush through it all and get better quickly.

Be kind to yourself, this might be the first time you’ve shown your vulnerability and that can feel very frightening. This might be the first time you’ve admitted to yourself, let alone someone else how hurt and wounded you are. Pace yourself. Be kind. You, as much as anyone else deserves to be happy.

Trust that there is a way through. You’ll know you’re on your way when you start taking better care of yourself and your needs, when you stop looking outside of yourself for reassurance or affirmation, when you are able to feel confident in your decisions and act upon them, when you are able to challenge those that upset you and you feel more trust and connection with others.

Be brave enough to take those first steps, but kind enough to yourself to pace your journey.

Finding a positive inner voice

Would you spend your whole life with somebody who really wanted you to fail? What would it feel like if every time you made a mistake or things didn’t go the way you planned, that person pitched in to highlight and magnify your failings and made it their mission to tell you how stupid you were for even trying instead of helping you up and brushing you off.


Eventually your self-worth would be destroyed and you would start to believe that you didn’t really deserve to succeed so why were you even trying? What effect do you think that might have on your self-esteem and self-belief? Do you think you would be able to achieve your dreams and attain your goals with them constantly putting you down? Do you think you would keep that person in your life once you realised the effect they were having on you or would you seek out more positive friendships with people that wanted you to do well? 

The sad fact is that without even realising it many of us spend our whole lives with a negative influence like this one keeping us stuck and stopping us reaching our full potential and the worse thing is that this negative influence isn’t a negative partner or friend it is ourselves! We berate ourselves when we get things wrong, we sabotage our potential by telling ourselves we are not good enough, we push people away because we tell ourselves we are unlovable. When we walk around with an internal voice that is critical, unkind and unforgiving is it any wonder that we end up feeling depressed, anxious and inadequate? Therapists call this negative inner voice “the inner critic” and once we start to notice the power it has over our lives we can start taking steps to challenge it, turn down its volume and eventually replace it with an inner cheerleader!

What difference do you think that might make to your life? Can you imagine carrying around an inner voice that brushed off your mistakes and pepped you up, that encouraged you to try again and that was so full of love that you believed you deserved to succeed? Can you envisage loving yourself unconditionally and completely and being true to yourself? How could that sort of positivity impact your life? 

Maybe this is something an empathic counsellor could help you with.

Could your self-esteem do with a boost?

1 Do you find it difficult to be assertive?

2 Are you withdrawing from social situations?

3 Are you often exhausted and overwhelmed because of the demands of others?

4 Do you find it difficult to accept criticism?

5 Do you avoid conflict?

6 Are you feeling a bit stuck and finding it difficult to move out of your comfort zone?

We all experience times where our confidence isn't as strong as we would like, but when low self-esteem  starts impacting the way we take care of or value ourselves it can become a long term problem and if left unchallenged for long enough it can start to have a seious impact our lives and may even result in anxiety or depression in the longer term.

My name is Michelle Brown and I am an Integrative Counsellor based in Tunbridge Wells. I see clients on a regular basis whose self-esteem has never been nurtured or has been squashed by events but without exception their self-esteem has grown by small adjustments in their daily lives.

Self-esteem is all wrapped up in the opinion we hold about ourselves, and is moulded over the years by our experiences and interactions with others such as peers, parents, fiends, teachers and even the media. 

If we are fortunate enough to have good self-esteem we tend to have a healthy opinion of ourselves respecting our own needs as much as others. We will generally feel just as important as them and won't  perceive our needs as being less valid. When we experience positive self-esteem we’re likely to have a positive outlook and will therefore be able to easily cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Low self-esteem can feel much less comfortable; it makes it  much easier to listen to those critical, self-loathing voices in our heads that make us feel like we are not good enough and less important than others. We might find it impossible to  ask for or accept help or simply to know how to get our needs met,  our low self-esteem makes us feel unworthy of help or consideration. Because it may feel like others are better than us and more deserving we might start having difficulty saying “no” and put our needs to the bottom of the pile. It’s not surprising that approaching the world with this mind-set can feel exhausting, lonely and at times intolerable Life’s little up's and down's are likely to feel overwhelming.

In short people with good self-esteem are kind and nurturing to themselves not critical and punishing they carry around their own inner cheerleader.

Low self-esteem doesn’t appear overnight itl develops slowly. If we are more prone to negative self-talk it makes sense that we are likely to hold on to any negative messages, if we found it difficult to live up to other people’s expectations of us we may  never feel good enough and if we grew up experiencing abuse or neglect within the home it is very likely that we won’t have internalised a nurturing compassionate voice.

But don’t be too disheartened if you have recognised these symptoms in yourself, your self-esteem isn’t cast in stone and you can take steps to improve it and here are some ideas of where to start.

  • Try to start to identify the negative thoughts you hold about yourself?

This may take some time and counselling can be very useful in helping you to recognise theses. What is your internal critic is telling yo?. Does it tell you you’re not good enough, that you haven’t worked hard enough, that you’re undeserving or unlovable? Perhaps it says you are selfish if you put your needs before others? Perhaps it tells you something else?

  • Start noting down the negative beliefs you have about yourself. If necessary carry a notebook and jot these thoughts down over the course of a few days.

  • Do you remember when you started to hold these beliefs? Where do they stem from?

  • Are you able to challenge those thoughts by finding evidence to the contrary?

  • Write down the good things that other people say about you and start recognising your strengths. Learn to accept compliments not discount them.. Armed with this positive list, keep it somewhere you can see it. Refer back to it often and keep adding to it..

  • Start spending less time with people that bring you down and seek out people that make you feel positive and appreciate you.

  • Show yourself  the same kindness you give to others.

  • Learn to say “no”. People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to others, even when they really want to say no. This can lead to you becoming exhausted, angry, resentful and depressed.

  • Be assertive. Respect other’s opinions and ideas and expect that same respect back.

  • Set yourself a challenge, make it Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely.  Don’t let your low self-esteem stop you trying out new things or giving things a go. Surprise-it’s OK to be bad at things!

Many people around you will be suffering from low self-esteem either too ashamed to admit it or without recognising the symptoms. You may have developed low self -esteem for many different reasons in your childhood but you can take positive steps to develop a better view of yourself at any age. Keep on growing.

If you would like some help with low self-esteem please don’t hesitate to email or call.

Michelle Brown dip. couns. MBACP