5 Steps to Increase Calm

Grounding Practice:  5 Steps to Increase Calm

“The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.” – Pema Chodron, Tibetan Buddhist nun

Step 1: Call a timeout

Taking a timeout is a healthy choice. It stops the escalation of feeling, thinking and reacting.  

Have you ever noticed dogs playing?  When things get intense they take a break and shake things out.  We can do this too by calling time out, leaving the room and shaking our body.  Open up a window and let fresh air in or go outside and breathe in the air.  Do something physical like sweeping or turning the compost.  Smell the soil or grass.  Feel the leaves of a plant.  Observe your thoughts obsessing and spiraling, but return to noticing your breath and the physicality of your surroundings.  We are much broader, wider, bigger, and stronger than the vortex of thoughts in our head.

Step 2: Return to the breath

Bringing awareness back to our breath is an option within our power in every moment.  We breathe on average 23 000 times a day.  Isn’t that awesome?  Yet we often take this life-giving function for granted.  When we hold our breath or breathe shallowly, this gives our body a message – something is wrong, prepare for fight, flight or freeze/hide! When we take a conscious relaxing breath, we send a message to our body that we are safe and can handle what’s in front of us.  When we breathe consciously, we increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients circulating through our body which also helps our thinking and overall health.

Step 3: Work safely with the energy

When a painful aspect of your past arises in the present, it usually comes with an overflow or drop of energy.  Why does this happen?  When you experienced trauma in the past, you likely ignored or suppressed an energetic response – like running or fighting – in order to survive.  Over time, pushing down many energetic responses creates a buildup of energy.  How do we handle this energy as it rises up in the present?  We learn to release it slowly, over time, through safe physical activities.

Many people describe to us how they channel their anger into activities such as drumming, flamenco dancing, gardening, washing dishes, rowing or walking uphill.  Other women describe how they increase their low, depressed energy through restorative Pilates or yoga, dance or house cleaning to music.

For example, if our anger gets set off in the moment, we can take a break from the situation by saying, “I need a break and will come back in ____________.” Then to release the energy we breathe consciously, talk to ourselves by saying calming statements and go for a walk up the street or around the block.  10 minutes can make a big difference in the outcome of a situation.

Step 4: Repeat a calming, affirming statement

When we are activated into an intense emotional response, we tend to think less rationally.  Believing our thoughts at this point can escalate emotions and create reactions that we may later regret.  

 Here are some choices of calming, affirming statements:

  1. I know this feeling is painful but it will pass.
  2. I know the intensity will pass if I care for myself right now
  3. Breathing in, I am calm
  4. Breathing out, I am strong enough to care for this feeling
  5. I have the strength and resources to handle this situation
  6. I have a team of support around me
  7. What will help me feel calm in this moment?
  8. Examining the facts right now, of this present moment, I am safe.
  9. “When you are moving through hell, keep moving.” Winston Churchill
  10. From the Disney movie Mulan (1998), “A flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”  I am that flower.

These coaching statements are to focus the mind away from escalating thoughts. The goal is to help us ride out the intensity and come back to balance before acting.  

Step 5: Use the physical senses

When we ground, we often work with the 5 senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) because they help immediately connect us with the here and now and change the channel on the escalating thoughts and feelings.  Some examples of activities that can be grounded in awareness of the 5 senses include: fishing, knitting, walking, cleaning, singing, having a bath, watching a soothing movie, listening to music, calling a friend or sponsor, praying, touching a soft quilt, smelling lavender flowers, painting, dancing, running, gardening, running warm water over your hands.

The aim is to change the channel by noticing your surroundings in sensory detail.  With every round our attention goes deeper into the present and away from the escalating spiral of the mind and emotions.


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