My advice is be kind and compassionate with yourself, closely followed by advice to ground yourself and be mindful. Your mind and feelings will scare you less, the more you practice being present in the now. Being kind and compassionate with yourself, grounding yourself and being mindful can help you deal with overthinking, crying at work, feeling overwhelmed and the trauma of the times we’re living through. These things can help you feel better now and support your future wellbeing. (Techniques below.)
We might be able to prevent PTSD and phobias in the future by using grounding skills. A webinar on trauma treatment in the times of COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter inspired me to remind you (again) to deal with current stress and prevent future mental health problems.
HOW TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF
So, let’s break it down. How do you be kind with yourself? Be kind like you would be kind with a friend or an animal you like. You ask them how they’re doing and then really listen and respond, you pay attention to them, you make thoughtful gestures, you think about what they like and you try to give it to them. When you apply that to yourself, it’s as simple as having a glass of water, noticing what you would like to eat and when and following through, doing a few yoga stretches or burpees.
SUPPORT YOUR OWN WELLBEING
Being kind to yourself is as hard as stopping after 2 cookies because you know you’ll feel groggy tomorrow if you eat too much sugar. It’s as demanding as stopping after one drink because you know you’ll feel foggy in the morning if you drink more. This takes enough bad mornings and enough maturity to care about how you feel tomorrow and the capacity to develop the ability to stop yourself. That’s not a little ask. It’s a big deal and takes time to get there. Also, it means stopping scrolling after  minutes. Being on your device is a time sink and all the platforms have designed their platforms to consume more of your time than you intend. It seems distracting and fun, but if you pay attention to your feelings, is it actually?
YOUR FUTURE SELF WILL THANK YOU
Being kind to yourself means really paying attention to what you feel like later. Maybe you notice after you think about it that if you spend too much time on social media it affects your mood. If you notice yourself getting annoyed, anxious, righteous, jealous… (the list is endless and unique to each person) you have to have the insight that oh, that’s actually not good for you.
Being kind to yourself is as hard as making healthy choices, like resisting the urge to binge watch when there are other things that make you better and you know that would make you feel worse. Sometimes being kind to yourself involves being bloody minded enough to make yourself take a walk, make yourself vent in a journal, make yourself reach out when you’re depressed and don’t have the energy to do it, make yourself get out of bed because you know that bed is a self-perpetuating cycle of lower and lower energy.
BE COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF
How is being kind different from being compassionate with yourself? Being compassionate is being caring, understanding. If someone trips and falls, being compassionate is helping them get up, helping them deal with the pain, and being with them while they put on a Band-Aid / sticky plaster.
SOOTHE YOUR OUT OF CONTROL THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
When your thoughts or feelings hijack you on the hamster wheel of what if, turning a worry into a catastrophe, being compassionate is finding a way to soothe your worried brain. Soothing is different from distraction; soothing is saying to yourself with affection, “Oh honey, it’s ok. You’re all right. It’s hard not to know what the future holds, it’s hard to live with the unknown, but deep down, we’re going to be ok.” Soothing is developing things to say to yourself that suit you, comfort you, that
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEELINGS
It is a profound moment when you really connect with the realization that you are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. Thoughts come and go. Feelings come and go. They are not constant like the color of your eyes. You are deeper than that.
OVERTHINKING, CRYING ALL DAY
The trouble is, thoughts and feelings can take over and completely hijack us. Thoughts and feelings can overwhelm us. Thoughts can spin out of control to the point where… you want to climb out of your skin you feel so anxious. (Even though out of control thoughts happen to a lot of people, the experience is completely unique to each of us, so when your thoughts go out of control, you personally may feel stuck, numb, depressed, overwhelmed… Again, the list is endless.) Feelings can hijack you too, and do things like make you cry all day.
Once you recognize that your thoughts do not define who you are, it’s easier be compassionate with yourself and say yourself, “It’s ok, that’s a passing thought. Everything’s all right, that thought will leave in a while. That thought is consuming me, that thought is really painful. It’s bringing up really negative emotions. But I’ll be ok. It will pass in time.”
Similarly, when you know that your feelings are not who you are, it helps. When your feelings overwhelm you, the best thing I know to do is to be compassionate with yourself. Understand that this happens sometimes. Hold yourself. Wrap yourself in a blanket or shawl. Snuggle on the couch. Soothe yourself when the feelings get uncomfortable or unpleasant, even hijack you.
To get through these moments, grounding yourself can be very helpful. We are living through a time of global trauma. COVID19 may or may not permeate your life, but it is a fact of life today. Naturally, we can’t help but be stressed by its effects on our lives. Our present and future mental health and wellbeing depend on dealing with the stress on a day to day basis. Two ways to offload the effects of stress and traumatizing events are to ground yourself and be mindful.
GRAB YOUR THUMB
One of the fastest grounding techniques is simply to grab your thumb. That physical action tells you that you are here, now, a physical body in the present. There’s something really solid about your thumb. Your mind and feelings may spin out of control, but your thumb is a stabilizing connection to the reality that your body didn’t disappear in the deluge of thoughts or feelings.
CONNECT WITH THE EARTH
Grounding can be as simple as wiggling your toes and feeling the ground beneath you. If you can get your feet on the earth, that can make a big difference. Being outdoors can be grounding. Yes, we are tethered to the earth by gravity. We are solid beings. We will likely be here tomorrow no matter what our thoughts and feelings do.
One well known grounding method is breathing. Concentrate on your breathing. We get so caught up in our thoughts and feelings that we literally forget about our breath. It’s pretty common to take shallow breaths when we’re stressed. In western culture we commonly breathe in our upper chests. You may be familiar with belly breathing from yoga or guided meditations. Focusing on your breathing is a great way to bring yourself back from thoughts focused on the future or the past. There are a number of breathing techniques.
One breathing technique is called Square Breathing, breathe in , hold , breath out , hold . I use 7, but any number is good.
Another breathing exercise to ground yourself is to breathe out more than you breathe in. Breathe in , hold , breath out , hold . Again, you can adjust the numbers to fit you. Just make each breath out longer than the breath in. This has also been called 4-7-8 breathing.
WE NEED TO OFFLOAD CARBON DIOXIDE
Longer outbreaths are based on the biology of breathing: our brains and bodies use oxygen. Our bodies produce carbon dioxide. If we don’t breathe out enough, the carbon dioxide stuck in our lungs prevents us from taking in fresh oxygen. When we force ourselves to breathe out extra, it makes more space for more oxygen.
SIGHT, SOUND, TOUCH, SMELL, TASTE
Using the 5 senses also helps us get grounded in the present. Look around and notice what you see. Listen and notice what you hear. Check in with your body and notice your physical sensations, the temperature, the air, your breath. (This is the sense of touch.) Notice what you smell. Observe if you taste anything besides the usual taste in your mouth.
Be aware, be aware of everything. That’s mindfulness. Be aware of what’s happening right now, be aware of the movement of thoughts and feelings within you, be aware that what’s happening right now is not a permanent state of being, be aware of who you are deep inside.
NATASHA SAID BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF
I’ll leave you with reminders to be kind to yourself, like the kindest friend you can imagine. Be compassionate with yourself, like the most understanding, gentle, affirming person you can imagine. Ground yourself. Be here now. If your thoughts or feelings overwhelm you, if your thoughts spin off into the future or the past, call yourself back by grounding yourself in the present.
I’m Natasha Walter-Fisk, LMFT, LPC. My specialty is helping people of all ages to manage stress and anxiety and recover from painful experiences and trauma. If you’re not doing well, please get professional help. If you’d like to schedule a free 20-minute consultation, click the scheduling button below or email me at my confidential email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I work online with English speaking clients living in California, Colorado, Europe, Mexico, Latin America, and around the world.SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT
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Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff, PhD
and the course, Self-Compassion Step by Step: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff, PhD
If you want to buy from a black or brown owned bookstore, check this locator:
It is organized by
4-7-8 breathing: How it works, benefits, and uses
10 breathing Techniques: Pursed lip breathing, Belly breathing, Breath focus, Lion’s breath, Alternate nostril breathing, Equal breathing, Resonant breathing, Sitali breath, Deep breathing, Humming bee breath
For professionals, the inspiration for this blog came from a brief comment in the webinar below that we can help prevent people from developing phobias by teaching them grounding skills. The webinar was sponsored by the Corona Virus Online Therapy Directory that offers pro bono and low fee therapy to front line workers through https://www.coronavirusonlinetherapy.org/ and TRACC 4 Movements (trauma response and crisis care for movements).
Teresa Mateus, LCSW, E-RYT 200 presented the webinar. “She is a graduate of NYU’s School of Clinical Social Work. Teresa spent a decade working with combat veterans and survivors of military sexual trauma. Her work has centered at the intersection of activism, healing and spirituality and she is the co-founder of The Mystic Soul Project (BIPOC/QTPOC-centered spirituality, activism and healing) and TRACC 4 Movements (trauma response and crisis care for movements) where she is currently is coordinating crisis response, community education, and training for practitioners during this COVID-19 and movement Uprising moment. Teresa also provided trauma response care at Standing Rock and in Charlottesville, VA.
REPLAY: An Introduction to Crisis Response & BIPOC-conscious Trauma Care in a Time of COVID-19 and Uprising.”
In case you don’t want to scroll back up, I’ll repeat this here: I’m Natasha Walter-Fisk, LMFT, LPC. My specialty is helping people of all ages to manage stress and anxiety and recover from painful experiences and trauma. If you’re not doing well, please get professional help. If you’d like to schedule a free 20-minute consultation, click the scheduling button below or email me at my confidential email, email@example.com. I work online with English speaking clients living in California, Colorado, Europe, Mexico, Latin America, and around the world.SCHEDULE YOUR APPOINTMENT
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And again, I’d love to hear from you. Was this blog helpful? What were your takeaways? Let me know in comments or an email.