This blog is written by Amizade’s Director of Operations, Katie Baucco. Katie lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with her husband and three children. She is a proud hockey mom, seasoned tantrum negotiator, and gourmet PB&J chef. In this post, Katie shares tips on how to stay grounded and joyful during the pandemic.
Whew! What a crazy year and a half it’s been.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced a couple of highs and a giant handful of lows since the start of this pandemic.
Early on, let’s say March of 2020, I remember being overwhelmed by a sense of worldly “doom”. It was probably my anxious mind working on overdrive, but I couldn’t help imagining the worst. It was like a mix of Kate Winslet’s movie Contagion crossed with Jake Gyllenhaal’s movie The Day After Tomorrow. Don’t ask me why I thought the COVID-19 pandemic might end in the entire planet being covered in water or ice, but that’s where my anxiety-filled brain decided to go.
This pandemic has made just about everyone worry about something. We’ve worried about our own health and the health of our family members. We’ve worried about our jobs, and whether or not they’ll still be around in six months. We’ve worried about balancing work and childcare. We’ve worried about getting behind in our coursework and having to transition to a classroom behind a screen. We’ve worried about masking and unmasking. We’ve worried about getting the vaccine and we’ve worried about not getting the vaccine. We’ve worried about paying for our mortgages, our rent, our student loans, and our groceries. We’ve worried about having that giant q-tip jammed up our nostrils.
The worrying. Never. Stops.
Not only does the worrying not stop, but sometimes it grows. For me, a simple worry can grow and grow until it feels like it’s too much to handle. It can make my heart beat fast and my palms sweat, and it can leave me feeling exhausted and in tears. The good news is that with even the most frazzling pandemic experiences, there are tried-and-true ways to feel calmer and more grounded as we think about entering the junior year of this pandemic.
What does it mean to feel grounded? I’m no expert, but I can tell you that from my experience, feeling grounded is nearly the opposite of feeling anxious. When I feel grounded, I feel in control, calm, settled, and present. I feel less “in my head” and more “in my body”. I’ve compiled a list of activities and techniques that have helped me (and my colleagues) obtain this grounded feeling of calm and joy over the past year and a half. Here are 10 ways to ground yourself the next time you feel overwhelmed:
1. Touch the ground
Seriously, there is a reason why it’s called “grounding”! Let’s get literal here. Take your shoes off and put those feet directly in the grass or the dirt. Close your eyes and recite to yourself “I am here, standing on the earth.” You might think it sounds crazy, but taking your focus off of your worries and on to the feeling of the cool, wet grass between your toes will help your body to calm. Burying my feet in the dirt does not feel the same as standing on a piece of concrete. Go outside and play!
2. Rub a rock
Or a stick, a pebble or a crystal. Whatever nature-made item you can keep in your pocket and give your full attention when you’re feeling overwhelmed. The practice of running your thumb over this smooth surface will dominate your senses, allowing your jitters to ease. Better yet, take the rock out and let all of your senses take in it’s color, shape, and smell.
3. Go for a walk
I mean, can you ever recall taking a leisurely stroll and it making you feel worse? NO! The smell of fresh air, the colors of the leaves, the quiet, and the extra oxygen you take in with each breath, all contribute to the calming effects of a nice long walk. Whether you’re running through Pittsburgh’s Frick Park or walking the hills of Donegal in Ireland, you’re sure to feel a shift in your mental energy.
4. Grow something
A full-blown veggie garden in your backyard? Or one lone house plant sitting on your windowsill? Watching something grow is a mood booster. And so is digging in the dirt! I’m pretty sure there’s scientific evidence out there somewhere that says playing in the soil has some sort of magical magnetic or cellular powers. All I know is that plants boost my mood and make me happy. Nurture that green thumb!
This has been one of my favorites for a long time. I love a good mental purge. But even if you’re new to journaling, don’t let it overwhelm you! The benefits from journaling aren’t necessarily from being able to reread it later. The benefits come from dissecting all of those overwhelming thoughts in your head and putting them somewhere else. Grab an old notebook, a tablet, or heck, even the back of a napkin and just start writing. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just get it out of your head. And if it makes you feel better, crumple it up and toss it in the recycling bin when you’re done!
6. Comfort yourself with a warm drink
Be it coffee, hot cocoa, warm chicken broth or hot tea, there is something so comforting about a warm drink. Make it into a stress relieving experience by using your favorite mug, noticing how the mug’s temperature changes from cool to warm, and listening to the sound as you stir your drink. How do you feel as the warmth moves throughout your body?
7. Disconnect to connect
Shocker! Staring at Facebook, CNN, and Fox News does NOT reduce anxiety. But, turning off the screens and connecting with other real human beings does! If you’re feeling anxious, sitting down to have a heart-to-heart conversation might be the last thing you want to do. But spilling some (or all) of your feelings might give you comfort in a way that feeling seen and heard often does. And if being face to face during a pandemic isn’t a possibility, a phone call can do wonders too!
8. Pet an animal
There’s a reason they’re used in therapy for anything from autism to post-traumatic stress disorder. If you’ve ever had a pet cat or dog, then you know how it feels when they cozy up next to you to give you their undivided attention. They know just the right way to simply sit there and be loving. And if you don’t have a pet, there are still ways that you can benefit from them. Offer to walk your neighbor’s pup, visit a dog park, pet sit for a friend or relative who needs a break, or simply sit in a park and listen to the birds.
9. Explore a hobby
Did anyone ever ask you what your hobbies were, and you were left speechless? One benefit of having our normal routines disrupted for 18 months is that we’ve had time to really examine the things that bring us joy. Whether that’s keeping your sourdough starter alive (shout out to Henrietta who is still alive and occasionally used to make bread!), digging into a good book (The Book of Delights by Ross Gay is great and will also make you feel grounded), experimenting with watercolor paints, learning to play the ukelele, or dominating The Legend of Zelda, hobbies bring us joy. Don’t downplay the importance of pure, sweet joy.
10. Meditate and Visualize
This can be a tough one if you’re sharing a living space with roommates, parents, or three stir-crazy and rambunctious kids under the age of 9. Make the best out of your surroundings, because the benefits of meditation and visualization are huge. Try this simple exercise. Start by identifying a grounding chair in a quiet spot somewhere in your living space. Have a seat and close your eyes. How does the chair feel against your body? Is the material soft against your skin? How does your body fit into the curves of the chair? Lean back in the chair and imagine all of your negative emotions moving down from your head, through your body, and spilling out of the bottoms of your feet onto the floor.
I hope that you’re feeling inspired to try some of these tips out yourself! It’s been a tough year and a half, but hopefully you’ve taken at least a little bit of time to explore what brings you joy.
While grounding techniques and finding joy can add immense value to your life, neither can replace the medical knowledge of a trusted professional. If you’re experiencing regular anxiety attacks or bouts of depression, please consult a mental health professional as soon as possible.