Well-being isn’t just about physical health. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are vital, of course, but it’s also about managing our emotions. Your emotional diet, so to speak. And in these times of great upheaval, where we’re suddenly confronted with a host of new demands, many people are struggling with their emotional well-being.
There are simple ways to make living and working less remote ‒ and more remarkable ‒ which I’d like to share. I use them in my work with a range of business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders, and they are tried and tested.
It’s important to remember that there’s a very strong mind-body link, so your emotional health can have an impact on your physical health, and vice versa. For instance, generally, when we’re feeling stressed, we can spend a lot of time in our heads and get quite anxious. That sets off a chain reaction in your body and brain: your blood pressure goes up, digestion doesn’t work that well, your heart may race, and you may lose the ability for creativity or big picture thinking.
To cope with this kind of change, you’re going need to feel grounded – as if the feet of your emotions are planted squarely in the earth. If you can get that right – even when you’re feeling very tired and wired – it will help you to curious and calm, despite all the chaos.
One of the best ways to do that, is to spend time in nature – which is tricky if you’re under lockdown, of course. However, if you can get out for a walk or a run in natural surroundings – even just a small, local park is a great option. Just standing on the ground in your garden, if you have one, can do the trick. And if you can’t get outdoors, just spend some time in sunlight or close to fresh air, even if that means sitting by an open window.
If all else fails, listen to natural sounds using playlists or YouTube, and imagine yourself in the midst of whatever you hear – the forest, a wild beach, or the plains of Africa.
Another very useful grounding technique I use regularly is the ABC technique, which I got from Mark Walsh and the team at Integration Training. ABC stands for Awareness, Breathing/Breath and Core relax. And even if you just get the B part right, that’s a great start!
Because one of the first things we do when we’re stressed, is to restrict our breathing. And so, by breathing in deeply, into your belly, and especially by lengthening your exhale, you can trigger the rest and digest part of your nervous system, rather than the fight or flight. So, ABC stands for awareness, breathing or your breath, and core relax.
Awareness: Start by becoming mindfully aware of the world around you. Notice all your senses, be aware of what’s in your immediate environment, and connect yourself to the present moment. What can you see, hear, smell, touch or taste? It also helps to become aware of your feet and your hands.
Breathe: Follow your breath as a means to calm and focus your mind. Feel the breath entering and exiting your nostrils. Notice your lungs filling up and emptying with each breath. Breathe deep into your belly and slow down your exhale.
Core relax: Start with your head and release any tension around your forehead by relaxing your facial muscles, allow your tongue to drop to the bottom of your mouth to help release tension in your jaw. Now move. Relax your shoulders and allow them to drop towards the ground without your slumping or losing your posture. Allow your lower back, belly and pelvic area to relax.
Body scanning (because it helps to give the monkey mind something to do such as focus on the breath or focus on the body)
If you don’t want to focus on your breath, you can also scan your body, from the top of your head right down through your shoulders, your hips, your legs down to your toes, relaxing all the body parts that you go through. The more you practice this, the easier and faster you can do it, until you can do it in a mindful minute and feel the benefits of almost immediate relaxation.
Get rid of any distractions, put down your phone, and soften your gaze. Bring your awareness to your heart area and your breath. Take a slightly deeper breath into your belly on your next inhale. On your next exhale, lengthen it so that it’s longer than your inhale, and relax any tension around your forehead. Maybe allow your tongue to drop to the bottom of your mouth so that you can release tension around your jaw.
Allow your shoulders to soften and fall more towards the ground. Work down your arms, including your hands.
Notice if you’re feeling any tension in your lower belly or your glutes, your buttocks, your bum. Relax, relax your body, taking deep breaths and relaxing more on every exhale, until you get to your toes.
You can repeat this as many times as needed or make your way from your toes up to your scalp.
It’s so important to relax the body, especially when you’re feeling stressed. It can help mitigate the stress response enormously, and these are simple techniques you can use anywhere, anytime.
Do you have any techniques you use to stay grounded? I’d love to hear about them in the comments if you do.