Staying Grounded and Grateful during a Pandemic
By Kathryn Cherkas, MIPH
None of us are exempt from feeling the stress in our country today. From political tensions and racial injustices to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all impacted emotionally, physically or spiritually. Coping during this time is particularly difficult for those struggling with underlying mental health conditions, such as PTSD, depression or anxiety. The practice of ‘grounding’ is a common technique used in cognitive and behavioral therapy for those dealing with anxiety/ stress. In the challenging times we are, I believe this practice can benefit anyone and everyone in de-cluttering the mind and bringing oneself to a grounded state of calm (whatever that now looks like).
There are a few common strategies employed in the grounding technique, such as breath work, body scans and focusing on external stimuli. Many of these strategies overlap those used in spirituality practices that I invite you to try as we incorporate spirituality into our weekly Virtual Activity Program (Tuesdays at 3:00pm). In our spirituality program, each week we will work on one or a few of the following practices and share with one another.
- Body awareness and breathing: giving sustained attention to all parts and functions of our body; from our pinkie toes to our heart beat, from our ear lobes to our lungs expanding and contracting as we breathe, acknowledging each and everything about our physical selves, independent of the external environment.
- Environmental reorientation: name five things you can see, five things you can hear, five things you can touch, five things you can smell, then go to four things and so on.
- Gratitude: focus on and voice, or write, what you are grateful for. Give these things a special spotlight of your attention and acknowledge specifically why you are grateful for them. Showing gratitude makes you someone for whom others become more grateful.
- Awe & Wonder: what have you seen/ heard/ felt/ smelt today that has amazed you? From a butterfly going past your window to the synchronization of your hands in performing routine tasks, try to look at how the awe of small things sometimes escapes us and refocus on their beauty.
- Creative expression: Expressing ourselves through music or art allows us to release a unique form of energy that few other channels can. Try humming or tapping your fingers/feet to a song in your head. Focus on that song and give its sound meaning with your body.
- Empathy: practicing small gestures of kindness bring so much joy into one’s life and those who benefit from such kindness. It is totally free!
- Letting go of unrealistic expectations, resentments and stressors: we are certain of many things in the process of aging. These things aren’t always ideal, but we are certain of them and need to let go of unrealistic ideals in order to fully be with and enjoy the present moment.
- Connecting with one another: the power of friendship and community does not change even though access to both can minimize as we age. Make it a priority to stay connected to those around you.
- Restful pause: practice active resting; give yourself some time each day where you are allowed to do absolutely nothing. This can help re-frame and refocus your perspective.
- Exploring and embracing self: the goal of all of these strategies is to become and embrace your truest self. Continue with what makes you happy and stop that which drains you, physically or emotionally. Find joy and share it!