I am no psychologist, and definitely have no educational background in all of this but I have my story like we all have and have dealt with the trauma via the help of a psychologist quite a few years ago. She helped me understand why I feel the way I do and gave me a few techniques. It took years for me to click and have that light bulb moment, and to be honest Yoga played a big role in this deep level of self-awareness and discovery.
I’m still finding new and better ways to deal with my anxiety, depression and anger. And I feel if I share this small part of my journey that had a big impact on my thought processes, it may potentially help someone that is the same boat.
Let’s talk about Grounding, not the type where our feet connects with the earth but in a way that may be a great metaphor for the chat we’re about to have.
Ground Yourself. What does that mean? To me it means following the STOP principles and responding calmly to a potential stressor or circumstance.
A quick reminder about the STOP Principles:
· Proceed Calmly
Grounding yourself will be done during the THINK and OBSERVE phases.
Have you ever found yourself bubbling from deep within your heart, your brain’s on fire and you know that in that moment you’re going to have such an awful reaction, whether it be anger or sadness?
The trigger could be anything, from a family member to an upcoming exam, a colleague pushing limits or even something as simple as a person being too close for comfort at the wrong place or wrong time. Or maybe life hasn’t always been easy and whenever you take a few steps forward, something happens, and it sets you back tremendously.
We are all human and can get stuck playing the victim. We feel entitled to happiness and it’s easier to blame those things around us than to take action. But personally, I feel that playing the victim can give those things and people more power than they deserve. Playing the victim only empowers the trigger more and drains energy from you. It’s a circle of negativity and getting stuck can happen in a wink of an eye. The pity party can be soothing in that moment, calming even but in the end it’s temporary because only YOU control your reactions and emotions to said trigger and YOU alone are responsible for your OWN happiness.
What’s the alternative then? How do we respond in such a way that it benefits our own mental wellbeing in the long term and how do we change our thinking and reactions? Using STOP, we can stop first.
Take a deep breathe. Cliché, I know but it’s been advised for so long because it works. Step away from the situation, take a walk and definitely stash away your phone, put it off even. Ground yourself.
Look at the circumstances rationally, is something you can control or not?
If not, does it freak you out? Is that the reason why you may have negative feelings or a potentially negative reaction?
Acknowledge your feelings and its origins, dig deep to understand why you feel and react the way you do to this trigger. Stopping to analyse can bring a certain level of calm. Even confiding, in that moment, with someone close to you may help to discover why you feel the way you do. Don’t overthink it though, just sit back and say “I feel XYZ, because of ABC.
Then the magic happens. Once you are in the thought process of analysing and acknowledging how you feel, you can also look at it with some perspective. An outsider’s perspective too. There’s this quote that’s going around that we should INTERRUPT ANXIETY with GRATITUDE. The notion that it could always be worse and we should be grateful that it isn’t. And I can assure you, that 99.9% of the time, it can always be worse.
This doesn’t mean that you are discounting or minimizing your own feelings. It means that you choose to acknowledge the feeling and not BE the feeling. You are choosing to respond and not react (the biggest lesson I was ever taught by a fantastic career coach). And you are choosing to look at the bigger picture. You are allowing yourself the time to acknowledge what you have, and to be grateful for it. You are giving yourself the space to calm down through gratitude.
In practice, it would look something like this, and yes it may seem harsh and insensitive at times, but appreciate the reality check:
· Stressing about an upcoming exam? Be grateful for the privilege of having the opportunity to further your education. (That was a mouthful)
· Overwhelmed at work? Be grateful for the fact that you are part of the shrinking percentage of people that actually have a job.
· Upset with your parents for pushing you too hard or not giving you space? Be grateful that you have parents that care about your wellbeing and future.
Of course the above situations lead to more complex thoughts and it’s not that simple, but in tackling those conversations by starting with appreciation and gratitude first, the outcome may be more positive than you expect. And like everything else in life, it takes a whole lot of practice and patience, and compassion towards yourself and other.
And that’s the thing, if you start practicing gratitude in these difficult situations, you’ll reinforce a positive way of thought, a positive approach to challenges and hopefully a positive mindset that will in long term bring you all the happiness you deserve because you took responsibility for it.