Uncertainty is something that so many people are far too familiar with. Whether it’s starting a new job, becoming a Mom, moving, or anything that creates a sense of unpredictability. It can be terrifying and your nervous system can start to get a little crazy.
A Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, that “change is the only constant”, so how do we remain grounded and navigate our way through the many fluctuations of life without spiraling into anxiety and fear? Predictability helps to create an internal sense of safety within our body and nervous system, but in the face of unpredictability, there are still many tools we have at our disposal that can help us find an internal locus of control and centeredness.
Here are five simple and powerful tools to help support you in finding deeper peace and presence during uncertain times.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a simple and powerful sensory awareness tool you can use any time you feel anxious, ungrounded, or spaced out to help calm your nervous system and bring you back into the present moment. Here’s how to do it:
Name 5 things you can see in your current environment. For example, a piece of furniture, plant, or pet.
Name 4 things you can feel, such as your feet on the floor or the texture of your clothing.
Name 3 things you can hear, like the sound of your breath, or the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind.
Name 2 things you can smell. If there are no obvious scents around you, sniff your clothing or a nearby object (sniffing a citrus fruit like a lemon or lime can also have a calming effect on your nervous system).
Name 1 thing you can taste. If you don’t have any food or drink nearby, just notice the taste of your mouth or lips.
Physically Connect with the Earth
Earthing (also known as grounding) is one of the simplest, most accessible, and most natural methods to feel calmer and more rooted in your body. It’s also been linked to helping alleviate pain, inflammation, sleep disorders, and even free radical damage. Sounds pretty neat, right? Best of all, it’s as easy as kicking off your shoes and walking barefoot in the grass, dirt, or sand.
Earthing is based on the discovery that our body is a conductor of electricity and we can absorb negative-charged free electrons from the earth. Put simply, this means we all have the ability to connect to the earth’s natural healing energy. But many of us are cut off from this abundant natural energy source because of modern conveniences like rubber-soled shoes, multistory homes, and high-rises, which disconnect us from actually touching, sitting, or sleeping in contact with the earth. So kick off your shoes and get grounded!
Shake Your Body
Whenever I feel anxious or ungrounded, one of the first things I do is turn up some music and intentionally shake my entire body from head to toe. Yup, I literally shake off my stress. And it works! It may sound silly, but there’s actually science behind it. Shaking is an innate primal response that helps us release stress, tension, and anxiety from our body after our nervous system has been triggered into fight or flight. If you’ve ever watched a nature documentary, you may recall the way animals involuntarily shake after escaping near death from a predator. Shaking offers a way to discharge stuck energy and is being recognized more widely as a healing and therapeutic modality. It is currently used as a tool to help heal trauma in Somatic Experiencing and TRE® (Tension & Trauma Releasing Exercises).
To start shaking, place your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance, bend your knees, loosen your body, and begin to softly bounce. Let yourself wiggle and jiggle. Shake your wrists, wiggle your fingers, and let your arms flop and flap as you bounce. Bounce anywhere from 1-5 minutes, then check in and notice if anything has shifted.
Our breath is free, natural, and one of the most powerful tools we have for grounding. Mindful breathing involves bringing awareness to the sound, sensation, and rhythm of our breath and breathing slowly and deeply from our diaphragm (also known as “belly breathing”). Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce stress, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, improve digestion, increase mental clarity, reduce pain, and more! Bringing simple awareness to your breath can help shift you out of thinking about an uncertain future and center you into the present moment.
Meditation is one of my trusted go-to tools when I need to feel more grounded, focused, and present. It has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, help relieve anxiety, improve sleep, decrease pain, strengthen our immune function, and even reverse stress-related conditions on a cellular level. Whoa! Not to mention that it’s actually been shown to shrink the volume of grey matter in the amygdala (our brain’s fight-or-flight center) while increasing the volume in our prefrontal cortex.
There are many different techniques and ways to meditate, so I recommend trying a variety of methods and finding what works best for you.