grounding exercises for this season
The last few months of the year tend to be busy. It’s the kind of busyness that could range from having to attend to a flurry of activities to having to process a flurry of thoughts or emotions. While the experience is different for everyone, the ending of a year and the beginning of a new one often bring up a need for quiet moments of peace. And for those moments, we would like to offer a few grounding exercises to help bring a sense of ease and mind-body balance.
Sounds can illicit strong thoughts or emotions. For example, we might have a strong dislike for a sound because we’ve heard it too many times - such as the buzzing of our alarm in the morning or a song that has been played too many times on the radio.
When doing this exercise, open your ears and free your mind of any judgments about the sound. This exercise can be done even when there are background sounds present. The important thing to remember is to try to hear the sounds for only what they are.
- Find a comfortable space to sit. Close your eyes and tune in to the sounds around you.
- If you’re hearing music, try not to judge it by its genre or artist. Instead, allow yourself to explore the dynamics of each instrument. Try to hear them separately and then together. Discover the textures that each instrument has. Apply the same approach to voice. If you’re hearing chatter around you, explore the different tones and cadences. Focus not on what is being said but on the sound of the voice of each person.
- If you’re hearing nature, experience how the wind sounds as it slows down and picks up. How it sounds against plants and trees around you. The different sounds from the birds or animals around you.
- As you listen, slowly breathe in and slowly exhale.
Shake It Off
Have you ever noticed athletes and performers doing what seems like last-minute stretches or warm-ups before major events? You may have seen them jumping up and down, swinging their arms, shaking their arms and legs, or swaying side to side. While they may very well be stretching, they are also relieving tension in the body. Whether they are doing this intentionally or intuitively, this kind of movement is helpful as shaking is one of the ways the nervous system releases tension and down-regulates heightened states of fear and stress.
This can be a fun exercise to get energized or relieve stress in the body.
- Select music that brings you positive energy (feel free to select a slow or an up-tempo song). Listen closely to the beat and tempo of the song.
- Starting slow, begin by swinging your shoulders and arms - perhaps every other beat and if it feels comfortable, begin to move along to the rhythm of the song.
- Midway through, shake out your hands and arms and then your legs and feet. Sway side to side as the song winds down.
When experiencing a stressful situation, notice that breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow. Sometimes, we can even hold our breath unknowingly. Becoming aware of our breath and practicing breathing exercises can increase the supply of oxygen into our brain and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn promotes a state of calmness. Breathing helps us connect with our bodies and the present moment. And the beauty of it is that it can be done anytime and anywhere - before facing a stressful situation, during the situation itself, or after. It can be done before starting the day to feel calm and focused, in the middle of the workday as part of a coffee break, or at the end of the day to quiet our thoughts. The 3-4-5 breathing technique is an easy one to remember.
- Begin with one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. If sitting down, make sure your back is supported and your feet are firmly on the ground.
- Observe the rise and fall of your chest and stomach.
- Take a deep breath counting to three. Feel the air as it enters your lungs and expands your stomach.
- Hold your breath for four seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for five seconds.
More breathing exercises can be found on our website.
When we experience developmental, complex, or relational trauma, it can affect all areas of our lives. But even if we haven’t experienced a traumatic event, feelings of anxiety or stress can still make it challenging to navigate overwhelming situations.
At Equinimity, it is our hope to help our community learn the science around trauma and stress, and most significantly, develop the tools to help us through these experiences. From Tools for Trauma to our newly developed EASE for Developmental and Complex Trauma that combines principles from Natural Horsemanship and Somatic Experiencing, we hope to help people discover or rediscover their connection to the present, healthy ways for self-soothing and regulating, and their sense of safety.
We hope that the exercises presented in this month’s newsletter are helpful as we make our way to a new year. And if you would like to learn more about our offerings, please join us on December 7 for a class exploring EASE for Developmental and Complex Trauma and how it is designed to offer an experiential and felt-sense understanding (body-knowing in addition to cognitive knowing) that supports healing and integration from developmental and complex trauma.