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Grounding Ourselves Through the Holidays and Beyond

The holidays are a stressful time for many folks for many different reasons. The financial cost of gifts and traveling, an increase in time spent with family (and we all have that part of our family we may not want to spend this much time with), the winter blues, and the whirlwind of time that happens between Thanksgiving to Christmas to the New Year. By the end of the holidays, it can feel like you’re running on empty and have no gas to push through the start of the new year. However, taking a step back, a pause, when we are feeling overwhelmed with everything going on can reduce these feelings of stress and allow us to enter a space where we feel more at peace and ready to take on the next task.

Here are 5 different tips and tricks on quick ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed (both during the holidays and not)!

  • Meditation

Mindfulness has become a trend recently both in the therapeutic field and outside of it. Mindfulness, and meditation in particular, has been shown to be a beneficial practice regarding stress and anxiety (Mayo Clinic, 2022). It allows us to focus our thoughts and attention on something else for a few short minutes. A meditation can last anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour or more. We may feel we do not have time to take a step back for 30 minutes, but a five-minute meditation is a great way to pause during the day when we simply feel too overwhelmed for anything else. There are thousands of videos on YouTube that are five-minute guided meditations, but it is also something that can be done without guidance. The primary focus is your breath and shifting attention to what is occurring around you in that moment.

  • 5-4-3-2-1

This is my favorite grounding technique. My therapist in college gave me this tool when I was dealing with overwhelming anxiety, and over five years later, I still use it. It is a fantastic tool to use when you feel your thoughts running endlessly and you can’t seem to focus on what’s in front of you. You name five things that you can see, describe them a little bit to yourself or to someone else. Then four things you can touch, which is less about things you could go and touch, and more things that you can tangibly feel where you currently are. This could be the way your shirt is sitting on your shoulders, the way your feet are planted on the ground, the way your shoes feel on your feet, a cool breeze, etc. Following that, you name three things you can hear. If you’re in a quiet room, this could be something like the way your breath sounds or the hum of a computer or the lights. After naming what you can hear, you move on to naming two things that you can smell. This can be your perfume or cologne you’re wearing, a candle, really anything you can smell. This gets a little hard, but with enough focus you can find a scent somewhere. Finally, you name one thing that you can taste. Your coffee from this morning, the lunch you just ate, any flavor in your mouth. After finishing, take note of how you feel compared to how you felt before. If you’re me, you’ll notice that your heart rate has slowed and your shoulders have dropped, and you feel a sense of peace.

  • Square Breathing

This is a fairly easy grounding technique. It requires you to focus on your breath and the length of time you are breathing. You begin by planting your feet squarely on the ground and sitting comfortably. Then you will take a deep breath in through your nose for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, then breath out of your mouth for four seconds, followed by holding your breath for another four seconds. Repeat this as many times as needed to feel your body begin to relax.

  • Take care of your basic needs

Sometimes when we feel rushed, we often forget to take care of our most basic needs. We may forget to drink water, to eat a meal or two, and we often end up going to bed way too late or waking up way too early. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and start to feel other physical sensations or emotions (Ask yourself: is your stomach hurting? Do you have a headache? Are you feeling frustrated and irritable?), check in with what basic needs you have covered. Go get a glass of water or your hydrating drink of choice. Did you miss a meal? Get a snack or eat that meal! Don’t wait until the next meal to eat; our body needs fuel and food is that fuel! Have you been noticing that you’re tired, irritable, and not sleeping well? Take a nap! I love a 20-minute nap to reset during the afternoon. It’s not long enough that I feel extremely tired when it’s over, and it’s also not short enough that I feel like it was a waste of time. Our bodies need certain things to keep running, so reminding ourselves to cover those basic needs will allow us to get back on track with whatever else we have going on.

  • Color!

Adult coloring books sprouted up like weeds a few years ago. They were made to target exactly what is being discussed in this blog. The lines to color between are so tiny we have to pay attention to what we’re doing. We’ve been conditioned to color between the lines since we were kids! Allowing yourself to do something with creativity can help remind you that not everything needs to be responsibility all the time. We can have a little fun, even if it is just coloring.

We all get overwhelmed and wrapped up in our exhausting list of things to do both during the holidays and beyond, but it is important to pause and to take a step back to remind yourself that you deserve time for yourself in the midst of responsibility. These five quick tips can help you take that pause that you need to get through the rest of the holiday to-do list or that unbearable conversation at the holiday dinner table.

Written by,

Annika Bushman, Intern



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