Explore / Mental Health / Self-Care / Wellness

SelfCare Sunday – A Walk in the Woods

For many folks, including the family I was raised in, Sundays are a traditional time of rest and reflection.  I wanted to incorporate this tradition into my busy modern life by aligning my self-care and spiritual practices on Sundays.  In my ongoing struggles with mental health & recovery (anxiety, depression, OCD, post-concussion syndrome) I have learned the importance of proactive self-care in living and managing a healthy and fulfilling life.  Everyone’s recovery journey is different, but for most people I’ve met: creating and maintaining a self-directed plan with healthy self-care habits can have remarkable positive outcomes on personal mental health and wellness.

I often find myself dealing with the symptoms of Anxiety: rising heart-rate, tension in my body, rumination, pacing, easily startled, a feeling of edginess & agitation.  When this happens, one of my go-to  going for a “grounding” walk in the woods, a park, a quiet street.  I find this mindful way of walking really relieves or eases those symptoms.

Grounding is a set of simple strategies to detach from emotional pain (e.g., craving, anger, sadness). Distraction works by focusing outward on the external world, rather than inward toward the self. You can also think of it as “distraction,” “centering,” “a safe place,” “looking outward,” or “healthy detachment.”  When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain, you need a way to detach so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. Grounding “anchors” you to the present and to reality. – Behavior Health Resources

Grounding is helpful when one finds themself losing touch with the present moment.
Grounding decreases hyper-arousal, using as many senses as possible to reconnect to the present.

Nature can be a refuge. It calms, helps you connect to something larger than yourself, and provides a much-needed respite from your busy life. The simple act of listening to water rushing over rocks, staring at the moon, or watching the trees blow in the wind can remind us that there is something greater than ourselves out there. Tapping into that power can create a feeling of acceptance. – Cortney Chaite

Grounding oases are places and activities that give a break from trauma or stress:
“The value of an oasis will be recognized by a reduction in hyper-arousal and a quieting of internal dialogue.”

Mental: Describe an everyday activity in great detail. (For example, describe the walk you are taking “First I walk down the path away from the house, then I turn the corner by the shed…)

Physical: Focus on your breathing, notice each inhale and exhale.  Walk slowly; notice each footstep, saying “left or “right”… Dig your heels into the ground – literally “grounding” them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself you are connected to the ground.  Jump up and down!  Stretch. Roll your head around; extend your fingers… Clench and release your fists.

Find & carry a grounding object in your pocket,
which you can touch when ever you feel triggered.

Grounding, like any other skill, requires practice: Practice as often as possible, even when you don’t need it.  Try grounding for a loooooonnnnnnngggggg time (20-30 minutes).  Notice which methods you like best.  Create your own methods of grounding.  Start grounding early in a negative mood cycle.


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