Ground Yourself

lightning strike

Have you ever heard the remark that someone was “grounded”? You probably have an appliance in your home (stove, washing machine, dryer, etc.) that is grounded. Your car has grounding straps. Tall buildings have lightning rods.

You certainly have shuffled your feet along a carpet or pulled off a jacket on a dry day and then touched a metal doorknob and felt and maybe seen the zap of a small lightning bolt. That static electricity in you was grounded – quite literally – to the metal.

Grounding – in a more figurative sense  – is an ancient technique. It was practiced in Chinese medicine. Indigenous people around the planet have done it. We still follow this today in behavioral health, doing yoga and meditation, and connecting in some way with nature.

Grounding can be defined in a number of ways. I feel grounded when I walk barefoot on the earth or in the water of the ocean, a lake or creek. Why? Grounding in its many forms helps us be more present in the here and now.

The Fitbit on my wrist reminds me to be active. The Fitbit blog reminds me that there are techniques to help me be more grounded.

Lightning rods are an old-fashioned device. It is a metal rod mounted on a structure and intended to protect the structure from a lightning strike. If lightning hits the structure, it will preferentially strike the rod and be conducted to ground through a wire, instead of passing through the structure, where it could start a fire or cause electrocution.

Grounding yourself is a way to channel anxiety and stress into the ground and away from you.

Looking forward or backward can distort the present and grounding can bring you back to the present. But you ask, “How do I ground myself?”

This isn’t a how-to post, but techniques like diaphragmatic breathing appear to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, initiating the relaxation response. Lie down with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you inhale, feel your belly press into your bottom hand. As you exhale, feel your belly soften and fall. This (as with meditation and yoga) is intentional breathing. where you are conscious of your breathing, We breathe all day and pay almost no attention to it until there is either a problem (out of breath) or doing one of these conscious activities.

I wrote earlier about breathing. One simple technique is breathing deeply through the left nostril (holding the right one closed) which can lower blood pressure, temperature, and anxiety. Exhale normally.

You will also hear the term “Earthing” used, meaning the very simple practice of paying attention to the sensations of your feet against the earth, which can be in the woods or your backyard, a park, the beach, or any other natural setting.

Another relaxation technique I learned which helps me relax and sleep is doing a body scan. You can either start at your toes and work up to the crown of your head, or go in the opposite direction. What you are doing is to very consciously feel one body part to the next (toes, heels, ankles, calves, etc). Observe where there is tension, warmth, coolness, numbness, pain, pressure, tension. I first learned this by trying deliberately to tense that one area and then relaxing it. You don’t know hot without cold, light without darkness, tension without release.

Set a lightning rod inside yourself and push the anxiety into the earth where it can be dissipated.

Ben Franklin invented the “Franklin Rod” as a way to ground a structure before he ever did his famous and foolishly dangerous kite experiment. Much safer to ground yourself.