We are once again facing another socially-distanced semester, dreading all of the academic stress that it implies. For some, this dynamic may even be easier than in-person classes. However, my own experience has been very different: insane amounts of stress over missed deadlines, not being able to participate in IRL classes, feeling tired and digitally worn out, and not being able to socialize with my friends and classmates like I used to. No matter how you feel about this particular subject, it’s upon all of us to accept the inevitableー and now midterm season has officially arrived! Since I know how stressful a whole socially-distanced semester can be, I’ve gathered a list of my favorite grounding techniques to use for hectic times like these. Enjoy!
- Do yoga
It can’t be a coincidence that so many therapists, wellness coaches, and naturopaths recommend yoga as a key tool for relieving stress and achieving inner peace. This perfect combination of breathing exercises and strength/flexibility-poses is ideal for those moments when you feel like winding down in order to set aside the overwhelming nature of life in general.
It doesn’t matter what kind of yoga you decide to practice, as long as you keep a defined intention in mind while you practice it. To incorporate intentions is 100% up to you! It can be a reassuring thought, a calming mantra, a soothing word, or any idea that will keep you grounded during your practice whenever your mind feels tempted to lose focus. Since the focus here is midterm season, you can set an intention along the lines of: “I will study and try my hardest” or “no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay.”
If you are a beginner, and have no idea where to start, or if you are looking for a more gentle, relaxation-based practice, I highly suggest you try out Hatha Yoga, Yin Yoga, or a Level 1 Vinyasa-style session. If you don’t have a local yoga studio that’s available to you, click here to check out an updated list of YouTube’s best yoga instructors. Remember, the true beauty of yoga lies in each individual’s practice and the benefits you reap from it.
- Journal your feelings
In contrast to regular journaling (which typically includes writing about your day, your achieved goals, and some wellness-habit tracking), a feelings journal is all about recording and keeping track about how certain things make you feel, and how to describe said feelings. By directly acknowledging your emotions, you are creating an opportunity to analyze each and every situation that triggers you on an emotional level. This may help you keep things in check and put things into perspective, so maybe you won’t feel as triggered the next time X situation happens that is bound to make you feel sad, angry or upset. It’s also very cathartic to write things down on paper. So grab an empty notebook (any size you prefer works well!) and start keeping track of those feelings. Ideally, after some time of consistently practicing this habit, you will be better equipped to manage most, if not all, of the everyday stress-inducing situations that overwhelm you (including, of course, all those project deadlines and upcoming exams!).
- Use essential oils
Even though aromatherapy sometimes gets a bad rap for being too “hippie dippy” or new age-ish, there’s something inherently comforting about applying or diffusing flowery or earthy aromas. Just a whiff of my favorite plant or flower-based oil is enough to help me focus, relax, and calm down. It doesn’t matter if you decide to apply it via a roll-on applicator, diffuse it, or massage a couple drops on your hands or your templesーwhat matters is that you enjoy the aroma and feel soothed by it. There are actually a myriad of essential oils. In fact, many starter kits and packs include a variety of oils (keep in mind it’s way cheaper to purchase a kit instead of the individual containers).
If you want to delve deeper into aromatherapy as a holistic approach to wellness, you can pick and choose your essential oils based on their individual properties instead of their scents per se (for example: if you want to feel focused on your studies, you might want to try out some rosemary, lemon, patchouli, or sandalwood essential oils). Check out this link out for a pretty comprehensive guide on how to choose the right essential oil for you.
- Go outdoors and enjoy nature
Besides the obvious benefits of spending time outside, such as stocking up on that vitamin D, breathing fresh air, and getting some exercise done, it’s also vital to keep in mind the emotional benefits of going outdoors. An incredibly simple grounding exercise that anyone can do is to step outside, barefoot. Before you think I am once again jumping on the “hippie dippy” bandwagon, think about it for a second.
What better way to feel connected to Earth (Nature, Gaia, Mother Earth, etc.) than to literally step outside and “ground” yourself to your roots? This is the most literal example of grounding I can possibly think of. In fact, many holistic experts suggest that this is also a great technique for absorbing energy and stimulating your senses. A great way to amplify this exercise is by combining it with any of your favorite breathing exercises. My personal favorite is a yoga-based technique known as alternate nostril breathing. While “earthing,” as this strategy is otherwise known, make sure to focus on the soil beneath your feel, the weather that surrounds you, and the noises and scents you can pick up through your senses.
- Do regular body scans
This last grounding technique is the easiest to perform, given its prop-free nature. All you have to do is settle into your favorite space (be it your bedroom, your office, a bench in the park, a spot under a tree, etc.), close your eyes, and focus solely on the sensations in your body. For a better body scan, start by focusing on the sensations that surround your feet (are your legs crossed? Are your feet cold?). Then, slowly work all the way up until you reach the top of your head. The goal here is to notice as many details as possible while keeping a steady breath, a focused mind, and a relaxed position. Besides relieving stress, this grounding technique is also famous for its potential to manage chronic ailments, get better sleep, and decrease overall anxiety. The best part of this strategy is that you can practice it anywhere and at any time! All you have to do is tune into your senses and what they are perceiving. So feel free to do this a couple of minutes before your next test, a big presentation, or a job interview.
All of these grounding techniques are relatively easy and simple. The hardest part is maintaining complete focus throughout them all. However, don’t let this discourage you! Don’t forget that there are no absolutes when it comes to practicing grounding strategies. These are simply guidelines that are meant to inspire you. For a better experience, stick to your intuition, keep your thoughts in check, and let the relaxation begin!