“Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare
A little while ago I had a full blown panic attack.
The kind that’s not for the faint of heart.
The kind that leaves you literally breathless and gasping desperately for air.
Accompanied by a feeling in your chest that can only be compared to a great boa, slowly constricting tighter and tighter.
Inch by inch squeezing a little bit more, a little bit harder until you’re sure that you’ll die from the pain and the panic.
The kind that sends tears streaming down your cheeks, no matter how hard you try to keep them at bay.
That send a flurry of illogical thoughts swirling around inside your mind.
Faster and faster, like a category F5 tornado.
You know there will be irreparable damage left behind in its wake.
But, let me back up a little bit.
Let me take you to the beginning…to the cause of this suffering.
Two weeks ago I found a small mass in my body, where there was none before.
This was the start of the tornado…F1 stage.
I went to my doctor, who confirmed it seemed out of place and requested that I go to the hospital for further testing.
Skip F2 and go straight to F3.
I have a long history of cancer in my family, so obviously that has to be what the mass was.
My mind refused to follow logic and reason, but instead jumped from A to Z, leaving out all of the important steps in between.
You know, the ones that are like, “Don’t freak out until you have all the facts!”
Yeah, those had all flown out the window around F2 and I spent most of the day hovering between F3 and F4.
By nightfall, I finally tried to relax enough to sleep but the exact opposite occurred.
As I laid there in my bed, my mind kept spinning faster and faster, completely and utterly out of control.
Full and complete breakdown.
Complete with panic, hyperventilation, tears and all that goes with a category F5 thought-tornado.
At the apex of this internal storm, I had an out of body experience, of sorts.
My mind and my heart split away from the entangled mess that they had gotten themselves into and I could see what was happening.
My heart started screaming to my mind, “You need to ground! You need to ground!”
I let my heart take over, and from that moment I remembered and followed my pathway to grounding.
Grounding is the act of bringing your awareness back into your body.
It is the nature of the human species to use our minds as tools to progress our lives and our evolution forward.
The creative and ingenuitive way that our minds work has propelled our species forward at unprecedented rates.
The evolution of man is quite staggering if you look at all that humans have accomplished in a relatively short span of time.
From living in caves and harnessing the power of fire and the creation of the first primitive tools, to splitting atoms and creating artificial intelligence.
It’s pretty amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it.
But the downside to having such a creative and powerful mind is that we associate it with our identity.
Often times we believe that we are solely our minds.
That our being is equal to our ability to think.
This is beautifully demonstrated in the famous quote by the philosopher, Descartes:
“I think, therefore I am.”
But what, I can only assume, Descartes did not realize, is that quite the opposite is true.
Our minds are a tool for us to use.
It’s important to remember to let the tool rest and recharge when we aren’t using it for productive action.
When our identity is resting completely on what we think, we allow separation to enter our reality.
When this happens, we fall into states of being ungrounded.
Although being in an ungrounded state will look and feel different to everyone, below are some of the most common symptoms.
Harboring feelings of:
Emotionally or Mentally Drained
Feeling Spaced Out
Light and Noise Sensitivity
For me, in the midst of my thought-tornado, my ungrounded state of mind appeared as panic and anxiety.
Once I acknowledged that I was having a panic attack as a result of being ungrounded, I was able to take action to bring myself out of my mind and back into my body.
This brings us to the 7 paths to grounding your body and mind.
1. Acknowledgment: When you’re in the midst of a thought-tornado, whether it’s a category F1, F5 or anywhere in between, it’s important to recognize that your mind is taking control. That your thoughts are changing your emotional and physical reaction to an experience. Early signs are an increase in heartrate, sweating, irregular breathing or feeling a “pit” in the bottom of your stomach.
2. Five Sense Stimulus: Bring your awareness to your five senses. This starts the transition from being stuck in your mind to entering back into your body.
Sight: Look at images that bring a sense of calm to you. Pictures of nature are great for grounding. Focus on the minute details of the image. If you’re looking at a picture of a river, see how many shades of blue you can see in the water, or how many rocks you can count.
Sound: Play a piece of music that helps you to feel calm. Classical music is amazing for this. Listen intently to each note and notice the sound vibration it is making. See how it makes your body feel.
Smell: Breathe in a scent that you love. Essential oils are an easy and effective way to have grounding scents on hand. The best oils for this are: lavender, rose, vetiver, ylang ylang, bergamot, chamomile and frankincense.
Taste: Eat or drink a small volume of something you love. If you love chocolate, put a small morsel in your mouth and let it melt there. Focus on the flavor and the texture.
Touch: Pick up something near you that has texture and feel it with your fingertips. Focus on what that item feels like on your skin.
3. Breathing Technique: Bring your awareness to your breath. Focus on slowing the speed down. An effective way to accomplish this is to count during inhales and exhales. If you start at a two count for each inhale and exhale, try to count to three during the next few breaths, then four then five and so on, until your breathing has returned to a normal and steady rate.
4. Reverse Circulation: Lay on your back with your legs pressed up against a wall, so that your feet are angled upward toward the ceiling. This pose is a wonderfully restorative one. It gives your heart a rest, so that it doesn’t have to pump as hard to bring the blood back up from your feet and legs, actively working to slow your heartrate down.
5. Earthing: Go outside. Take your shoes off, feel the ground and breathe in the fresh air. While you are focusing on what your senses are experiencing, your body will simultaneously be absorbing the positive energy from the Earth.
6. EFT Tapping: EFT stands for “Emotional Freedom Technique” and is a variation of acupuncture and acupressure that you can do on your own.
Create a short positive statement that you can use whenever you start to feel that thought-tornado form. Something simple like, “I have love for myself.” Or “I am calm and centered.”
With four fingers on one hand, firmly tap the outside edge of the other hand, (the space between the pinkie finger knuckle and your wrist). Do so on both hands.
Next tap the top of your head moving downward to your face, being conscious of sensitive areas such as the eyes.
Tap the eyebrow, near the bridge of your nose. Move toward the side of the eye near the temple, under the eye, under the nose, the crease between the lip and the chin, the collar bone, the top of the chest and back up to the top of the head.
Repeat this sequence 5-10 times.
7. Human Grounding: This is by far my favorite method. Touch another human! If you’re with a family member or friend, hold their hand or hug them. Also, receiving massage on a regular basis is a wonderful way to help keep your body grounded over longer periods of time.
I’ll be honest, because I had reached the max capacity of an F5 thought-tornado, it took me about two full days of consistently reminding myself to practice these grounding techniques.
But when I woke up on the morning of the third day, I had the most powerful sense of calm settle over me.
All of the worry, stress and anxiety that I had been carrying around was gone. In its place was the unshakeable feeling that whatever happened, I would be just fine.
I am one of the fortunate ones that had test results come back non-cancerous. But that mass is still present inside my body.
It stands now, for me, as a reminder of the lesson that I learned.
Not only of the importance of using your mind as a tool, but that not attaching your identity to your mind is always going to be a work in progress.
But it’s a labor of love and the more challenges you face, the more progress you will make.