Today on the podcast I’m sharing some tips to help you stay grounded and present – something that can feel especially hard when the world is as chaotic as it is right now.
I hope this helps, but please remember if you need to speak to a professional, don’t hesitate to reach out to one – we all need a helping hand now and then.
Listen wherever you get your podcasts or here:
Links and further reading
- How to stop and smell the roses
- 5 grounding exercises to help when anxiety rises
- 6 tips to stop doomscrolling
- Learning to exhale workshop (replay)
Today I want to explore the topic of mindfulness and staying present in a time when it’s all too easy to get lost in future anxieties. So if staying in the here and now is feeling tough right now, this episode is for you. Get yourself a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.
Hello everyone, I hope you’re all doing well – or as well as you can be in January 2021! With that in mind, I need to be honest with you and tell you that I originally had a different title in mind for this episode. I’m basing it off a blog post I wrote in 2019 that really resonated with people called ‘how to stop and smell the roses’ and that was going to be the title for this episode, but when I came to writing the script today that title just felt all kinds of wrong.
It’s really easy to say ‘be grateful for what you’ve got’ and sometimes this can be useful, but other times it’s almost used in a shaming way – dismissing negative feelings. And if you know me, you know that I’m not here for any of the toxic positivity shit. We have to allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling, and let multiple emotions bubble away at the same time.
For example, when I first heard that the UK was going into another lockdown I felt both relieved and gutted. Relieved that something was actually being done to help stop the spread of coronavirus and gutted that after not seeing my family at Christmas I wouldn’t get to see them again for another… I mean, however many weeks this lockdown will last. I was also gutted for people who were inevitably going to struggle with another lockdown. And it’s a strange thing to feel two conflicting emotions, but it’s totally human.
As well as a third lockdown for the UK, at the time of recording there’s just been riots in the US, with Trump supporters storming the Capital. We’re living in scary times. So yeah, asking people to stop and smell the roses right now feels inappropriate to say the least.
Instead I want to focus on ways we can stay present and grounded when it feels like the world is on fire. Because it’s so, so easy to lose yourself in worries about the future or even worries about things that ultimately you can’t control. And as someone who struggles with anxiety, this is something I feel pretty well versed in.
Grounding ourselves in the here and now can help us feel safer. It reminds us that even if there are scary things happening or threats on the horizon, right now you’re probably not in immediate danger. We need to tell ourselves this because our brains don’t know the difference between actual, tangible threat and imagined or perceived threat.
And the first step that can be helpful is to literally bring yourself back into your body. I’ve written a full article on grounding exercises for anxiety over on Happiful so I’ll link to that in the show notes, but my favourite grounding activities include holding onto something physical – like a crystal or a rock, using an aromatherapy rollerball to stimulate my sense of smell and adjusting my breathing so I’m breathing out for slightly longer than I’m breathing in – this activates our parasympathetic nervous system which calms us down. All of these activities give us the prompt we need to be present.
And moving your body in general can really help here. Stretch your body with yoga, go outside for a walk, do a few star jumps on the spot. The aim with all of it is to feel in your body, so anything that reconnects you with your senses is ideal.
Another tool that can help you stay present is documenting your days. Rather than letting them all pass by in a blur, try to intentionally capture them. I do this by journaling and sometimes taking pictures on Instagram stories – and I’ve actually been saving my ‘Sunday snapshots’ that I post in an album on my phone so I can look back one day and see what a typical lockdown Sunday was like.
You could start writing a diary, keep a sketch journal and draw your day, take pictures, or even record yourself talking about your day – whatever works for you. All I would say is try to see the moments of hope and joy in your day. They may feel more hidden than usual, but I believe they’re still there. I’ve been finding huge amounts of joy from things like playing the sims, watching great films and reading and making a note of that not only helps me feel calmer in the present, but it’ll be pretty wonderful to look back on one day.
And of course, by all means document the hard parts too, as I said at the beginning – we’re allowed to feel both and it’s healthy to give space for both.
Now I can’t really do an episode about staying present and not mention meditation, so this is another tool I want to shout out. I know meditation isn’t for everyone, but for many it’s a really helpful way of honing those mindfulness skills. I’ve toyed with practising at different times of the day and week, and I’ve settled on a morning 10-minute meditation, Monday to Friday. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up and I just find it gives me some literal breathing room before the day gets on top of me.
You don’t need to meditate every day and you don’t need to meditate for long periods of time to reap the benefits. And if meditation isn’t your thing, try to find another way of practising mindfulness. Go for a walk without a podcast or music in your ear – instead notice what you can hear, see and feel on your walk. Scatter some mindful moments in your day, maybe while making your morning coffee or when you’re cooking dinner. The idea is to make space to remind yourself where you are – and ultimately to slow down. And this leads me nicely onto my next suggestion…
And that is to enjoy pockets of slow in your day. I know it’s not always feasible to incorporate practices like yoga, meditation and journaling into your day, I get that. Something I truly believe all of us can do however is have some pause moments. Moments when you slow down, when you check in with yourself and how you’re doing. Moments when you ask yourself, what do I need to feel safe right now?
Try setting yourself an alarm to go off some time during your day, every day, and use this as a prompt to pause and check in with yourself.
Now the last idea I want to share is a little abstract, but it helps me, and that is to take mental snapshots. Whenever I’m faced with a particularly amazing, joyful or just content moment in life, I take some time to breathe in the moment. I lock what I’m seeing and experiencing into my mind’s eye.
Thinking back to those mental snapshots now, I’m transported. I’m in Thailand on my way to a temple, enjoying the warm breeze and excited faces surrounding me. I’m photographing the most incredible sunset in Costa Rica feeling in awe of mother nature. I’m lying on the floor with my beautiful old cat, Sapphire, tickling her tummy.
And yes, I did take some mental snapshots in 2020 – the loveliest being when I first got to hold my niece. This is just a really lovely way of noticing and being present for the warmer moments in your life.
The times we’re living in right now are like the ocean. Beautiful and serene in one moment, fierce and relentless the next. Noticing those calm moments between the storms can go a really long way and I really hope some of the tools I’ve shared in this episode can help with that.
Before I go I want to mention that at the end of last year I did a workshop on learning to exhale which had some journaling prompts and exercises to help you feel safe and able to rest. If you missed it, you can find the replay on my IGTV over on Instagram, my handle is @katbluejay and I’ll list any other helpful articles and resources in the shownotes which you’ll find at bluejayofhappiness.com/podcast.
That’s all I have for you today, I hope you all have a lovely couple of weeks – who knows what will happen in that time eh, but here’s hoping the seas are a little calmer for you. Take care.