5 Things to See
Life can get really distorted with stress. It could “just” be mental overload – non-stop thinking or non-stop forgetting. Or stress may create internal photo filters, but instead of seeing bunny ears and big teeth, it’s hellfire and brimstone.
Any of that – from overloaded minds to hellfire images – can mean not being well grounded.
Without connection to our bodies on the earth, we’re more easily drained, affected by others’ moods, busy without being effective, spinning or spacey, touchy, and ineffectual with communication.
Being stressed keeps your sympathetic nervous system in gear. This “fight or flight/ freeze or please” pattern gets revved up the more anxious you are. Even with chronic low-level stress, it stays alert to possible real or imaginary dangers.
Our sympathetic nervous system (badly named in my opinion) will eventually lessen. But much better than waiting is supporting your opposite parasympathetic nervous system, that helps you “rest and digest.”
A simple method is using your senses and mind to come back to the present. Or “get back to where you once belonged,” as the Beatles sang.
5 things you can see, 4 things you hear…
Use your five commonly named senses to come back to this moment in time. It could be what you notice real life or your imagination:
See 5 things: sky, shoes, refrigerator, trees, computer… or imagine details of a place you like.
Hear 4 things: hum of air conditioner, conversations, traffic, silence, your breath….
Touch 3 things: clothes, hand on your chest, bedsheets, couch cushions, imagine feeling sand on a beach.
Smell 2 things: background odor of your room, food on a stove, remembering a pungent cut lemon or a baby’s scalp.
Taste 1 thing: tidbit of food in your mouth, fresh water, bite of dinner, taste of that lemon.
Being in this moment has the power to settle. However, if you’re still spinning, repeat the exercise as is, or mix it up (E.g., smell 5 things, touch 4 things, etc.)
Then again, you might have some human resistance.
Your sympathetic nervous system might not like this.
I want to honor your sympathetic nervous system. It can have such attachment to the spiral of anxiety – physical, emotional, visual, and spiritual.
“Yeah, right!” says your inner revved up nervous system. “We NEED to worry, it helps you plan and prepare!”
Isn’t worry doing something? I mean, how can you not worry when such terrors are around? I’ve had this conversation many times with clients and with myself.
But the real truth, bigger than the logic of anxiety, is that anxious plans are not good plans. Your brain’s prefrontal cortex isn’t in the mix much, so your plans are solely reptilian reactions to imagined worsts.
It really is okay to calm a bit. Really! When you attend to what’s here, you speed your return to responding to what’s real, instead of what you’re anxious about.
You’ll be able to remember that you’re part of a bigger mind, bigger options, bigger community, bigger presence. Even just for now, to connect to the goodness around you.
In my imagination, I see you reading this and hear you exhale. In real life, I touch the keypad as I finish this, smell the coffee on the burner, and taste the last of my lemon-ginger tea.
We are here, together.