The Summer holidays can be tough for families impacted by developmental trauma. While most families are frolicking at the beach, sunbathing, sleeping, shopping, or catching up with friends and relatives, other families may be deep in tempestuous waters. Violent outbursts, dysregulation around clothing, food, toileting, sleeping, episodes of stealing and lying, and the holiday favourite—sabotage—are the everyday norm.
In many ways it is as though caregivers repetitively place themselves at mercy of the surf. Letting their physical and emotional states be carried, dunked and bashed by the waves. All without leaving home.
Making a New Year resolution or goal for personal change, amid this chaos, can be (beyond) difficult. Why? Because no matter how hard caregivers try to swim out beyond the waves to smoother waters, they get knocked back to the shore time and time again.
Therefore, just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gets your body jump-started, getting grounded must be our focus for 2019. Why? It sets the tone and direction.
How do you ground yourself? At its most basic level, it is about stopping, and, as attachment expert Diane Poole Heller says, “noticing where your feet are.” But the act of stopping is usually not enough. Getting grounded takes work.
First, you must have some sense of your physical and emotional state and ideally connect your brain to your body. Zen Master, Wu De, educates about grounding yourself in your five senses. Wu De uses pure leaf tea as a way of invoking the fives senses—some call it ‘slow tea’ (similar to ‘slow food’). Using the process of preparing tea, Wu De encourages followers to take time to look and touch the leaves, to hear the water boil, inhale the aromas, and allow flavours of the tea to dance over the palate.
Other ways you can connect your brain to your body is to mediate, listen to music or take a walk outside. The latter is a handy practice because your five senses are always with you and if one doesn’t seem to help, perhaps another will.
Some experts would argue that simply allowing your skin to be in contact with any natural conductors of the earth’s electricity helps one to become grounded. You can walk barefoot on grass, moist soil, sand, or gravel. You can swim in the ocean, a lake or other natural body of water. You can sit under a tree, leaning against the trunk.
Gretchen Schmeltzer, author of Journey through Trauma tells us routines are enormously grounding. “Slowing down enough to re-establish and connect with routines that help you feel healthy and more solid: meals, exercise, reading, bed-time—routines that can offer some consistency and constancy and help you relax and settle in to yourself and your life. They can be especially effective at grounding you when you have become ungrounded by crisis, loss or trauma.” She adds sometimes things like tidying up or organizing something (anything) can help you feel like you and your life is more in order.
But be warned. Gretchen says getting grounded does not happen overnight —it’s a feeling that needs to work its way back into the fabric of your being. “It needs some time to settle, to knit, to mend. One you regain that feeling—you need to steep in it a while. Take some time to feel the ground underneath your feet, and your feet underneath your body. Take some time to feel your breathing, your values, your purpose and your relationships. And take time to have all the pieces of you live in the same place for a while—long enough to find common ground. The common ground of steadiness and sturdiness—a platform from which you can leap again—when you are ready.”
© Felicia Stewart, 2019