2019, September 05

Mental Wellness Challenge

Grounding and gratitude!


Hi, its time to get started with some mental wellness challenges again.


I’d like to start off with some grounding stuff. Then I’ll get into a challenge.


I often use a technique called the “5 4 3 2 1 Technique” that helps me to ground myself and get my head to a place where it’s not racing, busy, or hectic. I deal with an anxiety disorder and I’ll often use this technique to slow an anxiety attack down. I use it as well, even when I am not terribly anxious, to get grounded and in a place where I can do some me work.


There are lots of articles on the web of things that discuss the technique so I am not going to get down into the minutia of every little step here.


To start, I intentionally take a great big breath. I fill up my lungs til they feel full full full. I then let the breath out slowly. (Usually, for me, I almost always feel the tension that I am packing in my shoulders and neck – and I might even try to let my shoulders down a little as I breathe out. If I feel like I need to, I’ll suck in another big breath and let it out again.


Now, I will intentionally look for 5 things I can see. This is really looking, taking note of the color, the sheen, the shape, the texture. I try not to short myself here, I really have a look. It might be the tree outside a window – I pay note to its shade of green, the shape of the tree itself, the clumps and clusters on needles if it’s an evergreen, there might even be a bird or a squirrel in the tree. The idea is to focus on 5 things you can see. I know that for me, this part of the exercises gets my mind “out of my head”.


Next, I take time to note 4 things I can touch or feel. It might be my squishy ball on my desk, it might be the way my toes feel in my shoes, or maybe the temperature of the air in the room, it might even be a pet’s fur. I take the time to really try to feel, to intentionally interact with the item – to be present with it. I can feel my socks on my toes inside my shoes. I note that my toes are comfortable, feel a bit cool (my hands and feet are always cold), and that when I wiggle them, I can feel my toes happily moving around inside my shoe. Maybe I feel the heat of the sun on my face, how it warms my face, how when I close my eyes and put my face to the sun – it feels almost like the sun is shining through me. So – I do this with 4 things.


The third thing I do in this exercise is to examine for 3 things I can hear. I do my best to single out three specific things, identify them and spend a moment paying attention to each one. I hear the clock ticking on the wall of my office. The tick isn’t just a tick, the sound it makes is more mechanical, I can hear the “works” in the clock working together. I hear the air handling unit as sort of an over arching sound that really does fill the room to some extent. I can hear the turbulence of the air moving through the duct work and through the troffer/vent. I have tinnitus, have had since I was younger, so I really have to pay attention for really faint sounds, due to the persistent ringing I have in my ears… I suppose I even listen to that sometimes… the high pitch whistle that is ever present. Paying attention, I can hear voices of people in the corridor. I listen, not to what they are saying, but to the rhythm of their conversation. Their voices are really too quite for me to make out what they are saying, but I do note the cadence of the interaction.


Next, I take a moment to try and discern two things I can smell. There really isn’t anything outright specific I can identify in my office for scents or odours. Concentrating on smells, I note the distinct smell of shoe polish that I put on my shoes this morning. It’s a smell that I don’t mind… The other smell I can identify is paper I think… maybe it’s the smell of toner and paper? I intentionally take the time to try to identify two distinct smells – even though they might be hard to identify.


The last part of this is thinking for one thing I can taste. Right now, this ones easy, I can taste stale coffee. Sometimes tastes for me are less distinct. Is it a metallic taste in my mouth, a sweet taste, a bitter or sour taste, where’s the taste coming from?


When I have gone through the 5 4 3 2 1, I am usually slowed down enough to start to do some work. If I’ve been anxious, this little technique helps me to slow down so that I can disarm a panic attack. Right now, I am in a place, a state where I feel like could do a little work for me… and so I will.



The challenge…


I am going to start my challenges off this year with gratitude. My challenge for you is to pay attention your life, pay attention to your circumstances or pay attention to your path and look for one thing each day for the next week that you are grateful for. Look for just one little thing every day that you have gratitude for. I would suggest that you look to do this in the morning as you start your day… although putting your head down on your pillow is a pretty good time to ponder gratitude… Well then, why not challenge you to do both!


While you don’t need to write these things down, I find that when I am “running on empty” its beneficial to go back to a diary, journal or log of some sort and look for nuggets of gratitude that can help me to boost my “energy level”. An example of this, from my experience, is that lately I have been running with “holes in my bucket”. I’m not certain what the holes are from, but I know that my emotional “mental wealth” bucket seems to be leaking. I 100% recognize the effects of running low on this stuff – my self esteem is low, my confidence isn’t what it usually is and honestly – my overall energy is depleted. While I am working on patching my bucket, I can go to my journal and “harvest” some gratitude. Gratitude for me is an amazing thing. In the process of collecting my nuggets of gratitude, I also gather kernels of perspective, drops of kindness and hints of love. So, while you don’t have to write these contemplations down, there is a benefit in doing so.


So that’s it – I challenge you to start and end your day contemplating gratitude!


I sincerely hope this challenge helps you identify connections, personal values, purpose, and improved awareness along your way.


I am grateful for the place I work, the people I work with and for the opportunity to share my journey with depression, anxiety and the rest of my “stuff” and the opportunity to maybe help someone along the way.


I challenge you!