Read on if you want to gain some easy, practical skills that help you pause when difficult thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, urges, or sensations come up. These are techniques that I use week in and week out with clients. They are straightforward, and clients find lots of success using them at home outside of our sessions.
1) Dropping Anchor:
We can often get hooked on the stories that our minds tell us. However, it can be beneficial to take a few moments to remind ourselves to be present, especially when things are tough and you have a lot of painful thoughts, feelings and sensations travelling around your body.
It can feel like a storm of thoughts and feelings. Imagine yourself as a little boat caught in the storm. Instead of struggling in the waves or letting yourself get battered by them, Dropping anchor can hold us steady while the storm passes. It’s a great grounding technique that you can use anytime you need to.
How to Drop Anchor
- First, get comfortable in a chair with your back nice and straight and gently roll your shoulders back and down.
- Put your feet flat on the floor and gently push them into the floor.
- Take your time and reflect on your five senses:
- Feel your feet on the floor and inside your shoes. Feel the weight of your body in the chair and your hands on your lap or by your sides. What else can you feel?
- Press your fingertips together; gently move your elbows and shoulders.
- Take a moment to notice and acknowledge that there are things that you are struggling with, and there is pain with the struggle. You can acknowledge your feelings if you know what they are;
- You could say to yourself: Here’s anger, here’s anxiety, here’s sadness, here’s emptiness, here’s numbness
- What can you see? If you have your eyes closed, you might see different colours depending on the light. Or, what can you see around you? You could concentrate on colours or shapes.
- Listen to the sounds around you. Notice what you can hear.
- Can you smell anything?
- What can you taste? The food you’ve eaten not long ago? Your toothpaste? Any other tastes?
- Notice your body in the chair.
- Gently press your feet down to the ground, press your fingertips together and look around you again.
- Lastly, take a moment to stretch and move your body.
Check in again
So, at this point, you can ask yourself if you have more control over your actions now. Are you less caught up in the emotional storm? Are you less hooked by your complex thoughts and feelings? Is it easier to engage with your surroundings? To be present, to focus?
2) Mindful Walking
Walking can be so underrated as exercise and an activity that’s just so good for us. It can be a good circuit breaker if we’re in a loop of challenging thoughts, and it can help us process our feelings and make some space for them.
It’s an excellent opportunity to look around us and notice what we see, hear and feel.
You could notice
- The movement of your body as you take each step.
- The feeling of your feet as they touch the ground
- The sounds all around you or the sounds of your footsteps
- The sights around you as you walk: you could pick a colour, such as what shades of green you can see.
Look up: Look up into the sky, at nature, or the buildings as you pass by.
3) Belly Breaths
Belly breaths are a straightforward, easy technique to use when you can’t concentrate or have lots of thoughts, feelings, and sensations whirling around.
- Sit down on a chair or cushion and sit upright with a straight back. You can choose to lie down instead.
- Close your eyes if you feel comfortable with this, or gently focus your gaze on the spot on the floor
- Start by noticing your body. Notice the sensation of sitting or lying down.
- Now simply notice how you are breathing. Observe how your chest and tummy are rising on the in-breath. Observe how your chest and tummy fall on the out-breath.
- You will likely be distracted by thoughts, feelings, or things around you. This is OK; just bring your focus back to your breath.
- Place a hand on your tummy near your belly button, and as you breathe in, imagine you’re filling your tummy with air so that your hand moves outwards as your tummy expands.
- Then, as you breathe out, bring your belly button back towards your spine as your tummy ‘deflates’. Just three belly breaths can help settle you.
All of these techniques involve us using the formula ACE.
A: Acknowledge thoughts and feelings
C: Come back into your body
E: Engage with what you are doing
You can practice these techniques at any time and in any place. Why not practice them in less challenging situations, to begin with, so that you can build up your skill levels. Then as you become more adept, you can use them in more challenging situations when your thoughts and feelings are more overwhelming.