Grounding - Getting closer to the Earth
As I write this, I sip tea from one of my favorite mugs and listen to some of my favorite music. How fortunate am I that I can enjoy a moment of solitude and silence. What a privilege it is to have space to yourself. There are moments like this that make you utterly aware of gifts found in stillness and inner peace. Especially, when you face disappointment after disappointment, when every shot you take feels like another blow, when old ones come right back at you, when work is too much, when relationships are too much, when you struggle to stay above water and keep your feet on the ground.
When I worked in one of the refugee camps in Athens, Greece, I was trained in trauma-informed care. I worked with an organization that provides trauma-informed care to children like the many refugee children that are displaced, some of them deeply traumatized by what they went through on their journey.
One of the first questions that came up when I spoke about our work was, if we provided education to them and, if these kids are back in school. Due to their journey, they missed out on what their clever minds deserve. For most people, the main concern seemed to be how you can integrate them without them being part of the educational system. At that time, unfortunately, the Greek government had not managed to provide school education for them. It is non-negotiable that access to education and institutions like public schools is essential. In the face of traumatic and chronic stress, routine and safety are so helpful for calming the nervous system down. But what we aimed at was not keeping the children busy, we aimed at grounding them and providing them with a calm space. A soothing space where they could be themselves and safe. Safety is more than the stability of routine of course. A safe space also means room for emotions, for retreating from the world, for being with ones pain, ones broken heart, ones Self - room to heal.
This was the first time I realized that society does neither understand nor prioritize healing from traumatic and chronic stress. I am not only referring to the overwhelming mental health crisis among the forcefully displaced people of our world. It is bigger than that. Most societies prioritize keeping us occupied, keeping the wheel spinning. In the adult world, we often dive into more work, more hobbies and activities that stimulate our system and indulge in foods and drinks that stimulate the human body. What our bodies and souls need when being wounded and stressed is the opposite - space and time for grounding. Getting closer to the Earth, closer to God (whatever you consider God to be), closer to ourselves again. And being okay with whatever you find. Having someone by your side who holds space for whatever you find.
The experiences of trauma and chronic stress can lead to a constantly overstimulated nervous system, always on guard, always ready to fight, freeze, or run. Regaining strength and balance seems out of sight and even an incident as small as spilling some tea can be the thing that is just too much to handle.
One of the most effective psychotherapy approaches, EMDR, developed by Francine Shapiro, uses the four elements to reduce stress. By no means a coincidence, it begins with ‘Earth’. Earth in this context translates to grounding and finding safety in the present reality. We find our inner peace and come back to ourselves, when we are present. In order for healing to occur, we need to be present.
Consequently, holistic healing from trauma and chronic stress means to take care of oneself with the help of lifestyle changes, too. Integrating grounding hobbies and activities in your life is so important to support yourself on this journey.
What can you do to create that space for yourself? Many grounding activities are absolutely free or relatively cheap. My favorite grounding activities include pottery, writing poems and journaling, going for walks in nature, cooking and baking, doing yoga and meditating, listening to music and cuddling with (my) dog(s). You can also start gardening, coloring, painting, sketching, knitting, playing an instrument,… there are so many beautiful ways of finding that stillness. It may seem insignificant today, but it has the power to make a difference the moment you let yourself have this space. And every day that follows.