As highly sensitive people who have railed against being called “too sensitive,” many of us grow up to be overthinkers. We try to control what the future might bring. We try to please others and control other people’s reactions to us, so our own sensitive feelings don’t come peeking out.
And because our sensitive nervous systems can get frazzled when there’s too much stress, we often have a complicated relationship with our body.
We really wish we didn’t get so overwhelmed, that our hearts didn’t race as fear and anxiety builds up, that we could just be more “normal” and feel less.
After all, what are we supposed to do with all this excess energy that’s rising inside us like a tidal wave? Wouldn’t it just be better to retreat into our heads, where we can imagine something better or disassociate from what’s happening inside us?
But when things change in our lives, and especially today, when we are all caught up in the storm of a global pandemic in different ways, in our different sized boats — some secure, some small and leaky — it is very hard to deny that we will feel things.
We will feel shakiness, fear, panic, anger, nervousness, grief or sadness.
We will have moments or days or weeks when it all feels too much.
So, what do we do when we are overstimulated and want to just go and hide under a blanket?
In these times, we need a way to connect to a source of energy that will both stabilize us and help us release all the excess emotional charge in our bodies.
And grounding is a way to do this.
How Grounding Helps Sensitive People
Grounding is an energetic skill. It is your energetic connection to the earth.
When we are ungrounded, we tend to live from up in our heads. When we are grounded, we have a felt sense of connection to the ground below our feet.
This might sound foreign or esoteric, but just think of other embodied skills you have and how you developed them. As children, we all learned to balance ourselves. We fell and got up and got up and fell until a part of us learned the skill of balance. I am pretty sure you are sitting in a chair reading this and you haven’t fallen over even once.
In a similar way, grounding is a skill we can practice and get better at.
The more we do it, the more we have an embodied way of being in the world where we are grounded most of the time, instead of floating up in the air.
If you are a highly sensitive person and have been in an online community of other highly sensitive people and empaths, you might have heard people say things like “I feel like I don’t belong on this earth” or “I feel like I am an alien.”
And while that might be true as an emotional experience, the thing is that sensitive people also experience this on a physical level.
We feel disembodied, tired, and drained and as if we don’t have a felt sense of connection to our physical environment.
So, practicing grounding, first of all, builds that felt sense of connection.
Second, once we have this feeling of connection to the earth, we have a way to release excess energy, including emotional energy, from our bodies.
Grounding As A Practice
Since grounding is our energetic connection to the earth and the entire physical plane, we practice grounding by holding our attention on this connection.
So, grounding is an attentional practice.
The most common grounding exercise is to visualize the roots of a tree going down from the base of our spine into the earth. Maybe, you might think of yourself as a huge redwood tree.Or a smaller, but still sturdy and cooling mango tree. If that feels too much, you could also think of yourself as a small little plant sending its tentative roots down to explore the ground.
You can choose the image that feels good to you.
If you live in an apartment building, now, imagine these roots going down the different floors until they come to the foundation and penetrate the earth.
Once you have spread your imaginal roots down into the earth, let yourself sense or feel or imagine the earth. How does it feel?
You will sense a solidity or imagine what the earth feels like.
If you are a kinesthetic person who feels their way through the world, you will have a felt sense of the earth. You might feel the earth as moist or peaceful or strong.
If you are a visual person, some image might pop up in your head as you do this. You might see what the earth looks like and how it’s teeming with life. Or a completely unrelated image might pop up when you make that energetic connection.
An image of the filament in a bulb lighting up is one of the images that has popped up for me sometimes when I do this practice.
And if you are an auditory person, you might even hear a sound as your roots bury into the earth, as they nuzzle into it.
With this connection established, we now have a way to either feel or sense or visualize the stability that the earth has. And also with this energetic connection, we have a way to release the overwhelming charge of feelings and emotions that are overstimulating us.
We can simply visualize or sense sending our excess energy into the ground.
Just like plants give us oxygen and thrive on carbon dioxide, the earth doesn’t get hurt by our gnarly, thorny feelings. It only knows the language of energy. And even fear and sadness and grief are only energy for the earth.
After we release this energy, we can then ask the earth to send us anything we want so we can fill the empty space inside us. We can ask it for peace or courage or stability.
We can pull this energy up just as we released the energy we didn’t want.
Now, we have a way to nourish and stabilize ourselves in an independent way. We can connect to our environment and let that connection nourish us.
Again, I want to emphasize that this is a subtle, attentional practice. If we are ungrounded, grounding is not something we learn to do all the time at the flick of a button.
It really is like learning to balance ourselves.
But if you do this practice for even 5 or 10 minutes a day, you will be surprised by how much more stable you feel throughout the next few hours or even that whole day. So, grounding often has some immediate effects even though we need to practice it consistently to really embody it as a way of being.
As a highly sensitive person who is attuned to subtleties, you have a way of being that lets things in. We often think and talk of only the negative things we let in.
Claiming The Good
But this sensitivity is also sensitivity to the good.
It’s also sensitivity to energy.
And we can channel this sensitivity to nourish us, to stabilize us, to connect to our environment and tune in to the greater body of the earth, which can help us ground excessive energy just as leaning into a mother’s body grounds the feelings of a child.
If you are feeling shaky and unstable or tired and depressed nowadays, I would really urge you to try this and experiment for yourself. This is an experiential practice, so the fruits are in the doing. You can also test this out for yourself if you are sceptical.
Give yourself a bit of time. If you are not used to sensing subtle feelings and sensations, it can feel like nothing is happening. But if you keep doing it a little bit, even for 5-10 minutes for a week, you’ll start sensing and feeling energy.
Grounding has really helped me in the past few months. It has helped nourish and stabilize me and I hope that you will give it a try!