Having just come off a run of significant birthday parties and finishing with two of my own, I began to brace myself for the comedown unsure of whether I would float or crash. Catching up with so many family and friends and being the centre of attention for two consecutive weekends was lovely, but also put me a bit off balance.
I began to think of Michael Jackson, Prince, and countless other celebrities who shone so brightly yet ended up falling to drugs. I wondered if drugs had become their way of dealing with the come down that reality must have presented for them following each gig or tour.
Sadly it seems that in riding those highs they lost their connection to the physical world and their ability to ground themselves. This is not uncommon, many situations cause us to become ungrounded. Preparing for major events like weddings, work projects, moving house, performing, exams, or even Christmas can require intense mental focus. As the events draw closer they play over in our minds which can easily make us feel off balance or disconnected.
So how do we get grounded? By getting back into the physical. Exercise is a good way to pull you back into your body as your focus moves from mental to physical. Meditation can also work, by breathing in and out through your base chakra and imagining you are growing roots. Both of these techniques rely on you tuning into your physical senses, so why not tune in to as many as possible.
Watching last week’s supermoon provided a perfect opportunity. Sinking my feet into the sand, feeling the wind whipping at my skin, listening to the laughter of the kids super excited to be on the beach after dark, and gazing at that glorious moon as it lit up the clouds and sky engaged almost all my senses, levelling me and connecting me with the elements and my physical being. While this magical moment helped me to appreciate my human nature (great term - think about it), full moons and beaches aren’t always available.
Fortunately more accessible techniques are available and the next morning, savouring the smell, taste and texture of my first mango of the season, I could feel my connection with Mother Earth strengthening.
Grounding is about using your body to remember your connection to the earth. Knowing that you are part of creation, that your natural state is being and living in harmony and balance with the planet. Whatever societal commitments or experiences we undertake, we need to remember that the hairdo and heels is not us, but the ability to walk the earth and be nourished by her bounty is.
So as you head into the silly season here’s a few tips to help you stay grounded:
Grounding is a simple process of getting back to earth. I can’t think of a better place to be!
I recently spent three days working in another city. My accommodation was a neat (think tidy, not good) hotel room. You know the type, a large double bed made of two singles pushed together, a bathroom, kettle, minibar (junk food & tiny booze bottles ), and a massive TV positioned on the dresser opposite the foot of the bed.
Not being a fan of TV I was inclined to ignore it. But I was also tired, it was too early for dinner, and so I did the unthinkable and turned it on. It occurred to me that I’d just put it on “for company” but when the rubbish company I’d invited filled the room I felt compelled to sit and watch rather than asking them to leave.
I pressed the guide button to scan the programs for the evening. More junk was scheduled on every channel for as long as I could remain conscious, hold the remote, or just be bothered. What to do? Choose an old rerun and let my brain turn to jelly? Fortunately self-preservation kicked in and I turned it off.
However, the next thing I reached for was a more recent disruptive technology, my phone (having deliberately left my laptop at home). Surely one game of Sudoku wouldn’t damage my IQ. I resisted the urge to recheck email or facebook, but as I tapped the ‘Resume Game’ button the expression “killing time” crept over me. I was horrified. You should be too. Life is short. Each of us has a finite number of days left, tomorrow it will be one less. How could we ever think there’s enough time to kill?
Yet, we can’t help our devotion to these ubiquitous screens. We’re hardwired to gaze at shiny movements, like fireplaces or reflections on water. In the grand design this is probably to help us, to allow our minds to rest and induce a meditative silent state where we can tune into our inner voice, our higher self, our spirit.
But gazing at manufactured shiny movements, that’s another story. They do exactly the opposite, pumping us full of things to think about, using artificial light that disrupts sleep patterns, electromagnetic radiation that wakes the brain and increases tumour risk, and who knows what else?
Being my first night of three, I had to find a healthy option. Time to roll out the champion of mental and physical health - sleep! Sleep is essential because it’s incredibly good for us. It helps us reinforce neural pathways allowing us to consolidate what we’ve learnt during the day, it’s also when our brain cleans up toxins produced by neurons throughout the day. Skipping sleep can impair memory, attention, and our problem solving ability. It’s toxic to brain cell connections and can disrupt our insulin regulation causing weight gain.
And what is the number one disruptor of sleep these days? Screen use. Light from TV isn’t great, but it’s usually at a distance. Light from computer and mobile phone screens has photons that stop us producing melatonin, making it more difficult to get to sleep as well as reducing the quality and duration. This effect is not just while you’re using it, but up to an hour afterwards (or more depending on the study). There is also evidence that radiation from sleeping with a phone next to you can increase electrical activity in the brain during sleep,.
Knowing all of this, I opted to read a few chapters of a book, a story, then off I went (no wonder kids love them). In the morning I woke naturally (no alarm), with a clear head and enough time and energy to go for a run along the river, watch the sun coming up over the city, breathe some fresh air, explore the area I was staying in, observe the local birdlife, and gratefully acknowledge the experience.
So this year, as our unseasonably warm autumn comes to its inevitable close, and winter continues to shorten and cool our days, I’m unplugging and hitting the sack. If you need me, I’ll be up early, out in nature somewhere, living (rather than killing) time.
Sometimes, even when you know the rules, you still don’t get the message.
Today I’m sitting still. I’m in bed with my knitting, phone, a book, and my laptop, and finally it has clicked.
I’ve been going over in my head (always a bad place to analyse things), why I’ve had such a bad run of health lately. I had the flu over Easter (the every individual bone aching in hands and feet, 3 day fever, plague version), a cold only a week ago (3 days sore throat followed by 4 days runny nose), and now I have food poisoning which kicked in around 30 hours ago waking me in the middle of the night and continued to escalate into aching bones, intense stomach cramps and the usual other symptoms.
Mr Wonderful just commented that he thinks I’m doing the right thing, pulling all my activities into bed and not getting up. “Not much choice on this occasion” was my response, and there was my ‘ah ha’ moment.
For three months I’ve been getting busier and busier and not taking time out to rest. Sure, I squeeze in a lot of meditation on the bus, but work has been manic, we’ve had loads going on at home, and my release from having too much on is to exercise. I only took one day off work with the flu (as it coincided with a long weekend), I continued to train and go out in the wintry nights while I had the cold last week, while clearly my body was urging me to ease off and have a rest.
And now what do you know? Another long weekend, another chance for me to cram in a whole lot of busy-ness, and my body has decided enough is enough! Stay home, sit still, stop doing stuff, and rest. And here I am. This time with no choice in whether I soldier on or not. This time I’m too crook to go anywhere.
Interesting that four of us ate the same meal on Saturday night yet I’m the only one that got sick, so apparently everyone else is getting enough down time. But now, finally, I’ve got the lesson that’s been blatantly obvious to everyone around me for months. Stop!
So that’s it for me. I give in, I surrender. Typing this tiny article is about as active as I’m going to get for now. I understand, finally, that clearly I need to spend some time doing nothing.
The Universe is constantly giving us signs on what we need to do to stay on our path and look after ourselves. It’s up to us to be open to that information and to act on it when we get it, especially when it’s so obvious.
And what do you know? Now I’ve acquiesced I’m starting to feel a little better already. Think I’ll celebrate, not with a 4km walk or a workout, this time I think I’ll celebrate with a snooze.