You can always recognise a freelancer, small business owner or office worker who doesn’t have an awful lot going on outside work. They’re often too serious about the work. They also have higher levels of stress and are more difficult to work with.
Work may be too high a priority as other things fall by the wayside. Their perspective becomes skewed. Work becomes far more valuable to identity than it ought to be.
Yet you can shift focus. If you want to. And the key to that is by using grounding experiences to their best advantage. Here’s how.
What are grounding experiences and why are they necessary?
Carrying a lot of work and/or work related responsibility is a lot like an anxiety attack. When you are going through it, it feels as though the walls are closing in. That everything is running at a heart pounding, pulse racing pace. It feels like the world is a heady and heavy force that dominates your life. These sensations are inescapable, further escalating that sensation of hopelessness, over-running engine and stress.
But just like an anxiety attack, you can use grounding to reduce these situations of stress at work.
Grounding makes us focus on the present. It gives us reason to stop the whirring “what ifs” and focus on the here and now.
Grounding experiences can be preventative. When we work too hard, have too much responsibility and feel trapped by our working situation, we forget self care. We stop making time for friends, families and activities. We reduce our sleep and downtime, filling every waking moment with work or thoughts related to work. Our diet and exercise regimes may suffer as a result.
We begin to cut ourselves off from all the things that keep us grounded. That keep us focused on life as a bigger picture outside work. By recognising this fact and making changes to include these sorts of non-related work events back into our lives, we can start to feel less stressed, isolated and at sea.
When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by work, you invite anxiety. You invite your brain, which is plastic, to write new paths in your head that encourage that ‘fight or flight’ sensation. Even when it is unnecessary to feel that way.
Making time for grounding experiences helps. Consider long term strategies such as:
- Making time for the holidays, evenings, weekends, lunch times and free play moments as a regular event in your diary with no chance of crossing them off for work related activities
- Reconnecting with friends and family- especially those who are not in business or under the same pressure. If you’re friends are hyper-competitive, find ones that aren’t
- Volunteering. Not only does volunteering give you better skills, it also gives you the opportunity to experience the world through different eyes. It helps to place life firmly back in perspective
- Inventing self care rituals. The best rewards are the ones we give ourselves. So have that bath, eat that second chocolate biscuit and watch that cheesy martial arts film
- Returning to the basics. Get sleep, exercise, eat well and don’t allow work to become an all-consuming passion
- Connecting with nature. Spending time hiking, taking photographs of nature, working in your garden and going for a surf or swim can all help blow away the cobwebs. Not only through the exercise, but also because we enjoy a relationship with the natural environment that helps soothe and support us
- Think about hobbies. Sketching, knitting, sport, making music, writing and a whole host of other activities help us practise mindfulness and creative thinking. They also invite the opportunity to make new friends and to collaborate. What’s not to love?
Don’t be afraid to move away from the desk and grab some sunshine, exercise and perspective. Take time out to stop the whirring engine and give yourself a break.
Grounding experiences when you’re feeling under pressure
Grounding experiences can also be something we can apply to the moments where we feel the most stressed and anxious.
For example, if someone is having a panic attack, grounding them helps. The grounding experiences in these sorts of scenarios are focused on getting the person to move their thinking outside their moment of panic and into their surroundings.
It can be simple acts like describing the painting in the corner or talk about their surroundings and interests to bring them to the present. It pulls them out of their head long enough to calm the revving within.
The same can be applied in business.
You can ground yourself on a day to day basis by:
- Walking around the block
- Having lunch in the park instead of at your desk
- Socialising with workmates at lunch or at Friday drinks
- Trying yoga or swimming in the mornings or evenings
- Creating a cut off time for email, work related calls and work engagements – and sticking to it!
- Focusing your work related activities towards the art of making progress as opposed to the future impact
Maintain perspective and stay grounded
Work is important. But so is life.
Work may seem like an important part of our lives. We spend most of our waking hours there. It influences our finances and even gives us status within society. Not to mention self worth and identity.
But it is not the only thing that is important. Our health, mental health and interpersonal relationships have much greater impact on our ability to be happy and enjoy life. So it’s essential to ground ourselves occasionally and remind ourselves that life does not begin and end with work. To step back from the plate and see life for the whole story, not simply the work chapter.
If your work is becoming the centre of your universe, invite a shift in focus. Find your long term grounding experiences and make time for them in your life. And exercise self care and self awareness in equal measure so that when the pressure is on at work, it doesn’t over-shadow your entire existence or thought process.