Close up of small white flowers with blurred green leaves in the background

Have you ever been stuck in a stressful situation that made you feel very overwhelmed very quickly? Did you yell at people, or burst into tears, or just run and hide in the bathroom? 

And afterwards, did you feel ashamed at your reaction, wonder why other people aren’t this easily triggered and wished you were ‘normal’?

Being easily overwhelmed is nothing to be ashamed about. It could be a symptom of dysregulation (an overactive nervous system) or it could be because you’re a Highly Sensitive Person.

And because Highly Sensitive People process information deeply, they are more susceptible to dysregulation and flooding or ‘HSP overwhelm’.

So if dysregulation is the foundation of overwhelm, it means that regulation is the key to wellbeing. And regulating your nervous system is all about becoming calm.

Of course, there are lots of ways to rest and restore inside the sanctuary of your own home. But what do you do when emotions are running high, you’re stuck in the moment and can’t escape? 

You need a way to ground yourself and feel calm straight away. 

Here are 5 Subtle Ways To Instantly Ground Yourself

1. Gently caress your inner wrist

Your fingertips contain a high number of skin receptors called sensory neurons, which help your brain understand tactile information.

When you slowly and lovingly caress the soft, sensitive skin on your wrist and forearm, you send calming signals to your brain and nervous system. 

And because you can keep your arm close to your body, you can do this movement subtly whenever you feel stressed. 

Whether it’s in a meeting, on public transport, or during a challenging conversation, you can gently caress your wrist and keep yourself calm without anyone even noticing.

2. Wiggle your toes

When you have a sensitively attuned nervous system, feeling safe in your body is an important skill and practice. It can be easy to get ‘all up in your head’, or detach from stressful feelings with daydreaming; emotional eating or drinking; or even disassociating

Many offers of advice for grounding involve putting your bare feet on the ground, which is beautiful, but not always possible, especially during moments of stressful interaction.

An easy and undetectable way to ground yourself is to wiggle your toes. 

Just like your hands, your feet also contain many sensory neurons. So wiggling your toes helps you to feel your feet and connect to the ground.

3. Relax your forehead

Throughout the day, your forehead reacts to internal and external stimulus by frowning. The sun in your eyes, when you’re deep in thought, during a difficult workout, or when you feel worried. 

And just like your brain thinks you’re happy when you’re smiling, it also thinks you’re upset when your brow is furrowed. Which is especially problematic for anyone who is a deep thinker or a deep feeler.

By consciously bringing relaxation to your forehead, you’re signalling a relaxation response to your brain too. You can do this by silently telling your forehead to relax. Or you can also place your hand gently across your forehead.

4. Focus on the exhale

One of the quickest ways to feel calm and grounded is with ‘2-1 breathing’. With this breath, you focus on exhaling for twice as long as you inhale. 

When you lengthen your exhale, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the calming arm of your nervous system and helps you:

  • decrease alertness
  • feel calmer
  • digest food, and
  • lower your heart rate

To begin 2-1 breathing, simply inhale for a count of 2 and exhale for a count of 4

2 circles, left circle reads inhale 2, right circle reads exhale 4

5. Hand over your heart

Stress and past trauma is stored in the body. So by touching yourself gently, you demonstrate safety and security in the present moment.

When you place your hand over your heart, you bring a warm, soothing touch to a vulnerable part of your body.  

This can stimulate the release of oxytocin (a neurotransmitter of love & bonding), plus help you to breathe deeply and calmly again.

Shaming yourself for feelings of overwhelm simply adds more stress to an already dysregulated nervous system. 

But by connecting to your heart, you open up feelings of love, acceptance and compassion for yourself. Which soothes your nervous system, leaving you feeling calm and grounded.

This article originally appeared on the Seekers’ Sanctuary