Having a Big Heart Can Also Mean Big Exhaustion. Start with Grounding.

Having a Big Heart Can Also Mean Big Exhaustion. Start with Grounding.

My clients and I have big hearts (naturally empathetic and often are highly sensitive/HSP), which means we automatically care about people and how it’s going in the world all around us.  It’s a gift, and… sometimes it can lead to taking on more stress or responsibility than one body can handle.

We can be at risk for overwhelm from others’ energy or the ever maddening news. Well, let’s be honest, overwhelm can come just as easily from the inner critic (which says things like “You’re not good enough”). This week it was the national news that got to me.

But we have things to do here on earth. Ya know? People with big hearts are needed!

So, I’m thinkin’ we have to find a way that works for us. We need to manage our outer and inner roadblocks as job #1. We won’t be able to live our purpose if we don’t. The solution is not to shut our hearts down. It’s to stay open but add in effective grounding.

We need a giant Pause button so we can find solid ground and start from there.

Persephone, sculpture by Valerie Gilman
She’s saying to me: “Stop, let me take a pause!” Sculpture artist: www.valeriegilman.com

As a highly sensitive introvert, I’ve had to find good grounding methods so I can keep living my purpose without exhaustion. I know we can do this.

In this post, I’m including:

  • what I mean by grounding and why it matters so much,
  • what works for me (methods, how I fit it in, and challenges),
  • a self-assessment to help you choose your best grounding methods.
  • a way to learn a simple method that’s especially good for calming during tough moments.

What Is Grounding?

grounding in nature
Trees can be the best teachers.

By grounding, I mean whatever it takes to calm our nervous systems so we don’t get stuck in worry, overthinking, and stress consequences. I’m not just relaxing, it’s more like calm focus.

Groundedness is the feeling of being on solid ground, rooted, calm, present, whole, balanced, embodied, and able to think clearly.

It makes me think of trees, their calm rooted presence, that can last through centuries of storms.

From a grounded place, we can do our best work, and be more present for all the things we care about, without overwhelm.

We crave calm, but unconsciously turn to “numbing” which doesn’t actually ground us — like sugar, alcohol, TV, smart phone screens. Ah, so familiar. A well worn path.

We Can Do This. Why It Matters.

I know we can get to that grounding place more than we typically do. Reminding myself too.

When I do so, I notice I can handle much more than I think. Even us highly sensitive people. I’m claiming we can do this. I hope you’ll join me in believing.

I regularly have to slow down and turn to the grounding tools I have. Which often has to start with feeling my feelings, not ignoring them.

Still, I know I need to up my game on it, as the stressful world continues to up the game too. (I wrote about that here: The World Is Changing Fast and Sensitive People Can Play an Important Role.)

So I’m taking stock today, about how I’m doing with grounding and what more could I do. If you want to join me in taking stock, I’m providing a quick assessment for you below.

My 10 Favorite Grounding Methods

  1. Nature! 
    Even looking at a tree outside the window can help me. Even better, walking on the earth and feeling each step can refresh my whole outlook.
  2. Affirmations and mantras.
    Simple, surprisingly effective, available anytime. I like self-compassion phrases like “May I be kind to myself.” Or really basic reminders like, “I am safe.”
  3. Breath prayer.
    I like to say a few phrases to call in higher love and guidance, as I breathe slowly in and out. Something like this: “Power of Love, let your love flow through me.” Simple, always available, easy to remember, uplifting, and attunes me to my true path.
  4. Physical activity that gets my heart pumping.
    Even 10 minutes helps me. More is better, but it’s nice to know a little still matters.
  5. Mindfulness.
    Mindfulness, which is consciously tuning in to the present moment, is sometimes just the thing for me. I’ve also experienced meaningful benefits from meditation that build up over time, although meditating doesn’t reliably help me in a stressful moment. For some people, anxiety can worsen at first with meditation. Good instruction helped me get more benefits from it.
  6. Yoga.
    I love the blend of mind and body workout, which is possible with a mindful style of yoga. Not always easy to build in enough time for full benefits, but when I do, I’m glad.
  7. Writing and drawing.
    Sometimes I just need to write it out or doodle in a sketchpad to find my solid ground. I don’t do it as often as I’d like.
  8. Being at home.
    Being at home is so grounding for me that I mostly work from home. Love it.
  9. Deep connection with a kindred spirit.
    That’s huge. Not always available, but so helpful when someone is. (Pets are great for this.)
  10. EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques, or “Tapping”)
    A top go-to for me, because it’s: easy, effective, available anytime, fast, and even available in a hidden way like during a meeting. I also find it can be easier to turn to and get benefits even when I’m resisting self-care. Benefits also build over time. Easy to learn. It’s a body-mind, East-meets-West method that incorporates self-compassion too. It’s a good all-in-one method.

Are any favorite grounding methods coming to mind for you? Gardening? Spiritual community? Knitting? Puttering at home? Hot cup o’ tea? Pets?

How I Incorporate Grounding Daily

While I use all the methods I listed above, it can depend on what’s available in the moment. They each have their place. Everyone is different. This is what works for me right now.

In my ideal day, and more often than not lately (which is nice to notice), I’m doing something like this:

  1. Morning routine: breath prayer, short meditation, brief cardio workout ending with a few yoga poses, good breakfast.
  2. During the day: I mindfully appreciate the trees around me, and sometimes take a walk in the woods. I also connect with kindred spirits every day.
  3. Stress moments: I do an easy version of EFT with self-compassion affirmations. (Sometimes it’s more a matter of allowing tears to flow.)
  4. Falling asleep: EFT (when I can overcome the resistance to doing so in my sleepy state)

My Challenge Areas

As I’m writing this today, I am finding some appreciation for what I have been doing, and I’m seeing where some gaps are.

The main glitch lately is that I’ve been having trouble falling asleep, a sporadic thing for many of us middle age women. That has a snowball effect on making the morning routine harder to stick with. So the next area of focus for me will be the bedtime routines.

I’m Especially Enamored of EFT Lately.

EFT is rising to the top of my grounding priorities lately. Something interesting is happening as I use it more.

More and more, I remember to use EFT for stress moments, inner critic moments, getting back to focus, and sometimes for getting to sleep. I get back to calm or focus more easily when I do.

Also, the more I practice EFT on specific stress triggers, I notice my body is desensitizing to things that used to be stressful, in a lasting way. How cool. I think it’s a great tool for sensitive souls especially, because we can get overstimulated easily. I’m feeling more inspired just writing this out.

Recently, a highly sensitive woman said this after she learned EFT, “This should be part of the essential everyday-life tool-kit of empaths, introverts and sensitive souls! Easy, quick, effective and transformative!” That inspired me once again.

Last week I was speaking with my colleague Liesel Teversham, who taught me EFT, and my enthusiasm led me to invite her to teach an EFT class for my sensitive soul audience, so we could help others with grounding in the moment this easily. So we just set it up! You can join in here:
Grounding with EFT – online workshop.

Self-assessment: What Works for You?

Here’s a little assessment you might like:

  1. Do you have any practices that calm your nervous system?
  2. Do you prioritize grounding? How is that going?
  3. Do you have a grounding method that works for you in stress moments?
  4. Do you turn to your grounding methods for moments when the inner critic or fear is kicked up? How is that going?
  5. What helps you build effective grounding methods into your life? Such as a morning routine.
  6. What gets in your way of doing grounding practices? Do you sometimes try a method but not really stick with it long enough?
  7. Is there any intention you want to set for trying something over the next week?

I welcome hearing from you in the comments below. I love hearing what’s happening.

Picture of Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
Val Nelson | Coaching | Groups | Courses | Newsletter | LinkedIn

I appreciate feedback, good and bad. You can comment below or email.

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4 thoughts on “Having a Big Heart Can Also Mean Big Exhaustion. Start with Grounding.”

  1. What a great article, Val – such great tips for grounding. As an HSP/Empath I have learned over the years how important it is for me to pause and check whose energy or emotions I’m busy carrying. I’m delighted for this opportunity to share something that has really changed my life in terms of overwhelm!

    1. Hi Julia. Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes it is sad about self-compassion being hard for some people but it sure is. I continue to nudge people to try it anyway because once over the initial hump, it’s a god-send.
      It sounds like grounding is integrated into your life well – by being present in the moment especially. Wonderful that it works so well for you. Big hug, Val

  2. You share some good grounding tips here, Val. I’m mostly a chilled person who naturally lives very much in the present moment, so I don’t have any specific grounding practices – although I find it calming to walk by water, stopping to take a photograph of something that catches my eye.

    It saddens me that saying “May I be kind to myself” is difficult for many people. We seem to have forgotten how wonderful we are, and that we deserve to be treated with kindness – especially by ourselves.

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