How To Ground Yourself When You’re Feeling Disconnected

feeling disconnected

It was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundation of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.

– Rupi Kaur

Whenever life would get overwhelming growing up, I would retreat from my problems by pretending they weren’t happening. Instead of facing the problem head-on, I would distract myself with too much TV, too much busywork, too much of everything. I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings, so it felt much easier to disconnect from them.

Later, when I developed panic disorder in my early twenties, this disconnection turned into dissociation. I struggled through several panic attacks a day and quickly became nonfunctional. As a result, I started experiencing depersonalization and derealization, which are states of dissociation that cause you to feel severely disconnected from yourself or your surroundings.

I was so detached from the world that nothing around me seemed real or familiar. And I was so detached from my sense of self that even having a body felt strange to me. Often, I did not even recognize myself when I looked in the mirror, a terrifying and disorienting experience.

All-day and all night I felt “up in my head” and “floaty.” I had a very difficult time connecting back to the world right in front of me.

Though we may not hear about it often, depersonalization is estimated to be the third most common mental health symptom behind anxiety and depression. It often occurs in response to trauma, anxiety, or depression. But it doesn’t have to be such an intense form of dissociation. We can feel disconnected on smaller levels throughout the day.

Have you ever been in the shower and questioned whether you had already washed your hair or not? Have you ever spent the day so wrapped up in work that you forgot to eat? These are examples of when we get disconnected from the present moment by becoming too “up in our heads.”

I spent about a year dealing with debilitating depersonalization. Along the way, I learned wonderful strategies to help ground myself back into the present moment. Here are a few ways to reconnect when you’re feeling disconnected.

1. Connect back to your body with physical activity.

Physical activity is an amazing way to bring your attention back to your body. When I would feel dissociated, I would hop into my yoga practice, holding poses like Warrior II or Chair for as long as I needed in order to feel my legs burn. It’s quite difficult to feel disconnected from your body when your legs are screaming at you.

Running, dancing, lifting weights, playing a sport, painting, singing. All of these are present moment activities that can remind us that we’re in our bodies. Find a physical activity that you enjoy and then get lost in it.

2. Spend time in nature.

Being in nature is a very grounding experience. One technique, called earthing, involves making direct contact with your body to the Earth. This can be done by simply walking or standing barefoot on the ground, as well as sitting or lying directly on the earth’s surface.

During the worst days of my dissociation, I would take off my shoes and stand barefoot in the grass. I would wiggle my toes and feel the earth beneath me. I concentrated on my connection to it, feeling the energy flow through me from my head down to my feet and into the ground. I would feel the breeze touch my skin, bask in the warmth of the sun, and listen to the birds chirping.

Everything in nature is always occurring right here, right now, so if we can focus our attention on this beautiful flow of life, we will jump right into the present moment.

3. Adopt a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness, which involves becoming aware of moment-to-moment sensations, is a beautiful tool to anchor us in the here and now. It is so easy to become so consumed with thoughts of the past and worries about the future that we miss out on all that’s happening around us and within us at any given time.

While in the shower, for example, I’m often guilty of mentally rehearsing things I said that day or planning my grocery list, causing me to completely disconnect from the experience of bathing.

With mindfulness, I would focus on the sensation of water running down my body. What temperature is it? What pressure? I would focus on the smell of soap, the movement of my hands, and the sound of water rushing down the drain.

Mindfulness is our anchor to the present, and this awareness can be applied to every moment of our day.

4. Allow yourself to feel what needs to be felt.

Disconnecting from ourselves and our surroundings is often a way to avoid feeling uncomfortable or painful sensations. When my panic attacks were unrelenting, dissociation was a way for me to distance myself from the intensity of my fear. While this can be our mind’s compassionate way of dealing with stress, especially during or after a trauma, at some point it becomes necessary for us to process the underlying feelings.

When you feel disconnected, ask yourself: what am I avoiding? What am I distracting myself from? Then, allow the emotion to be in your body.

This can be extremely hard, I know, so try to find as much compassion for yourself as you can. I would imagine that the overwhelming tightness in my chest was being held by kind, loving hands. I would sit there with the tightness, naming it as it changed from heat to prickly to gripping.

If you’ve experienced trauma, I recommend seeking out the help of a counselor or mental health professional to assist you in processing the emotions.

Giving emotions space to live in our body can help us reconnect to what’s here, without needing to cover over it with distraction.

Though sometimes life feels overwhelming, and it may seem easier to disconnect, there are gentle and loving ways to ground back into the ever-changing present moment. Take it slow, be kind to yourself, and allow your connection to this earth, this body, and this life to transform you.

feeling disconnected

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20 thoughts on “How To Ground Yourself When You’re Feeling Disconnected”

  1. Great article.

    I couldn’t agree more with the 4 tips you laid out.

    Getting in nature and getting physical has been huge for me.

    Through doing this, I’ve been able to develop much more body awareness that’s led to really feeling emotions instead of avoiding them.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. These are good tips. We often lose ourselves in our fast world. During a difficult time, I was very much helped by yoga. This allows you to concentrate on yourself.

  3. Great post with some great tips. I will definitely be trying these tips when I am feeling disconnected.
    thank you!

  4. Every time I read this article I gain new knowledge that I desperately need. You’re so wise and I’m so thankful to have found you.

    Thank you

  5. Hey Malia,

    First and foremost what a deep and connecting article! I fully get it although there are some differences, I myself have suffered from mental illness for around 14 years so I understand the matter in its entirety.

    I started on my own mission in life to find out as many hacks so to speak that I could to take control of anxiety and panic. In my case very real phobias took hold in your case is was dissociation. Allowing yourself to feel what needs to be felt is the most important thing you can do.

    It is without doubt that the suppressing which we do to ourselves creates these mental states in the first place. I learnt much of what you’ve suggested. I also came across colouring but not any colouring. Colouring of geometric patterns this creates something called whole brain synchronisation. This state is likened to being in deep meditation our brainwaves drop into an alpha state which is the optimum state of flow.

    Thank you for sharing such a deep experience with us all. God bless

    Love Zaira

    http://www.mindspirithack.com

    1. marcie Diane stillman

      It is so good to read your words and get validation for what I have been going through. Yes, nature, exercise and mindfulness/meditation do help. I also find that spending time with my dog helps. For me the biggest challenge is allowing myself to feel things. This is something that goes back to my childhood, growing up with an alcoholic parent. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this wonderful article.💜

  6. I am so moved, I finally feel like I’m with people that are like me, that understand me. This really feels good. Zaria, your words, something about them is so gentle, than you. Thank you everyone here.

    Love,
    Rux

  7. Thank you for sharing this. It is is nice to have people to relate to your experience when you feel like the only one. I am so disconnected. My body hurts and feels so scared 24/7. I am alone and not sure how to battle this. But I’m learning. And trying.

  8. Reading and learning from this article was a grateful experience. I lost my job in lockdown…and I am little bit feeling disconnected with everything. I am spending too much time on social media and TV.
    Thank you for sharing this. I’ll follow things mentioned here.

  9. Imane El Qochairi

    Finally someone is articulating the thoughts in my head, i really thought i was the only one or that i was just probably going mad…thank you very much for sharing your insights, will defenitly try this to help myself!

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