Grounding Yourself When Life Is Chaotic

When life and thoughts pull us toward frantic action, we can practice grounding ourselves
By Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net
September 22, 2021 Updated: September 22, 2021

Lately my life has felt pretty chaotic: lots of projects, calls, and creative endeavors. I’ve also been helping loved ones with things and preparing to move to a new home.

Chaos can be beautiful! And I’m embracing it.

But it can be hard to embrace chaos when we’re feeling scattered, confused, or stressed. To deal with that, I practice helping myself feel grounded.

When we ground ourselves, we can feel calm and relaxed with whatever is happening. It’s a “relaxing with what is” from a place of “I’m OK, I got this.”

It takes some practice, so let’s talk about how to do that.

Recognize Feeling Ungrounded

The first thing we have to do is notice when we’re feeling chaotic, groundless, or thrown around by the stormy weather of our lives.

We don’t usually notice. Instead, we run around like a chicken. We try to do a bunch of things, jump from one thing to the next in a rushed state, or let ourselves get lost in distractions and busywork. We comfort ourselves with internet, social media, TV, food, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and so on.

So the first practice is just noticing: I’m feeling chaotic and scattered. I’m feeling groundless and unmoored.

You may not immediately notice those feelings. Instead, you may notice how frenetic your activity is. Or how distracted you are. Are you picking up your phone every 2 minutes?

You can then notice how it feels to be scattered, as sensations in the body. What sensations can you notice of groundlessness?

How I Practice Grounding Myself

Once we notice we’re unanchored, we can practice grounding ourselves. There are lots of ways to practice this, so I’ll share what I do:

Pause. Notice how I’m feeling. Not the thoughts, but the bodily sensations of groundlessness and chaos. Perhaps sensations of frustration, scatteredness, anxiety, or fear.

Breathe deeply into my belly. Deep, wide breaths that allow me to feel spaciousness.

Relax. Let my muscles relax as I breathe deeply. Let myself rest in the groundlessness.

Find some way to connect to the world around me. Try to feel gratitude for this moment, to feel appreciation for the storm, to feel my connection to other people, to feel a love for the world just as it is. In this way, I can feel less like a vessel tossed about in stormy waters and more a part of the ocean itself.

Gratitude. Feeling grateful to be alive, to be connected, to be able to behold this breathtaking world. Let myself feel wonder at reality in front of me.

Question myself. What would I serve? What do I want? What would be of benefit to others? And then choosing to take action from that.

I don’t always practice exactly like this. Simply pausing and breathing can sometimes be enough. Sometimes a little gratitude is all I need. When I practice this full sequence in roughly this order, it can be powerful.

Relaxing With Chaos

When we ground ourselves in this way, breathing and relaxing with what’s present in the moment, it makes something new possible.

We can be with chaos in a relaxed way.

Our lives are often chaotic and stormy. We can be overwhelmed, scattered, and confronted by unexpected events. And this can shut us down or have us go into anxious overdrive. Or we can simply be with the chaos in a relaxed way.

We start by recognizing that we’re feeling chaotic, and then practicing grounding ourselves.

From this grounded place, we can open to the chaos of our lives. We might feel fear or frustration, but we’re able to be with all of that with openness.

We practice opening, relaxing, being with the storm, over and over. The storm doesn’t have to be the end of the world, just a manifestation of the beauty that resides here.

Leo Babauta
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net