Post Authored By: Brian M. Bentrup
Much of the stigma associated with mental health has abated in the last decade, but the journey is far from over. A lot of attention was devoted to mental health at the outset of the COVID pandemic. While COVID hospitalizations and deaths have significantly declined, the pandemic can still be a major contributor to mental health deterioration. An attorney already faces pressures from multiple directions, whether it is from senior management, never-ending deadlines, billing requirements and difficult clients. An attorney’s stress is only exacerbated by the COVID pandemic making it all the more important to perform a mental health wellness check.
First, a quick disclaimer. I am not a doctor and I do not have training. The information in this article is not intended to be scientific in nature, but is derived from common psychological and psychiatric practices for those diagnosed with, or who are suspected to have, mental health issues. Before starting any new medical program, you should consult a doctor. The techniques herein are intended to be basic, temporary treatment methods that are not designed to solve or produce a long lasting effect. Please consult a doctor for more information.
Importance of Staying Grounded
It is always important to “stay grounded”, which is a difficult word to precisely define. At its essence, staying grounded means being calm, reflective, and in touch with your thoughts and emotions in the moment. It means connecting with your inner self during a time of chaos, uncertainty, doubt, anxiety or any other time that throws you off your “mental game.”
Most people appreciate the importance of staying grounded even if they aren’t familiar with the term itself. The difficulty lies in understanding when you are reaching a mental inflection point, knowing what tools to use to stay grounded, and using them effectively.
When Is Grounding Necessary?
A new attorney might walk into court for the first time or a mid-level associate might have a meeting with a senior partner’s office. The sweat begins to drip, heart begins to palpate with greater urgency, and thoughts begin to cloudy. Grounding is most effective when the nervousness or anxiety begins; it is least effective in the throes of a panic attack.
Grounding techniques in the middle of a mental health issue is not wholly ineffective once it has reached critical mass, but it is exceptionally difficult for coherent, logic thoughts to make it to the part of the brain that can effectively recognize and interpret them. Thus, some grounding within grounding is necessary to determine the initial onset of negative thoughts and emotions. Practice is essential.
What Are Some Important Grounding Techniques?
There isn’t one or two grounding techniques that benefit everyone. Mental health is not a “one size fits all approach.” Rather, it requires practice, trial and error, and commitment to success. Some people may try a few techniques, not gain much utility, and abandon all efforts. Much like doctors prescribing medications for mental health, very rarely does the first attempt achieve the desired outcome. Here are some to try
At its core, simply slowly inhale, and then exhale. More advanced techniques call for slow, deliberate inhalation, holding for 5-10 seconds, and slowly exhaling. There are countless breathing techniques that are intended to “reset” the central nervous system. Some may advise to hold for 5 seconds, release for 3 seconds, hold for another 5 seconds, and so on. Like grounding techniques themselves, a breathing program may take some trial and error, but usually can achieve significant relief in the moment.
Here is a sample video to try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEmt1Znux58
- EFT Tapping
EFT stands for “emotional freedom technique” and brings attention to the body’s pressure points. It has a breathing element that ties in and helps focus the mind. More and more studies are showing EFT tapping to be an effective technique.
Here is a sample video to try: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02bN4JFx10Y
Exercise is a known stress-reliever and endorphin-releaser. It can be aerobic or anaerobic, and can mean anything from a full sprint to a brisk walk, strenuous weightlifting to slight weights. The main objective is to get the heart pumping, blood flowing, and the mind fixated on only those tasks necessary for the physical task at hand. If you hit the right zone, the mind can turn off altogether and you can achieve a peaceful, almost Zen-like states.
No video would be appropriate as exercise routines are as varied as the individuals employing them. The only thing needed is to get the heart pumping.
While similar to number 3 above, these low intensity alternatives focus on the mind and breathing.
Here is a sample video to try: https://www.youtube.com/user/lesleyfightmaster
- Water-Centric Techniques
Some have found success in merely submerging their fingers in hot or cold warm. The immediate physical sensation refocuses the brain and takes away from other mental processes. Some might prefer a hot or cold shower. Others still prefer an Epsom salt bath.
Try dipping your hands in cold water for 15 seconds and slowly draw them out. Experiment with hot, warm, cool, and cold water. Pay attention to the sensation in the fingertips.
Mindfulness and grounding techniques can be highly effective at reducing stress and anxiety, but do require trial and error. There is no one size fits all approach, but experimenting with various techniques can produce amazing results.
About the Author:
Brian M. Bentrup is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago where he triple-majored in Economics, Political Science, and Psychology. In 2015, he obtained his law degree from The John Marshall Law School. In law school, Brian was selected to be an extern for the Honorable Laura C. Liu in the Mortgage Foreclosure and Mechanics Lien Division as well as the Illinois Tenant Union.
Brian joined Pluymert, MacDonald, Hargrove & Lee, Ltd. in January 2018. His practice includes estate planning, probate and trust administration, and residential and commercial real estate. Brian also focuses on guardianships of minors and disabled adults and has been named to the approved Guardian ad Litem lists for Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County and Lake County. Brian dedicates time to pro bono work with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services representing or advocating on behalf of minors and disabled adults.
Brian is a member of the American Bar, Illinois State Bar, Cook County Bar, DuPage County Bar, and Chicago Bar Associations. He is also a member of the Justinian Society of Lawyers and the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity.
Brian is licensed to practice in Illinois and Missouri. When not practicing law, Brian enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and son, and exploring new and different culinary experiences.