I am not good at the dentist and during the first two years of COVID I had not managed to go so it was even harder to return. It was a new dentist as well because I had moved and inevitably at the check-up, she said that I needed work done.
I talk a lot about anxiety with my clients and we look at ways to breathe. I think I have a handle on my anxiety but this trip to the dentist has reminded me how untrue this is. My thorough knowledge of polyvagal theory and flight, fright, and freeze, was not going to be any help here! By the time the dentist came to the waiting room she found me shaking and unable to stand, with all my efforts going into not hyper-ventilating. I am sure part of her thought there was no way she was going to be able to do the filling.
I had to reach far down inside to get in the chair. My strategy was to count backwards in sevens, and I decided to go from 500; in hindsight 1000 would have been better! Do you know what? It worked, much to my surprise. Concentrating on breathing is awful when your mouth is open, visualising nice places is near impossible but counting back in sevens kept my brain away from the anxiety. I do think I went wrong a few times though, but I just kept going.
What works for me might not work for you so let’s have a look at some different ways. You may want to look up grounding techniques on the internet for others. It is all about the breathing at the end of the day, although I had a client once who said, “I don’t do breathing so don’t talk about it”!! The breathing that helps calm your nervous system is sometimes called belly breathing and the important part is to breathe out first; there is no point trying to take a deep breath in if there’s no room in your lungs! There are lots of belly breathing videos on YouTube. Laughing is also good for grounding so I suggest Elmo’s belly breathing song. Belly breathing is also part of all the following ideas, consciously or unconsciously. You can find people explaining some of the one’s I have given titles on YouTube
Which of these work, or if any of them do, is dependent on who is doing them. If you have experienced trauma, I suggest going gently and listening to your body. If a way of grounding makes you sad or uncomfortable, don’t do it. Obviously, there are some that work better in certain situations than others; for example, belly breathing and counting backwards are less noticeable that dancing and singing to your favourite songs.
Please do get in touch if you have found other things work or if you find this blog helpful: I’ll be the one in her bare feet in the grass..