Shien Victoria

How to Disconnect to Reconnect

GUEST WRITER: In this article, IB MYP/DP teacher and Wellbeing/Finance EducatorShien Victoria Zutshi, talks about:

  • how disconnecting from your daily routine helps you reconnect to yourself and others
  • a grounding  exercise that helps you reconnect with your senses
  • the psychological benefits of practicing  grounding sensory experience exercises

Shien has worked in IB International schools, British schools and Canadian schools to implement effective value-based, technological, cross-curricular, STEAM and Erasmus projects. She is passionate about the journey and accessibility of education for all. 

LEARNING TO DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT

Here I was moving again for the 8th time and this time it was Stockholm, Sweden. Before that, I had been in different parts of Europe as well as all over Canada. But this time, I was moving to Sweden. I didn’t know anything about Swedish language, people or culture! I didn’t even know if it interested me but I was going to take a chance on a new place. A leap of faith!

When I first moved there, what I noticed was an almost deafening silence. This was NOT the busy city of London with bustling markets and noise or the joie de vivre of Paris with views of the sparkling Eiffel Tower every night, places I had lived before.

I entered into a beautiful, historically preserved city filled with reserved (very tall) people milling about their day and I, someone who loves energy, connection and discovering a city’s beating heart was alone, watching them: I didn’t know where to start meeting people nor learn about the city because nothing was glaringly obvious or indicated and no one really engaged in small talk like they did in other cities with me. The heart of the city did not seem to be beating or if it was, it was very quiet.

How do you connect when no one is talking to you? I knew I had things of great import to give and I had the potential to create impact but my mind wasn’t thinking about those things. I felt very much like I was sinking because I didn’t know where to start! 

Let me pause the story and ask you, the reader, if you have felt this way. 

Overwhelmed, alone, stuck, pressured and needing to escape to a safe space. 

You don’t have to be moving to Stockholm in order for you to feel these kinds of emotions are valid. 

Perhaps in your situations you have what seems like hundreds of papers to write or you are learning to make new friends or you have to present a speech for the first time in front of others. Whatever it might be, it is about your current problem/situation and how YOU feel you are handling it.

For me, Stockholm was like learning how to breathe in an entirely different way but no one was there to tell me how to take the first breath or how to pause and reflect while whispering “You can do this” in my ear.

So I had to find a way to mindfully disconnect so I could reconnect to my purpose and passion which was connection and people. And I did! But before I tell you, I would like to ask if you’ve ever felt this way.

  • Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that your thoughts cascade, one into the other?
  • Have you ever felt so much pressure that it feels like your walls are closing in?
  • Have you ever felt the need to escape because you know there are so many people, obligations and feelings that are pulling you in every direction?

If you are experiencing this, you too might be feeling like you are becoming numb to the experience of life.

RECONNECTING TO OUR SENSES

Life is not just about your academics or work, it is about learning to “become”, taking time out for you, feeling good about yourself and your path. It is about centering your mind, body and spirit so you can have better relationships to yourself and others around you. It is about managing your time and investing in a restorative, resilient self. It is about finding your way back to yourself. 

But how do you disconnect in order to reconnect so that your swirling, cloudy thoughts, words and actions align with a beautiful renewed sense of meaning and purpose?  

Here is one way that helped me: Sensory experiences through 5-4-3-2-1! After I started doing this as well as a few other self-care techniques, I started reconnecting to myself! Feeling better and more confident about my path and purpose.

Now, this is not about counting backwards! It is about carving time out of your busy schedule to engage all five of your senses 🙂 If you do this at least twice a week and document the experience either through writing or photographing it, research purports that not only will the experience stay with you longer but you will have higher levels of well-being and happiness.

MINDFULNESS EXERCISE TO RECONNECT TO YOUR SENSES: HOW DO YOU DO IT? 

For starters:

  • Find a calming spot. The best place is actually in nature near water and/or forest because of its calming effects on your psychology according to neuroscience. (Look up the Japanese theory of Shinrinyoku also known as Forest Bathing if you would like to learn more). If you can’t go anywhere, use your current space
  • Now, stand or sit and pause. 

Next, start paying attention to your breathing and engaging your 5 senses in this order:

5: Notice FIVE things you see around you. It could be colours of the changing leaves, a pen, the trees, anything in your surroundings.

4: Notice FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be the touch of your fingertips, your coat, the ground under your feet. 

3: Notice THREE things you hear. Focus on anything you can hear outside of your body. This could be any sound you hear. It can be your breath, cars passing by, the wind rustling the leaves. 

2: Notice TWO things you can smell. Perhaps the crispness of the air, freshly cooked food, or even pencil shavings.

1: Notice ONE thing you can taste. It can be the taste of juice or tea, the roof of your mouth or inhaling and tasting the air. 

How do you feel?

WHY PRACTICE SENSORY GROUNDING

It is through disconnecting from our daily routine where we actively create and mindfully sit with experiential rituals that allow us to reconnect to ourselves. By savouring a sensory experience like this it creates a personal experience, unique to you where you should feel calmer and more grounded. 

So allow yourself to have moments to disconnect to reconnect. Understand that every day is a day to breathe, live and love your life. Never forget that you are always on your path.

Research states that when we focus on positive experiences in our lives or help create and recognize them as positive, it helps rewire our neural pathways. It’s about what we learn to notice and be grateful for that enables us to live better, more connected lives in the long term. This psychological sensory grounding exercise helps ground us and regain our mental control when we feel anxious, overwhelmed or caught in a “fight, flight or freeze”.

REFERENCES

About the author

Shien Victoria Zutshi

Shien Victoria Zutshi is a Global Education Strategist, writer and speaker specialising in Language and Literacy, Mindfulness, Well-Being and Financial Literacy. She has 15 years of experience within education researching, teaching and consulting in Canada (Trois Rivieres, Ottawa, Montreal) and abroad (France, England, Sweden, and India). She is the co-founder of NGO Domino Swedish in Stockholm (online language learning programmes for refugees) and later, RHA Canada Academic Lead in Toronto (targeting at-risk youth and homeless), teaching others how to learn more effectively, mindfully and collaboratively outside of traditional school models helps our world.