So I’m standing over the tee, looking down the fairway, and feeling really good about what I’m about to do. The sun is shining, the wind is gently blowing. I start to pull my club back when all of a sudden I remember that work email I forgot to respond to a couple of days ago. Or did I? Wait. Maybe I did. 

How did the ball get airborne? And oh my gosh, where is it headed? “Left, left, left,”  mutter under my breath, as if speaking the words into the breeze will correct the course of my ball. 

Ever experienced that? Or am I just nuts?

Turns out, even during fun and relaxing activities we can get distracted with all of the other demands of life. Spoiler alert: We’re STILL in the middle of an international pandemic, civil unrest, homeschooling kids, working from home, and more. 

It’s bad enough to feel stressed or overwhelmed when faced with daily tasks. It’s even worse when it interrupts your leisure activities! You can try yelling “Get out of my head!” but my experience tells me that it’s not a super-effective strategy and will alarm those around you. 

A better technique to try is called “grounding.” 

Your 2-Part Grounding Strategy

In this strategy, the first task is to notice that your thoughts are running amok. Recognize what it is you’re trying to do and what thoughts are interfering with. And accept that there’s nothing you can do to solve all of the world’s problems at that moment. 

For the second task, look around at 5 things you can see (you can choose different colors, different textures, different nature items. What you choose isn’t what’s important). And now close your eyes and focus on 4 things you can hear. With your eyes closed, find 3 things you can feel (maybe your shirt on your skin, your club in your hand, etc). Now try to find 2 things you can smell (hopefully pleasant smells … but sorry if you forgot to put on deodorant this morning). And, as odd as it sounds, notices the taste in your mouth (beer? Gatorade? stogie?).

The idea behind grounding is that you are pulling yourself out of your head — a space that can be scary on the best of days — and grounding yourself back into the present moment. 

Being able to focus on the activity in front of you can go a long way to relieve stress, improve your game, and make you an overall better-functioning human. 

Dr. Chelsi Day

Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.