Make a Grounding Box to Contain Uncertainty


As we enter 2022, uncertainty remains a central theme in lives around the world. While many anticipated that the New Year would bring respite from the capricious storms of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant casts deep shadows over these hopes[1].

Living with uncertainty is painful and exhausting. Being apart from the people and places we love makes it all the more so. As we approach the two-year anniversary of the pandemic, with no definite end in sight, we can find solace in reflecting on the hardships we’ve overcome together. We can also take comfort in the fact that, despite enduring ongoing pain, fear, and isolation, we continue to care for ourselves and for each other within our hearts and minds.

While hope can be a salve for weariness and apathy, there are many moments in which we need more than hope to sustain us, as do the young people we care about. Cultivating the resilient Heart-Mind Qualities that support us through crisis begins with grounding in care for self and others and calming our nervous systems to allow the uncertainty to settle in.

The Grounding Box exercise, adapted from the Heart-Mind in Schools Workshop, provides a tangible and practical way to relieve stress and contain worries. Turn to this activity on your own or with the young people you care about. Come back to the Grounding Box whenever you need a safe place to contain your thoughts and worries before they overwhelm you.

Making a Grounding Box to Contain Uncertainty

The Grounding Box is a helpful tool for kids and adults to safely place their thoughts and worries in a box, serving as containment. Sometimes we need more than a meditation to put our minds at rest.  The Grounding Box is a simple technique to help interrupt rumination and press pause on distressing thoughts. It is a flexible activity that can easily be implemented by educators with students or staff, or at home as a family. Doing this activity helps to cultivate Secure & Calm and Alert & Engaged.

To create a grounding box with young people at home or in school, decorate a box with a tight-fitting lid and make a slit in the top wide enough for a folded piece of paper to fit through.

Then, invite children and youth to:
• Think of what keeps drifting into your mind and distracting you today
• Write it down or draw it on one of the slips of paper on their table
• Fold it up and deposit it into the grounding box
• Let it go for a while. Leave it there. Know that it is anonymous and no one is going to read it
• Just let it go for a few hours...take a break from it

Adults can participate in a slightly modified version of the activity as follows:
• Think of what keeps drifting into your mind and distracting you today
• Write it down or draw it on a piece of paper
• Fold it up and place in a box ( same as described for students) or hide it nearby e.g. under a book on your table or under your laptop
• Let it go for a while. Leave it there.
• Just let it go for a few hours...take a break from it

Reflection prompts:
•Think about what types of distracting thoughts or worries the young people in your life might place in a grounding box if one was available to them.
• Reflect on what type of thoughts/distractions would be in this grounding box if it lived in your home, workplace, or school staffroom.

Photo credit[2]

Read this article from the Child Mind Institute for tips on how to stay positive and manage stress and uncertainty in the face of the Omicron variant. 

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.