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5 Simple & Neat Grounding Techniques!

For many of us, there have been times in our lives where we feel anxious, stressed or unfortunately are faced with a distressing situation. Listed below are five techniques that can be very helpful during these periods or anxiety, stress or panic by helping to ground you when your mind is whisked away by anxious or distressing thoughts, feelings or situations.


These techniques are meant to help distract from what might have triggered you, and refocus on the present feeling calmer and safe. Before we begin it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes-regaining control of yourself is not always easy, and could take a few tries or a combination of techniques to get to a good head space again. Don’t give up, and start with the basics:

1. Deep Breathingpexels kelvin valerio 810775

As anxious or distressing thoughts begin to race, it can take a persons’ breath along with it. To regain control of your breathing take slow, deep and purposeful breathes while focusing on the air filling the lungs before pushing back out, growing calmer and in more control with each breath. Here’s how:

  • Focus on breathing in slowly through the nose for a count of 5…4…3…2…1
  • Hold that breath for a shorter count of 3…2…1
  • Exhale as slow as possible out the mouth for a count of 5...4…3…2…1
  • Repeat these slow, deep breaths as many times as needed


2. Walk or Exercise

Anxiety or stress can sometimes feel like a lot of physical energy built up in the body looking for a way out; a good way to expel that energy and regain control is doing some quick exercises, such as:

  • Walking at a good pace, focusing on the feeling of your feet hitting the ground and moving your arms back and forth to match the rhythm of your legs, for about 5 -10 minutes.
  • Doing 5 – 10 jumping jacks, squats, lunges or jumping up and down, once again focusing on what your arms, legs, feet or hands have to do to successfully complete the exercise.
  • Doing 5 – 10 stretches like toe touches, arm raises, side bends or windmills, and be sure to focus on the muscles that you feel pull and relax as you stretch. Keeping in mind to not stretch to a point of pain.


3. Memory Games

Anxiety can make your brain feel like a mess, which can be overwhelming and make matters worse. Redirecting focus to a list can help jump start a sense of organization and help you think more clearly. Start by trying to:

  • List animals, sports teams or ice cream flavors, taking a minute or two to think of several for each category
  • Reciting the letters of the alphabet in reverse, slowly
  • Counting to 100 by 5's slowly, then by 2's or 1's or even in reverse
  • Recalling the last thing you ate or read or watched, trying to remember as many details as possible


4. Focus Object

A focus object can be anything that is easily held in one or both hands and has some different colors, textures or factors to it however, a simple pen can also do the trick. If this exercise works for you be sure to carry or have a focus object around so it’s available whenever you should need it. To use a focus object:

  • Hold the chosen object in your hand(s)
  • Either out-loud or in-your-head, describe this object by asking yourself different questions; Is the object heavy or light? Hard or soft? Shiny or matte? Does it have moving parts? Colors? Materials? Etc.
  • Repeat the answers to these questions that describe your chosen object over and over in your head until all you can see or think about is the focus object.
  • Keep focusing on the object for as long as needed until you feel calm enough to stop.


5. “5-4-3-2-1”

This last technique is similar to the focus object, as it requires you to focus on different parts of the space you are in using your 5 senses to act as an anchor, bringing you back to feeling in control and calm. This technique can be done out-loud or in-your-head, start by:

  • Listing FIVE things you SEE around you: the walls, ground, objects, people, colors or anything else around you.
  • Next, list FOUR things you can TOUCH around you: your hair, clothes, furniture, plants, animals, the ground or anything you can reach safely in your surroundings.
  • Then, list THREE things you HEAR externally around you: birds, cars, people, music, the wind or your own deep, slow breaths.
  • Then, list TWO things you can SMELL: good or bad, strong or mild and take your time finding a smell or the absence of a smell in the space around you.
  • Finally, list ONE thing you can TASTE: do you have a snack or gum? Did you just eat or brush your teeth?

In order to get the most of these techniques, here are a few pointers:

  • Practice: Even if you are not feeling anxious or stressed, try practicing one of these techniques for a few minutes every day. By making them a habit and a part of your routine it will be easier to use them in the moments when you need them to cope.
  • Don’t wait: If you are starting to feeling off or like your anxiety is building, don’t wait for it to be at it’s worst to start using a technique to bring yourself back down. By using one earlier on it can help your emotions remain in a manageable place and allow you to try a few techniques if one of them is not as effective in that particular moment.
  • Check in with yourself: By checking in with yourself before and after using a technique, it will help you know how well it worked for you. This can be done by rating your anxiety or distress level on a scale from 0 (not distressed or anxious) to 10 (most distressed or anxious) and making a note of the change in the rating.

These techniques are useful tools to help cope with distressing thoughts, situations or emotions in the moment. They provide relief, however, it’s generally temporary.  If anxiety, stress or feeling overwhelmed are things that you struggle with regularly and you continue to have trouble coping with these feelings, please call StayWell Health Center at (203) 756-8021 ext. 3529 to schedule a session with one of our Spanish-speaking or English-speaking clinicians today!


Janet Peterson, LCSW

Behavioral Health Clinician/Manager

StayWell Health Center

Keith Taylor, staff

Living with HIV: A lifetime of Living

Picture this: 1980, there’s a big epidemic on HIV/AIDS, it’s taking out everyone who gets it, friends are dropping like flies, there was medication they were taking that consists of 3-16 pills. Some had to take
it twice a day, then take over the counter medication to fight the side effects.

People’s bodies where changing by the day. They looked frail, sunken in faces, cheek bones protruded from their faces, and sores on the body. This pandemic was no joke. I saw friends who seemed to be healthy being diagnosed with AIDS, start taking medications, and six months later die, or become zombie looking.

Families where turned upside down. People being put out due to the fear of giving it to someone in their household. Peoples’ pride had become their biggest enemy. They would rather suffer in silence then to let someone know they had contracted the deadly disease. Families who would allow them to stay at home, gave them their own utensils, for fear they could contract the disease.

Friendships, relationships, and communities where uprooted, the media was in a frenzy about how many people were dropping from HIV/AIDS. They didn’t seem to have a grasp on how to handle the illness, the media would show you how people looked from the disease saying that even cancer patients looked better than anyone who had HIV/AIDS.

The fear of contracting HIV at that time felt almost as if you were being punished for being Gay. However, people who had received blood transfusions around that time where beginning to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, children were being born with HIV and the world was in a panic.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, by then people had become accustomed to hearing about HIV/AIDS. I had only been out of High school for maybe a few months, when my friend and I were at a bar and they where doing HIV testing. We decided to get tested, I had only had three sexual experiences, being only 18 years old at the time. My friend Willie was scared to take the test alone, so I decided to take the test too. Two weeks later, when the results came back we got a call to meet the tester for our results.  They gave us our results separately and Willie and I walked out quietly, no words said on the way back to our apartment.

“I know they made a mistake, I just know they did. I am healthy, I don’t feel or look sick. It’s got to be a mistake!!” that’s what’s going through my mind. NO WAY!!!, and that’s how I left it. Not to believe the test, I had only three encounters!!  For the next 10 years, every time I’d get a cold or flu, I’d panic, but I never got the illness others seemed to be suffering from.  So, it’s got to be a mistake. I was in the clear, I thought. I decided, because of my upbringing, God had taken it away, I will not engage in the gay lifestyle anymore. So I married my best friend, June. We thought we had it made, we lived in the country with 2 cows, and 10 chickens.  I was working two jobs, life was good. We even thought about having kids, and then… I drop to the floor after work one day. I can hear June screaming, I couldn’t help her. All I know is that I was on floor with no strength to get up. I had walking phenomena, I would have to deal with what I was told 10 years earlier. Was it true? Had I indeed been infected with HIV/AIDS? I had to know. I asked the doctors to do an HIV test. You see, because I was married, they didn’t think to give me an HIV test. The results come back, and I was indeed HIV positive, with a CD4 count of 225. I needed medication.

I had to face the fact that HIV has hit home, what would I do now. I have a wife, and a wonderful life, how would I keep it? Fear began to set in when I realized, June!! Had I infected her to?  She would need to be tested. I spent the next week in the hospital, taking all these medications. I would start at 7am, then noon, and before I went to bed.  The medication would begin to take its toll on me.  The pain, the upset stomach, the diarrhea would be unbearable. I wouldn’t be able to work, I didn’t want anyone to know my status. How can I get through these side effects during work?

I couldn’t. I would start and stop, nothing was working. Nothing would take away the taste of powder in my mouth, ease the pain in my stomach, or take away the diarrhea. I just had to stop.  I would start and stop taking medication for the next two years. I would get headaches, but nothing else would alert me. I knew I was still positive, but I couldn’t handle the medication.  It seemed as if I couldn’t get my life in order, my wife was being tested every 6 months, up to a year, the only good thing about this whole thing is that she was not infected.

The thought of maybe infecting my wife, was overwhelming. I couldn’t handle the thought of the “what if” and it would get the best of me.  My wife and I divorced within 1 year of marriage. I needed to get my health in order.  I then learned that I would be a Godfather to a baby boy, who in 9 months, would be here. I was full of hope, I would have to help raise a child. The day came and I got the call that the baby was born, and I thought, great, can’t wait to see the little man.

Three days later, I get a knock on the door, and the Mother of my godson is at the door with a beautiful baby boy.  “I can’t do it,” she said. “Do what?” I asked. “Take care of this child too, I already have one. Can you please take him and raise him as your own?” 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I quickly said yes, not knowing it would really be for a lifetime. I knew then, that If I wanted to raise this child, and be in his life, I needed to take care of myself as well.  That was the day I decided to live. I started taking my medication, raising a new born, and going through all the side effects until I was able to handle them.  Two years later would be a cocktail to end all cocktails, I had made it. I passed all the earlier medications that were making people sick, now I would start a new cocktail of just 6 medications. Later as medications improved, I was able to go down to three pills a day, with little to no side effects. I had made it past the dark ages of HIV. I was on my way, people weren’t dying anymore, HIV was NOT going to take me out. 

33 years later, I am undetected, I take one pill a day, and my son is living on his own. I’m so glad that I have been spared. I have been in the HIV health field for 17 years, educating, teaching, and giving back to my community of PLWHA, letting them know to continue to Live to tell their story.

If you or someone you know has or might have HIV/AIDS, call 203-756-8021 to speak with a member of our Ryan White HIV Care Team to learn more about your options and find support. If you would like to learn more about our HIV Care, you can also visit our HIV Care page. 


Keith Taylor

ETI & PrEP Navigator

Ryan White 




7 Tips for Summer Workouts!

Working out during the summer is easier for most people because the weather is warmer, you can do more activities outside, and there are more activities available. However, working out during the summer months can be more strenuous on your body. We have provided some simple tips to help make your summer workout a little easier!

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1-Stay Hydrated!

Staying hydrated is extremely important when working out during the summer. Remember that it’s just as important to drink plenty of fluids leading up to your workout as it is to keep pushing fluids during and after your workout. As you work out and sweat, you lose some of your hydration through sweat as your body tries to cool itself. Check out this article by Onslow Fitness to learn more about staying hydrated during your workout!


2-Pick the right time of day!

Choosing the right time of day to work out will go a long way to helping you make the most of your workout. During the summer the hottest part of the day is between 10am and 4pm. Choosing to work out in the mornings or evenings will leave you with more energy and be healthier for you overall. Temperatures will be lower during those times of the day which makes it easier for your body to cool down. If you can, workout in the shade, this will help you stay cool and reduce your risk of overexposing yourself to the sun. If you can work out indoors, consider doing that on extremely hot days to prevent overheating!


3-Wear Light colored clothing

It might seem simple but wearing heavy clothing restricts your skins ability to breath and release heat while being active. Wearing the right type of clothing during your workout is important. Light colors such as white and yellow reflect light while darker colors like black and purple absorb it and increase the amount of heat you feel. Loose fitting clothing also helps your skin breath and allows your skins to release sweat to cool your body. Wearing loose fitting and light-colored clothing will help you stay cooler during your workout by allowing your skin to release extra heat.


4-Know when it is too hot to workout

Knowing when it is too hot to work out will be different for every person based on their body type, stamina, climate region, daily temperature and humidity levels. Even if temperatures don’t seem like they are overly hot, when you throw high humidity into the mix, the air can feel 10-20 degrees hotter than it is. While there is no set “danger zone” for temperature, use your best judgement and alter your workouts, move them into an air-conditioned space, or choose an activity that won’t be as strenuous on your body. For more info, check out this Women’s Health Magazine’s article.


5-Know your body and listen to it

As you work out, your body will give you signs that you are pushing too hard. It also helps to know the signs of certain heat related health issues such as dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke which can all help you avoid a trip to the emergency room. If you are not feeling well, listen to your body and take a break to reset. There is no shame in resting! To learn more about the warning signs and potential health risks, click here!

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6-Keep an eye on the weather

During the summer months the weather can be beautiful, but there can also be pop-up storms that move through a region with little warning. If you are choosing to exercise outside, it’s important to know what the weather is going to do so that you don’t get caught in a thunderstorm or take a 5-mile run when it’s 95 and humid outside.  Humid weather can be especially dangerous if you have underlying health conditions so keep an ear to the forecast and an eye to the sky!


7-Eat the right foods

Eating the right foods before and after a workout can greatly increase your chances of staying hydrated while working out in the summer heat. Avoiding foods that are high in fat or protein before exercising is key since they take more energy to digest. Foods with high water content such as berries, lettuce, apples, and other fruits and veggies will help hydrate your body naturally. For more tips on eating the right foods before and after a workout, check out heart.org.


Brought to you by the StayWell Health Center Team


Hello Summer Sand

6 COVID Safe Familiy Activities for the Summer!

COVID-19 has put a halt on mostly everyone’s summer plans. Families are not taking their previously planned vacations because of financial strain, travel restrictions and most importantly wanting to keep everyone safe. This doesn’t mean that you have to let COVID stop the fun you and your children can have together. Here a few out ideas on things you can to not only to keep your children occupied, but to build positive happy memories in a time where a lot of people are anxious and worried about the “new normal.”


Scavenger Hunt Hike

Scavenger hunts are fun, easy and FREE! Depending on the day & time, local hiking trails can be empty and a fun place to have your kids let out some energy. Make it fun by coming up with a list of nature related finds they can search for along the trail and offering a small prize once they’re done.



Stay at Home Camping

You don’t have to go far to go camping with your family this summer. Local CT campgrounds may be open depending on current COVID-19 status, however if that’s not your thing stay at home and camp! If you have a backyard you can set up a tent and spend the night out with your family. Brand new tents can be cheaper than bringing a family of 4 to the movies on the weekends! You can have a night of fun right in your own backyard using blankets from your house, games, flashlights and anything else you can find.


Science Fun

If your kids enjoy science the CT Science Center has uploaded “Science at Home” activities on their website to keep your young STEM geniuses busy. From Movie Mondays to Virtual Field Trips, they have it all. To check out all of the options, visit the CT Science Center Website!



What is geocaching? It’s an outdoor real-world treasure hunt. Participants have to download an app on their smart phones & register for a free account. After this, you and your kids can follow GPS coordinates that others leave to find hidden treasure. There are rules to geocaching, so make sure to do your research before taking any of the hidden items. Children should be supervised at all times when geocaching. For more detailed information about Geocaching, check out this article from REI Co-op.


Make Homemade Popsicles

Popsicle molds are easy to find in the store this time of year! You can buy your favorite fresh fruit, blend it with unsweetened coconut milk or vanilla yogurt & fill the mold to have healthy fresh fruit popsicles. Your kids will have a healthier snack option and they can be proud that they made them!


Tie Dye Shirts

Tie-dye kits are also fun right now. They come with everything you need to create tie-dye masterpieces, the only thing additional you’d need to purchase is the items you want to tie-dye. You can get creative and tie dye t-shirts, headbands, pillowcases, shorts, etc. You can purchase tie-dye kits at most stores includeing JoAnne Fabrics and Amazon.com.

Any way you choose to spend time with your family this summer is great! Get creative! COVID-19 has been difficult for everyone to navigate, but it does not have to stop you and your family from spending quality time together. Your children are going to remember the time you spent being creative, doing things together. Enjoy!


Janet Peterson, LCSW

Behavioral Health Clinician/Manager

StayWell Health Center


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