Life can sometimes feel like it’s all a bit too much. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by your thoughts and feel lost in the moment. That’s where grounding techniques come in. They help you to connect to the present and find a way back to yourself. When you practice grounding techniques you call back your energy and are able to take a moment to return to your body and find stillness. There are many different ways to ground: breathing techniques, visualizations, sounds, distractions. Exploring these options can lead to great improvements in your overall well-being. However, today I am going to talk about the ones more effective when dealing with anxiety.

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As someone who has experienced her fair share of anxiety and intrusive thought’s I know just how hard it can be to get out of your mind. Often left feeling trapped and unsure of how to get yourself out of this spiral can leave a person feeling scared and hopeless.

Thoughts racing a mile a minute, a rush of adrenaline bursting through my veins, sweaty palms, and shaking hands. Sometimes unable to catch my breath as I begin to feel I am drifting away from reality.

I know I am not the only one who has experienced this. And we all know what comes next, the panic attack. The feeling of being so disconnected from my body that we have no idea how to regain control as reality becomes a blurred memory.

This isn’t just a direct result of having anxiety either. This feeling can come from any condition that brings on distressing thoughts. I know I have also felt this directly when it came to my eating disorder, addiction, or just any negative thoughts I get caught up in.

Anxiety – is it all just in my head?

The good news is that yes, it is all just in your head. The bad news? It’s all in your head.

Ok, maybe anxiety isn’t just as simple as being in your head. The signs and symptoms are all too real!

Excessive worrying. Difficulties sleeping and the restlessness that comes along with it. Being tired all of the time. Irritability. Trembling and shaking. The heart palpitations? These are just a few of the all too real ways that anxiety can manifest.

Anxiety is at the most basic level a primal reaction to anticipate and prepare for threats. In doing this, your brain sends your body an increased level of stress targeting hormones. Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life.

But at a certain point, when there is intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations, it can all become too much. Your anxiety can become a mental illness that can disrupt you and your life negatively. It can negatively impact the way you go about living your life, your job performance, your relationships and so much more. But there are things you can do to help stop it from getting to this point. 

There are ways to calm your anxiety

Even in the most overwhelming of moments, there are ways to calm yourself and get out of your mind and back into your body.

To reconnect with the present moment.

You can do so by using effective, scientifically proven methods called grounding techniques.

What are grounding techniques?

rounding techniques are tools that help you to bring yourself back into your body, back into the here and now. They help you to clear your mind and focus your energy without feeling pulled in a million ways and consumed by anxious thoughts.

Grounding can help you find peace in the often overwhelming world around you.

Grounding techniques are coping strategies that help to bring you out of intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, unwanted memories, panic attacks and disassociation. They help to separate you from your emotional state or distressing situation.

When your thoughts are running wild if you don’t take the time to be in your body and work towards regaining control, then you risk spiralling out of control. Grounding is essential to keeping your feet on the ground when it comes to times of feeling out of control.

Woman in grey sweater drinks coffee from a black ceramic mug as an act of taking a moment to ground herself in the present moment
Ground yourself in the here and now
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Physical Grounding Techniques:

  1. Breathe: Inhale slowly, then exhale. If it helps, you can say “in” and “out” with each breath. Feel the sensation of breathing, feel your lungs filling up and emptying. 
  2. Move your body: take a short walk, do some jumping jacks, or stretch your muscles. Pay attention to how the movement feels in your body. Notice how your feet feel on the ground. Listen to your breath as you move.
  3. Feel your body: notice how each part of your body feels as you move from head to toe. You can do this while you are standing, sitting or laying down. Wiggle your toes, move your legs, raise and lower your shoulders. Take notice of how each part feels. 

Mental Grounding Techniques:

  1. Think in categories: Think of any two categories you wish, maybe its types of animals, types of ice cream, favourite tv shows. Then take some time to think of as many things from each category as you can.
  2. Recite something you know by heart. Maybe it’s your favourite passage from a book, line from a movie, poem. Say it out loud or in your head and visualize each word as you say it. 
  3. Use an anchoring phrase: “I’m Full Name. I’m X years old. I live in City. Today is Friday, June 15. It’s 11:00 in the morning. I’m sitting at my desk at work. There’s no one else in the room.” You can add as much detail to this as you want.

Soothing Techniques:

  1. Repeat kind and compassionate phrases to yourself. “You are having a hard time and that is ok.” or “You are strong and you can make it through this pain”. These are a few that I use. You can choose whatever works best for you. 
  2. Visualize your favourite place. If you were there what would the weather be, what sounds could you hear. Use all your senses to create a mental image. 
  3. Put on music. Listen to the music as if it was your first time listening to it. Get yourself pumped out, rock out, dance. Notice how the song makes you feel. 

The 5-4-3-2-1 method:

This method takes some time and for that reason, it works extremely well. It uses all your senses and truly helps you to connect back to the present moment. Working backwards from 5 uses your senses to notice the things around you. Make an effort to notice the little things around you that you might not otherwise notice. The sound of the furnace, or the sound of a ticking clock, the specks of colour in the carpet.

5- Look: notice 5 things you can see around you. For example, it could be a cup or a picture frame.

4- Feel: Pay attention to your body and find 4 things you can feel. For example, your feet in socks or your head on a pillow.

3- Hear: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic or birds.

2- Smell: Pay attention to 2 things you can smell. If you need to you can move around to find smells. If you can’t find anything you can name your 2 favourite smells.

1- Taste: What is 1 thing you can taste? Maybe it’s the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or the coffee you just drank.

The key component of grounding is getting back in touch with your body. These techniques use your five senses or tangible objects – things you can touch – to help you through difficult times.

Simple Grounding Technique the 5-4-3-2-1 method. 5 things you can see. 4 things you can feel. 3 things you can hear. 2 things you can smell. 1 thing you can taste.
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique

When to practice grounding techniques

Grounding techniques are a great tool to learn because you can come back to them whenever you begin to feel chaotic or overwhelmed.

They can help you to get through the hard times and keep going no matter how tumultuous everything feels. With these techniques, you can create a sense of peace that is there whenever you need it.

Why Grounding techniques work

These techniques help you to take your mind off what is causing you distress. They do so by distracting you from what is currently on your mind and bring you back into the present moment. By staying grounded in the present moment, you can stay on top of your thoughts and not get carried away and spiral out of control.

By using distraction and redirecting your thinking at the moment you may be able to prevent unhealthy behaviours and lessen the impact of the thoughts on you. This allows you space in the moment and the ability to come back to these feelings when you can cope with them in a more effective and less damaging way.

The distraction that comes with these grounding techniques is not about trying to escape or avoid the feelings, rather, it is to allow you to process what you are feeling at a better time. It is essential that you come back to these feelings you were having. Distractions are useful at the time but they do not replace forms of treatment including therapy. If these feelings are very strong and uncomfortable to sit with it is very possible that treatment from a proper mental health professional could benefit you and help you strengthen your coping skills.

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