If you are having a difficult time managing the symptoms of your anxiety, you are not alone. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems today. People experience various types of anxiety which can range from mild to severely debilitating.
Anxiety is associated with many different intense emotional states. It can be difficult to focus or feel in control when you experience waves of panic or overwhelming anxious feelings. Oftentimes, everything feels like a blur.
The good news about anxiety is that there are numerous effective ways to reduce symptoms. One extremely effective technique that you can implement anytime, anywhere is grounding, which uses simple techniques to activate your senses in a way that helps to combat symptoms of anxiety.
Some better-known grounding techniques include deep breathing and journaling. There are numerous other lesser-known approaches to grounding that you can try out to see if they work for you.
Whether you are ruminating, feeling powerless, or on the verge of a full-blown panic attack, incorporating grounding techniques can help you shift your focus away from the source of whatever is causing you to feel anxious.
Why Do Grounding Techniques Work?
Grounding techniques bring your mind and body back to the present moment. This seemingly small action helps break unhelpful thought patterns and refocuses your senses away from an anxious state. Grounding techniques can be especially helpful for symptoms like disconnectedness, restlessness, and looping thoughts.
Types of Grounding Techniques
There are numerous types of grounding techniques that you can learn. You can even invent your own. They generally fall into categories based on their main function. Categories of grounding include: Using the five senses, physical activity, observation, self-soothing, distraction, and breathing.
Activating the Five Senses
Activating your sense of touch, smell, sight, sound, or taste can have profound effects on your state of well-being. Grounding techniques that use the five senses can immediately shift your focus and interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.
Utilize your sense of touch by paying attention to the way things feel on your skin. You can consciously draw attention to sensations like how your shoes feel on your feet, the wallet in your pocket, or how your hair sits on your head.
Many people find it helpful to activate touch by physically touching objects. Try holding ice, running your fingers across a textured surface, or carrying an object in your pocket like a coin or marble. Whatever item you use, be sure to focus on how the object feels against your skin and describe the sensations in your head.
Take a Whiff
Activating your sense of smell can be a very powerful way to achieve calm when you are anxious. Whether it’s coffee or fresh laundry, you probably already know some smells that give you a warm feeling. Whenever possible, make calming fragrances accessible to use any time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Try carrying a small bottle or spray to use any time you feel like it. You may prefer to use scents you already enjoy, especially if they are associated with positive feelings. Otherwise, try smelling lavender, which can induce feelings of calmness. When using sense of smell as a grounding technique, try inhaling slowly and deeply. Make mental notes of the qualities of the scent and savor the way it makes you feel.
Have a Look
Using sight is one of the most convenient grounding techniques because there is always something to look at. Try choosing anything in your surroundings to observe. In your head, describe the item in detail, as if you were describing it to someone who couldn’t see it. Think about the texture, shape, color, and other features as you are examining the object. Once you have finished describing one thing, move on to another one. As your mind fixates on these objects, you’ll find that using sight is an effective distraction from anxious thoughts and feelings.
Open Those Ears
Sound is another convenient technique as there are always sounds. Tune into whatever sound is around you and truly focus on what you are hearing. Whether it’s birds chirping, children playing, wind blowing, or your own breath, listen closely and attentively.
Some people may also find it helpful to put on a soundtrack or a particular song. If using a particular song, try focusing on all of the instruments you hear, how the singer’s voice sounds, the up and down pitch, and how it all sounds together.
You may already carry gum or candy with you most of the time which can make this technique pretty quick and easy. When using taste as a grounding technique, the point is to truly experience the flavor of the food or gum that is in your mouth. Whatever you decide to put in your mouth, let it rest there, move it around, and truly focus on what it tastes like. Think about the consistency and how the flavor changes as you chew it or move it inside your mouth. Try describing that experience in detail to yourself. You should just use one flavor at a time.
Using your body can be an excellent way to mindfully reconnect when you are feeling overwhelmed. You can quite literally do any physical activity. The key is to really focus on all of the physical sensations you are experiencing while doing it. Here are some grounding techniques using physical activity that you can implement in your own routine to reduce anxiety:
When it comes to getting grounded, there’s nothing quite like getting on the ground. Try laying down flat on your back and doing a quick body scan noticing how each of your body parts rests on the floor. Take notes of how the surface feels against your skin.
Walk It Out
Try walking mindfully as an easy and effective grounding technique. As you take each step, notice the sensation of the ground beneath your foot. Pay attention to how your foot lands as you propel yourself forward and feel the way your arms move at your sides.
Try building yourself a short stretching routine as a means of grounding when you are anxious. As you stretch, pay close attention to how your muscles feel, notice any tightness in your body and spend time stretching it out. Breathe into your stretches as you do them and feel how your body begins to relax.
Do Your Chores
Rather than rushing through chores or putting them off, try doing them mindfully as a way to reduce anxiety. Doing things like folding laundry or weeding can be calming when you do them mindfully. Focus on the way your body feels going through the movement and all of the other physical sensations that come along with the activity.
Observation is an excellent technique that uses your environment as a source of grounding. Depending on where you are, you can use observation in a number of ways.
Count It Out
Try counting something in your immediate environment. For instance, if people are passing, you could count every person with blue pants. If you are near trees, try counting the tree branches or colored leaves.
If you want to get especially lost in observation, try observing and re-creating. You can use a pen, pencil, or even modeling clay to try and draw or mold whatever you see. If drawing isn’t your thing, you can write out what you see.
Self-soothing is a grounding technique that adds an element of distraction and comfort to help combat symptoms of anxiety. You can use one of the suggestions below or implement your own self-soothing activity.
Slather on your favorite moisturizer to the body part of your choice. Notice the way it feels and slowly begin to work it into your skin.
Take a warm bubble bath or steamy shower to ground yourself. Be mindful of the way the water feels against your skin, paying attention to the warmth, the sounds, and how your body feels. Use calming scents like lavender or mint to better help ease your anxiety.
Object of Affection
You may be someone who responds well to carrying an object around for self-soothing. This could be a bracelet, handkerchief, or small figurine. Choose something that brings positive memories or feelings along with it. When you feel stressed, hold the object in your hand, and examine its texture, weight, and feel.
Sometimes the quickest way to reduce the intense emotions that accompany anxiety is through straightforward distraction. Rather than zoning out on your phone or in front of your television, try implementing distraction techniques that stimulate your senses and force you to focus on a certain activity. Sometimes it helps to choose a challenging activity that uses up a lot of your brain’s resources. Try one of the techniques below or come up with your own.
Count Backward by 7s
Start at 100 and count backward by 7s until you get to 0. This will feel pretty consuming and help your mind focus on the task at hand. You can also count up by 7s or use any other interval.
Play the Name Game
Pick a category (e.g. cities) and go through the alphabet trying to name something in that category for each letter. You can also try picking a more specific category (e.g. animals with tails) and simply list all of the animals with tails you can think of.
Say a Song
Think of a song you know most of the lyrics to and try saying them in your head without singing the accompanying tune.
Grab your journal and write something in detail. You could document a recent adventure or pretend you are writing out instructions for an alien on simple daily activities like “how to pour water.”
Taking a deep breath is one of the most commonly suggested activities to help ease anxiety since it helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect. You can also try these other breathing exercises as grounding techniques for anxiety reduction.
Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Try to keep your chest still while slowly breathing through your nose and into your belly. Watch as the hand on your belly begins to rise as if it were on a balloon being blown up. Slowly release the air through your mouth and feel your hand lower.
Breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to four then hold your breath for seven seconds. Next, breathe out slowly through your mouth while counting to eight. Repeat as many times as feels comfortable and feel free to adjust the numbers to whatever feels the best.
Bumble Bee Breath
Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose. As you exhale, keep your mouth closed and hum like a bee as you exhale. Continue exhaling until you feel empty of breath and repeat the process. For added sensation, you can plug your ears with your fingers as you complete the technique.
Putting Grounding Techniques to Work
Grounding can be an excellent skill to have in your toolbox in order to help you cope with the difficult emotions and sensations that accompany anxiety. You can easily implement these techniques any time of day and create new ones that work for you. The key is to use them in a way that forces you to re-connect with your mind and body in the present moment.
Grounding techniques can be used in combination with any other form of anxiety reduction. If you find that your anxiety is currently causing significant problems in your life and feels beyond your control, talk to a mental health professional.