Anxiety has a very broad definition, encompassing every possible facet of our lives. It’s a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come — it could be a major event, a presentation, or even talking to a new person! One of the most effective methods of battling anxiety is using grounding techniques for anxiety.
What Are Grounding Techniques?
Grounding techniques are coping strategies that help you pull away from unwanted memories and negative and intense emotions. It is an effective, scientifically proven way to anchor us to reality even in our most distressing moments.
Why It Works
When we feel threatened (perceived or actual), our brain is affected. This impacts the nervous system and activates the threat response. Grounding techniques help the body calm itself by signaling the brain to the absence of an actual threat.
Anxiety in the Community
It’s okay to avoid some social gatherings; we all have different priorities and time constraints.
But when you notice yourself skipping every possible event, function, and gathering to avoid socialization, that’s when it becomes a problem. This anxiety can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and an aversion or sensitivity towards criticism.
Different Kinds of Anxiety
We’ve all experienced anxiety one time or the other. That feeling of nervousness closing in every time you must face the crowd. Or a traumatic memory making your chest close. Anxiety exists in various forms. Let’s look at the four main types of anxiety:
#1. Panic Attack
An episode where the person experiences sudden fear. It can be both real and assumed. This fear triggers a series of severe physical reactions in response.
A response to a distressing event in a person’s life, triggering a feeling of helplessness that diminishes that person’s ability to experience the full range of emotions and thoughts.
Post-traumatic stress disorder refers to a person’s inability to cope with an event that has happened in their past. Check CFAH to see more about it.
A mood disorder affecting the daily lives of those affected by it. It results in feelings of anger, loss, and sadness.
There are 3 types of grounding techniques you can use to calm yourself — physical techniques, mental techniques, and soothing techniques. Allow me to walk you through them.
Physical techniques involve methods that use the five senses and tangible objects — anything you can touch — to calm you down and ease your anxiety. Below are 3 physical techniques that are known to work.
This technique is like mindfulness as it helps you to take in your surroundings. This five-step technique is instrumental in keeping your mind firmly focused on the present.
Identify 5 things around you. Anything helps. The smaller the object, the better. But you can keep your options open to including both large and small objects. Say out loud any five things you see. Acknowledge them.
Next, touch 4 objects around you. It can be anything. Your hair, the plant nearby, or the wall. What is the texture of the object you’re touching? Is it coarse or is it smooth? Is it wet or dry? Feel it and try to determine its physical qualities.
Try to locate 3 different sounds and pay attention to each of them. Pay attention to the sounds near you. Listen to your heartbeat, focus on it.
Identify 2 things you can smell. If you can’t smell anything where you are, it’s okay to move around. If you’re home, you can smell a bar of soap or a food item in your fridge. Furniture is a good alternative too.
Name one thing you can taste. If you’ve previously eaten something, try to focus on what the inside of your mouth tastes like. If you can’t find a taste, recall one. End this coping strategy with a long, slow, and deep breath.
The Body Awareness Technique works by directing your focus to the sensations in your body. It helps keep you present now, in the here and now.
#1. Take deep breaths through your nose.
Exhale through puckered lips. Repeat this five times. In and out, in and out. Focus your attention on each breath you take.
#2. Acknowledge the sensations in your feet.
Keep your feet flat on the ground. Curl and uncurl your toes. Wiggle them around. Stomp your feet on the ground and notice what sensations run through your legs and feet as they contact the ground.
#3. Clench your hands into fists.
Open them to release the tension. Repeat this 10 times. Press your palms together for 15 seconds each time. Press them harder against each other and notice the tension it creates in your arms and hands. Rub your palms vigorously. Pay attention to the friction and warmth it creates.
Raise your hands over your head as if you’re trying to reach the sky. Do this for 5 seconds. Then bring your hands down and let them relax by your sides.
#5. End this exercise by taking 5 deep breaths.
Notice the feeling of calm that has spread through your body.
333 Rule for Anxiety
The 333 rule is a strategy that helps you focus on the 3 things you see, 3 sounds you hear, and 3 body parts you can move in each setting. This helps you stay in the present by diverting your attention from the uncontrolled spiral of unwanted emotions.
Start by naming 3 things you see around you. Focus on the 3 sounds you hear. Follow this up by moving 3 parts of your body. You can think of this method as a quick reality check.
While physical grounding techniques primarily use your tangible surroundings to anchor you to the present, mental grounding techniques use mental distractions.
Use mindful distractions to take your mind off distressing thoughts and emotions. Experiment with various exercises and see what works best for you.
#1. Remind yourself who you are.
Say your full name, your age, and where you stay. If possible, expand it to include other people and happenings around you.
#2. Name everything you can see around you.
Categorize them. For example, the vehicles and animals you see nearby.
#3. Use math.
Count backward from 100. Recount the timetables you remember.
#4. Recount the steps of activity you or someone you know does.
It can be the recipe for your favorite food or the dance moves of a song.
#5. Read something.
It can be a poem, an article, or a poster.
#6. Think of an object.
Now draw it in your mind or with your fingers in the air. It can be anything. From the shoes, you’re wearing to the car that just passed by.
#7. Visualize a box.
Ball every unwanted feeling, emotion, and distressing situation in it and close it. Put it at the back corner of your mind so you’re less likely to take a trip down memory lane.
Soothing skills help us calm ourselves, both physically and mentally, when we’re overwhelmed by stress or other emotions.
#1. Be kind to yourself.
You should be your dedicated cheerleader. Practice self-kindness. Tell yourself “It’s okay.” You’re doing your best and you will make it through.
#2. List your favorites.
Think about your favorite color, animal, TV show, etc.
#3. Take a bubble bath.
Light candles, use scented oils, and bath bombs.
#4. Think of the people you love.
Picture their face and voice. Look at their photographs.
#5. Visualize your favorite place and transport yourself there mentally.
Think about why you like this place, what’s special about it. Maybe it was the food you ate there or the special people you were with.
#6. List all the things you’re looking forward to next week.
If you can’t recall any, it’s time to plan an activity that gives you genuine happiness.
When to Practice Grounding Techniques
Grounding techniques can be used when you’re experiencing distressing feelings as they help to distract you from your thoughts and keep you rooted, in the present.
They’re useful for people experiencing panic and trauma flashbacks. They’re especially useful if you’re dealing with PTSD, disassociation, self-harm, or panic attacks.
When to See a Doctor
Although grounding techniques work for a lot of people, they may not be as effective for everyone. It’s better for those who have a long-standing history of trauma to see a doctor instead of experimenting with different techniques or trying to self-diagnose.
If you think you have a mental health condition, it’s wise to consult a doctor. You can work out a treatment plan that works best for you.
Grounding may take some time to work for you. Though it is an effective way of treating anxiety, it may not be the walk in the park you expect it to be. Here are some tips that can help:
• Practice exercises. Even when you’re not experiencing distress and disassociation, practice them so you’re better prepared when you need to use these techniques in a situation.
• Get a head start. Don’t wait for your anxiety to get bad to take measures. As soon as you feel like you have too many negative thoughts in your brain, start using grounding techniques.
• Keep your eyes open. To be grounded in the present, you need to be able to look at the present surrounding.
Grounding techniques can be used anywhere, whether you’re at home or outside. It’s easy to get confused as to which technique you should use. Remember, you know the situation and place you’re currently in. Try to figure out the best strategy to use in that given situation.
Grounding techniques for anxiety are great tools, but their effects are temporary. If you notice yourself having frequent anxiety attacks, it’s time to see a doctor figure out why they’re persistent and get professional help.