What are grounding techniques?
Grounding is a type of coping strategy with roots in mindfulness. It focuses you on the present and helps you to break the cycle of negative or overwhelming thoughts. It can be any action that focuses you on the here and now.
What is it used for?
Grounding is particularly useful for those with anxiety or PTSD, however it can be utilised by anyone. It can be used to break through any thought pattern that you’ve identified as unhelpful: self-deprecation, urges to overeat, self harm, substance use, fear of crowds, any feeling that becomes overwhelming and debilitating.
How does it work?
Grounding techniques reconnect you with the here and now using your 5 senses. They are intended to be an intense sensation to pull you out of a mental spiral of anxiety.
How do I know which one will work for me?
It is a very personal thing to develop a set of go-to grounding techniques. Usually it would begin with an exploration of the coping strategies you’ve already depended on to get you through anxiety and build on the most effective and healthy ones. Below are a few to consider trying and adding to your arsenal.
What if I need help?
This blog is meant to give an idea of how to self-help, but you don’t have to go on this journey alone. Having someone experienced to support you in making a plan, identifying unhelpful thinking patterns, and acting as a sounding board once you get your wings can be critical. Call for a free phone consultation and see if I might be a good fit for helping you overcome anxiety.
When you notice you are dissociating or feeling a panic attack, try these grounding techniques.
Call your favourite people, ask them to tell you a story about their day in detail
Sit outside or play nature sounds, close your eyes and listen to wind, birds, trees. Try to identify them.
Speak out loud everything you’re doing, seeing, thinking. Explain it out loud
Listen to your favourite music loud enough to be the only thing you can focus on
Use your favourite essential oil or light a candle
Keep something nice-smelling that reminds you of positive thoughts: air freshener, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, bath bombs
Keep sweets that you dislike, like liquorice or something sour. Have one and try to last through it
Bite a lemon or lime
Let a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth, focus on how it tastes and makes your mouth feel
Eat something very spicy like a pepper
Take inventory of everything around you, How many things are green? Red? Blue? What is the shortest furniture in the room? Tallest? Skinniest? Widest? Categorise your surroundings.
Do a puzzle that captivates your attention: jigsaw, sudoku, word search, etc.
Count all of the pieces of furniture around you
Put on a familiar favourite movie or TV show
Read a book
Cuddle with a pet
Pick up something tactile and knead it with your hands, notice in detail the quality of the surface and how it feels
Pop bubble wrap
Hold an ice cube in your hand and let it melt, noticing how the water feels as it drips
Think in categories: name and categorise musical instruments, desserts, animals, sports
Run through a times table in your head
Count backwards from 100
Visualise a task that you enjoy, picture yourself completing every step of it, including how items feel in your hand, the amount of pressure or strength you need to apply, how it might smell or sound
Describe a task like above to yourself or a friend like you’re giving step by step instructions
Repeat kind words to yourself: “You’re strong and you can move through this pain” “You’re trying hard and doing your best, it’s enough”
Remember to practice regularly, even if you don’t need it in the moment. Grounding techniques help you to feel calm and you want to be able to use them effectively when you’re feeling just the opposite of calm! If you feel anxiety, panic, or notice a physical effect of fear start a grounding technique as soon as possible. Keep your eyes open, it’s easier to connect with the here and now when you can see your environment.
These techniques are a starting point. It’s important to address the source of the problem if you find yourself needing grounding frequently. For help tailoring your own anxiety action plan, make an appointment.