When you’re in a moment of intense anxiety – whether that’s in the form of obsessive rumination, a panic attack, or experiencing the physical symptoms of general anxiety, it can feel impossible to bring yourself out of it.
Grounding techniques can be a huge help.
These are methods of bringing you out of your thoughts and connecting you with the present moment and your surroundings.
When you’re anxious, you’re often thinking about the future or worrying about the past. You might be so caught up in how you’re feeling that you can focus on nothing else.
The idea behind grounding techniques is that you’re forced to come out of those thoughts and worries and centre yourself back in the present moment, giving your mind and body time to calm itself down and reduce the panic response.
There are loads of grounding techniques you can try out – anything that works to connect you with the current moment is doing the trick – but to get you started, we’ve rounded up seven grounding exercises below that are both effective and super easy to do.
The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding technique
This technique is all about taking in the details of your surroundings, using each of your senses.
Take a moment to mentally list each of these things, consciously reminding yourself to notice the small details, such as the clouds in the sky, the softness of your jumper, the sounds of your cat purring.
- What are five things you can see?
- What are four things you can feel?
- What are three things you can hear?
- What are two things you can smell?
- What is one thing you can taste?
The body scan meditation
Use this meditation technique to bring awareness back to your body. It can help to sit or lie down.
- Gently close your eyes
- Consciously slow your breaths
- Move your attention to each part of your body, working from your feet all the way up to the top of your head
- At each part of your body, notice any sensations. Do you feel any pressure, tightness, tingling? Don’t judge these sensations or call them good or bad, just notice what they are
- Try to relax each part of your body, untensing any parts that feel stiff. Drop your shoulders, unclench your jaw
- Continue your scan slowly from bottom to top. Repeat if needed.
Holding on to an object
Choose an item that you can always have to hand as a simple way to ground yourself. Try to choose something tactile, like a smooth stone or a soft blanket.
Hold this object in your hand and turn your mind to how it feels against your skin. Notice its weight, its texture, how it looks.
List your favourite things
Make like Julie Andrews and list of your favourite things. You can do this out loud or in your head, whatever feels best.
Pick some categories and list of as many of your favourite things as you can think of.
You could choose books, meals, smells, types of weather, animals, whatever you fancy.
Don’t stress out if you run out of favourites, just move on to another category.
The cup of tea
You’ll need a cup of freshly poured tea for this one.
Hold the cup in your hands and notice how its warmth feels on your skin. Notice its comforting scent. As it cools, take a moment to savour how the tea tastes and notice how it feels as you drink it.
Don’t rush. Take small, slow sips, consciously reminding yourself to notice and appreciate every mouthful.
Using a chair to ground yourself
Take a seat in a chair or on your sofa. Notice how your body feels in the chair. Let yourself sink into the chair, allowing it to take your weight. Imagine yourself sinking in and pressing downwards.
Notice the weight of your limbs on the seat and your feet on the floor. Take slow, deep breaths, all the while drawing your mind back to the feeling of your body in the chair and how it feels to have the chair support your weight.
What’s happening now
Remind yourself of who you are and what’s happening now, in this very moment.
Don’t assign any judgement to these facts. Just narrate the reality of the here and now, either out loud or in your head.
So you might think or say something like: ‘My name is ___. I am ___ years old. I am sitting in my bedroom, in my home, in ____. The sun is shining. It’s a cold day but I am wearing a jumper. I’ve had a cup of tea.’
The idea is to detach yourself from the panic and stress of anything that’s going on and bring yourself back to the facts of the moment.
It can help to have some prepared facts or reminders you can always repeat in these moments as a sort of mantra, like ‘I am doing the best I can’ or ‘I can get through this’.
Need support? Contact the Samaritans
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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