One of the tools I teach my clients to utilize when they feel anxious is called Grounding. When your mind is racing mind, grounding brings you back to the here-and-now and is very helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or anxiety. It is a great way to calm down quickly.
Grounding basically means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious. It helps you stay in the present moment instead of worrying about things that may happen in the future or events that have already happened but you still find yourself going over and over them in your head.
There are many ways to ground yourself when you feel anxious and overwhelmed and I decided to describe the six grounding techniques that I have found work best for myself and my clients.
6 Grounding Techniques
I am going to describe six different grounding techniques. Practice them when you are feeling calm or slightly stressed or anxious so they will become familiar and then you will be able to launch into the technique that works best for you next time you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or stuck in an anxiety attack.
These skills take practice, so keep trying and don’t give up!
1.Guided Visualization: Calm Place Technique
The first technique is a calm place visualization. This guided visualization walks you through imagining a calm or safe place- real or imaginary- that you can come back to at any time to feel more calm and relaxed.
2. Body Scan: Releasing Tension Technique
The second techniques is a body scan. The body scan has you noticing any tension and releasing it. Walking you through your body one part at a time.
3. Guided Meditation Using Our Breath Technique
The third technique is a guided meditation using your breath. This guided meditation helps you notice your breathing and slowing it down. Helping your body recenter and focus on the present moment using a tool you always have with you wherever you are- your breath.
4. The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This fourth technique gets you to use all your five senses to help you to get back to the present. It starts with you sitting comfortably, close your eyes and taking a couple of deep breathes. In through your nose (count to 3), out through your mouth (to the count of 3).
Now open your eyes and look around you. Name out loud:
5 – things you can see (you can look within the room and out of the window)
4 – things you can feel (the silkiness of your skin, the texture of the material on your chair, what does your hair feel like? What is in front of you that you can touch? A table perhaps?)
3 – things you can hear (traffic noise or birds outside, when you are quiet and actually listening things in your room constantly make a noise but typically we don’t hear them).
2 – things you can smell (hopefully nothing awful!)
1 – thing you can taste (it might be a good idea to keep a piece of chocolate handy in case you are doing this grounding exercise! You can always leave your chair for this one and when you taste whatever it is that you have chosen, take a small bite and let it swill around your mouth for a couple of seconds, really savoring the flavor).
Take a deep breath to end.
5. Color Ball Containment Technique
This fifth technique is a containment exercise. Containment is a way of practicing more control over your thoughts and feelings. When people feel they have more control over what they think about and what they feel, they are more content.
It has you noticing when you notice tension or distress in your body. And visualizing the distress as colors. Notice all the colors throughout your body. What colors do you notice? Where do you notice them in your body?
Then take the colors and gather them up into a ball. Make sure you have gathered them all up. Take some time and see if you have gotten it all.
Then make a ball with all of these colors. Then compact the ball down. Once you’ve gotten the ball smaller, imagine a container- it can be real or imaginary. It can be made of anything you wish. Now take this color ball and place it in the container. Secure the container in anyway you would like. Now think of a place- real or imaginary- that you can place this container. Knowing you can always come back to it, but for now we will allow ourselves some space from it. Where is a safe place to store these feelings?
When you are ready, bring your awareness back into the room. What sounds are you hearing. Take all the time you need. When you are ready open your eyes.
6. Get Your Energy Out
Sometimes my clients tell me that they just can’t concentrate enough to do any of these grounding exercises because their body seems too pumped full of adrenaline fueled energy. If this is happening to you, it is good to kick-start the calming down process by doing something physical first to get that pent-up energy out and then come back to your favorite grounding techniques.
- Run on the treadmill/elliptical if you have one at home
- Run up and down the stairs
- Take a brisk walk or run outside
- Cleaning up the kitchen, house or backyard channels that extra energy into something useful
- Dance around the house while listening to loud music
When you are physically spent, you can return to trying these techniques to calm down your mind.
Which one of these grounding techniques works best for you? Maybe different ones help at different times. Whichever one you choose, once you have calmed down and your mind stops racing, you are then able to look at the situation more rationally and challenge the thoughts that made you anxious in the first place.
Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT, is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in Austin, Texas. Carlene works with individuals, couples, and families. She can help you learn skills to manage your anxious thoughts and tackle the fears that have been holding you back. While all your worries won’t disappear, you will be given strategies to manage them better and tools to reduce the impact they have on your life. To schedule your appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling Page.