Grounding techniques can be a lifeline when anxiety takes hold, helping you stay present, focused and free from any external worries.
In this article, we’ll explore how to ground yourself using effective grounding techniques, and share exercises that can aid you in reducing anxiety in the moment to foster a sense of calm.
What are grounding techniques for anxiety?
Grounding techniques are simple exercises designed to help you divert your focus away from distressing thoughts, feelings or sensations, and anchor you back to the present moment. These techniques often involve using your senses, body, and surroundings to reconnect with reality, thereby reducing the intensity of your anxiety.
If you struggle with anxiety, you might find that your mind often races with worries, fears, or stressful thoughts. Grounding exercises for anxiety work by interrupting this cycle, creating a pause that allows you to recalibrate and find a sense of balance. By engaging with the present moment, you can break away from overwhelming emotions and thoughts, helping you return to a sense of safety and calm.
Watch the video below and let Priory Therapist Adele Burdon-Bailey take you through a collection of the most effective physical, mental, and soothing grounding techniques for anxiety.
Physical grounding techniques
These five physical grounding techniques are all designed around things in the physical world. They can help you to use your senses to touch, smell, or listen your way through a moment of anxiety.
1. Put your hand in water
This technique involves placing your hand in water to focus on the temperature and sensation. Consider how it feels on your fingers and palm. Is it the same in each part, or does it feel different? How? Focusing on the sensation of the water diverts you away from the worries in your head, bringing you back into the present.
2. Breathing exercises
Breathe deeply to regulate and control your breath. Breathing exercises help promote relaxation and reduce stress by focusing your mind on inhalation and exhalation.
3. Take a walk in nature
Nature and mental health are connected in ways we still don’t fully understand. Engage with nature to help you reconnect with your surroundings and alleviate feelings of anxiety.
4. The 5,4,3,2,1 technique
This method encourages you to identify:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can touch
- 3 things you can hear
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
By focusing on your environment, you can get out of all the ruminating, spiralling thoughts in your mind, stay calm and remain present.
5. Move your body
Engaging in physical activity, such as stretching or walking, can help release built-up tension and stress. Exercising is a valuable way to boost mental health – if you have time, head outside for a walk or run.
Mental grounding techniques
When your mind is full of distractions, use these mental grounding techniques to break away from anxiety and reset your mind.
6. Body scan
This technique involves mentally scanning your body from head to toe, paying attention to areas of tension and consciously relaxing them.
7. Think in categories
Select a category, like fruits or countries, and list items within that category to divert your mind from distressing thoughts.
8. Anchoring phrase
Repeating a comforting or grounding phrase can help bring focus and calmness. For example, try something like:
“My name is FULL NAME, I am AGE years old. I’m currently sat at my desk at work, and no one else is around. All is well.”
9. Visualise a daily task
Imagining yourself performing a routine task can help to ground you in a familiar and comforting mental space. Whether it’s cooking or hanging the washing out, try and pick something you don’t mind doing.
10. Make yourself laugh
Finding humour and allowing yourself a moment of laughter can release endorphins, easing tension and helping to shift your focus away from anxiety. This can help to ground you in positivity and light-heartedness.
Comforting grounding techniques
Sometimes, you just need to make yourself feel a little bit better. These grounding techniques will soothe your mind and make your problems seem a little less overwhelming.
11. Pick up and touch items
Handling objects and focusing on their texture, weight, and temperature can help bring your awareness to the present.
12. Practise self-kindness
Reminding yourself of your worth and practicing self-compassion can be grounding in moments of distress. There are lots of positive affirmations for mental health you could try. Here’s one example:
“I’ve had a rough time of it recently, but I’m doing OK now. I’m doing the best I can. ”
13. Listen to music
Tuning into music and focusing on the lyrics or melody can be a comforting way to ground yourself.
14. Visualise your favourite place
Imagining a place you love and focusing on the details can help you feel more centred and calm. It could be a favourite beach, park or your football team’s home ground. Wherever it is, take yourself there for just a few moments.
15. Sit with a pet
The act of sitting with and petting an animal can provide comfort and help reconnect you with the present moment.
When to use grounding exercises
Grounding exercises can be particularly beneficial during moments when anxiety feels overpowering and begins to overshadow your thoughts and emotions. Here are some instances when incorporating grounding exercises might be helpful:
- Experiencing panic attacks: When the symptoms of a panic attack, such as rapid breathing and heart palpitations, start to surface, grounding exercises can help divert your focus and bring your awareness back to the present moment
- Feeling overwhelmed: Life can sometimes throw challenges at us that feel too much to handle. In such times, grounding techniques can help to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed, helping you regain a sense of control and calm
- Facing triggers: If you encounter a situation or stimulus that triggers anxiety, grounding can serve as a practical tool to navigate through the distress and maintain composure
- Struggling with disturbing thoughts or flashbacks: For people who experience intrusive thoughts or flashbacks, grounding exercises can act as an anchor, helping to redirect the mind away from distressing memories
- Before sleep: If anxiety tends to keep you awake at night, incorporating grounding techniques before bedtime can contribute to a more relaxed state, promoting better sleep
- Daily routine for wellbeing: Even if you’re not feeling particularly anxious, integrating grounding exercises into your daily routine can build resilience and enhance overall wellbeing
Tips for using grounding techniques effectively
To get the most out of these techniques, make sure you:
- Test out a wide range of techniques. Some will work for you, others won’t. Be patient and you’ll find which are the most effective ways to ground yourself
- Rate your anxiety before and after using each technique. That way you’ll know which techniques are working
- Don’t judge feelings. Many grounding techniques challenge you to consider your surroundings. Don’t judge any feelings you have towards your environment. Accept how you feel and let those feelings pass so you don’t become distracted
For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0330 056 6020 or submit an online enquiry form here.