One of the strategies I teach my clients to use when they feel anxious is called Grounding. When your mind is racing or you are overwhelmed with intense emotions, grounding brings you back to the here-and-now and is very helpful in managing overwhelming feelings, anxiety, PTSD symptoms, urges to self-harm, and substance abuse. It is a great way to calm down quickly.
Grounding basically means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically and focus on your body, or surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious. It helps you to stay in the present moment instead of worrying about things that may happen in the future, events that have already happened about which you are ruminating, irrational fears, flashbacks, etc.
There are many different Grounding strategies, but these are the ones that my clients have found to be the most effective:
1. Put your hands in water
Focus on the water’s temperature and how it feels on your fingertips, palms, and the backs of your hands. Does it feel the same in each part of your hand?
Use warm water first, then cold. Next, try cold water first, then warm. Does it feel different to switch from cold to warm water versus warm to cold?
2. The Grounding chair
Sit down in a comfortable chair, one where your feet reach the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly for the count of three, then out slowly. Bring your mind’s focus to your body. How does your body feel sitting in that chair? Scooch your bottom right into the back of the seat so the whole length of your back is pressing into the back of the chair. Can you feel the contact between your body and the chair’s surface? If the chair has arms, touch it, is the material smooth or textured? Press your arms down the length of the chair arm, notice how your hands hang off the end. If your chair doesn’t have arms, touch the material on the seat, how does that feel?
Next push your feet into the ground, imagine the energy draining down from your mind, down through your body and out through your feet into the ground. I picture it as a color filling my body as it goes from top to toe, but this is your image so choose whatever you want your energy to look like. As the energy drains from your head, feel how heavy each body part becomes, your torso feels heavy and now your arms as you relax those muscles. Lastly, feel the heaviness go down your legs, through your feet and down into the ground.
3. The 5-4-3-2-1 method
Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.
4. Move your body
Do a few exercises or stretches. You could try jumping jacks, jumping up and down, jumping rope, jogging in place, or stretching different muscle groups one by one.
Pay attention to how your body feels with each movement and when your hands or feet touch the floor or move through the air. How does the floor feel against your feet and hands? If you jump rope, listen to the sound of the rope in the air and when it hits the ground.
5. Pick up or touch items
I keep gems and crystals in my office just for this purpose, but look around your house for things that have a texture or are pretty or interesting to look at.
Hold an object in your hand and really bring your full focus to it. If I was looking at one of my gems, I would see the patterns that run through it, see the color variances. Some have veins of different colors going through them or sparkly bits. Look at where shadows may fall on parts of it or maybe there are shapes that form within the object. Feel how heavy or light it is in your hand and what the surface texture feels like under your fingers.
This can be done with any object you have lying around or if you know you are going into a stressful situation, take one of your favorite small objects and put it in your pocket or purse so you can do this calming exercise on the go.
6. Take a short walk
Concentrate on your steps — it may be helpful to even count them. Notice the rhythm of your footsteps and how it feels to put your foot on the ground and then lift it again. What sounds do you hear – birds chirping, leaves crunching as you walk. How does the air feel on your skin?
7. Sit with your pet
If you’re at home and have a pet, spend a few moments just sitting with them. If they’re of the furry variety, pet them, focusing on how their fur feels. Focus on their markings or unique characteristics. If you have a smaller pet you can hold, concentrate on how they feel in your hand.
Not at home? Think of your favorite things about your pet or how they would comfort you if they were there.
8. Use math and numbers
Even if you aren’t a math person, numbers can help center you.
• do times table in your head
• count backward from 100
• choose a number and think of ways you could get to that number using addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. (7+5=12, 30-18=12, 4×3=12)
• Count backwards by 7, starting at 100. It isn’t that easy and needs you to concentrate. This one can also be helpful to do when you are finding it hard to sleep.
Hopefully, these are helpful. Let me know if you try any of these or any other Grounding strategies that you have used that have been beneficial!