Your heart races. You’re breathing so hard you feel like you’re choking. Your body starts to tremble, and all the while, panic consumes your mind creating an uncontrollable replay of intrusive thoughts. This is what anxiety feels like. It’s not fun, and one symptom quickly transforms into an all-consuming experience. But thankfully, there are grounding techniques for anxiety that can ground you in the here and now. Let’s dive in.
What Are ‘Grounding Techniques’?
6 Mental Grounding Techniques for Anxiety
Visualization is a powerful technique, especially when you visualize somewhere or someone you love. To start, choose a place that provides security and comfort. For example, visualize yourself floating in water with no one in sight. Then, connect your senses and make your visualization as real as possible. Visualize feeling the water, the sound of the waves, the smell of salt water, and see the clouds above you. And when you’re visualizing someone you love, imagine that person is with you. Imagine their voice, hug, and support.
2. Play 5-4-3-2-1
One of the most popular and widely used grounding techniques for anxiety is the 5-4-3-2-1 game. In this game, connect every sense to your physical surrounding. For example,
- Name five things you can see
- Four things you can feel
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- And one thing you can taste
When you identify your physical world through your senses, you lower your heart rate, breathe deeper and feel calmer.
3. Focus on an object
For this technique, you can either carry an object or focus on an object in your environment. For example, if you feel anxious while driving, focus on the car ahead. Begin reciting their license plate number forwards and backward, notice the car’s color and the sound their engine makes. And if you experience anxiety often, carry an object to ground you. Popular objects include crystals, stress balls, gel bead fidget squares, or aromatherapy putty.
4. Practice self-compassion
When we’re anxious or upset, we become angry that we’re replaying the same thoughts or memories, triggering anxiety in the first place. But this criticism only makes your anxiety worse. Instead, speak to yourself kindly. For example, say to yourself…
- It’s okay. I’ve got this
- This is my anxiety, but it’s temporary, and soon, I will feel better
- You’re doing your best
- You are strong, and you will get through this
Repeating these statements deactivates your stress response and reminds your brain that you’re safe and in control.
5. Rain technique
The rain technique is a go-to for mindfulness. It helps you meet your anxiety with kindness instead of avoiding it. Here’s how;
- R = Recognize. Recognize the thoughts and feelings bringing you stress without judgment. For example, “I’m worried I won’t pass this exam”.
- A = Acknowledge. Next, acknowledge your anxiety. For example, “Yes, I’m anxious about my exam, but the outcome doesn’t define who I am”.
- I = Investigate. Now, investigate the cause. Ask yourself: What triggered this anxiety? What can I do to feel better?
- N = Non-identification. Lastly, separate yourself from your thoughts by remembering they do not define you. See them as passing clouds and tell yourself, “I love you”.
6. Recite a calming phrase
Have you memorized a quote from a book? Or a chorus to a favorite song? Or what about a poem or even a phone number? Whatever it is, repeat it slowly and focus on your throat, mouth, and sound as you speak. Then, take it a step further and imagine the words are filling a blank screen right in front of you.
6 Physical Grounding Techniques for Anxiety
1. Breathe deeply
A popular go-to is breathing. Why? Well, when we’re anxious, our breathing matches our panic. It becomes rapid and shallow. But deepening and lengthening your inhale and exhale activates your parasympathetic nervous system, and your breathing begins to calm you…almost instantly. Try these beginner breathing exercises for anxiety and mindfully breathe your stress out.
2. Clench your fists
Focus all your pent-up energy on your fists. Squeeze them tight, hold onto them as long as you need, and then release them. Keep repeating this sequence a few times. Each time you release, notice how your body feels. Do you feel less stressed? How does the blood feel going back into your fingers? Where else in your body do you feel relief?
3. Feel your body
While you’re sitting, standing, or lying down, bring your attention to your body. From your head to your toes, observe how each part feels. For example, notice…
- The weight of your body lying down or sitting
- Your heartbeat, whether it’s fast or slow
- Your breath, whether it’s rapid or deep
- Your clothing and its texture
- Whether you feel hungry or full
Not only does paying attention to your body ground you, but it also strengthens the mind-body connection and provides important information about its needs.
4. Put your hands in water
Simply place your hands in water and bring your attention to what is happening. How does the temperature feel? Is it cold or warm? Notice the water sliding on your hands, wrists, and fingers. Then, notice how it looks and how it sounds. You can also apply this to holding a piece of ice. When you do, observe the sensations you feel as it slowly melts in your hands.
5. Rub your palms together
Sounds a bit silly, but it works! It channels your energy, similar to clenching your fists. To start, place your palms together and rub them as fast as possible, paying attention to the heat and friction you’re creating. Afterward, close your eyes and notice the energy steaming off your hands.
6. Move your body
Instead of sitting with your anxiety, move it out of you. You can do this by…
- Jumping up and down
- Completing a yoga workout
- Or moving in any manner that feels right for you
As you move, pay attention to how you feel. For example, focus on the weight of your arms swinging through the air, the release you feel when you stretch, or your legs hitting the ground.
There you have it! Mental and physical grounding techniques for anxiety that work. Whether you feel your anxiety coming on or you’re having an attack, use a few of these tools to help you. However, you may need to experiment to find what works for you the best. Yet the more you try, chances are you’ll find the one that helps you recenter, find inner peace, and calmness.
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