Anxiety is a common experience in everyone’s life. Anxiety normally occurs due to a fear or worry of a possible event. A lot of things may make us feel extremely tense and anxious such as problems at work, taking a test, or making an important decision. Whenever we get anxious, we tend to experience certain fear-inducing thoughts (like getting hurt, embarrassing yourself), emotions (like worry, irritation), and bodily experiences (like shortness of breath, a racing heart, sweaty palms) which are quite uncomfortable. For many of us, it is easy to calm ourselves in the face of such a situation. For some of us however, it’s not that easy.
Grounding is a psychological therapeutic technique that helps keep one in the present. It brings one’s focus to the here and now. These techniques help manage overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety by calming your mind and removing cluttered thoughts. They help regain mental focus from an intensely emotional state. Different strategies work for different people, and there is no “wrong” way to ground yourself. The main aim is to keep your mind and body connected and working together.
Some useful grounding techniques are as follows:
1. Breathe slowly and steadily from your core. Imagine letting fear and worry go, evaporating along with each breath.
2. Trace your hands against the physical outline of your body. Experience your own presence in the world.
3. List 5 really positive things in your life. Put the list where you’ll see it and remember that there’s more to the world than just panic and fear.
4. The “5-4-3-2-1” game: Name 5 things you can see in the room you’re in, 4 things you can feel right now (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”), 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “TV”), 2 things you can smell right now or like the smell of and 1 good thing about yourself.
5. Remind yourself of who you are now. Say your name. Say your age now. Say where you are now. Say what you have done today. Say what you will do next. For example: “My name is ________, and I am 54 years old. I am in my living room, in my home, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in India. I woke up early today. I had a shower and fed my dog. I just finished my coffee and toast. Soon I am going to walk to the bus stop and go to work. I am going to walk down ______ street and then turn left at the junction. Then I am going to….”
Grounding exercises are helpful for many situations where you find yourself becoming overwhelmed or distracted by troublesome memories, thoughts or feelings. They can be used in a wide variety of situations such as: feeling overcome by strong emotions like anxiety or anger; finding yourself bothered by repetitive stressful thoughts; experiencing a strong painful memory or a flashback of some traumatic event; or waking up from a nightmare with a pounding heart.
Grounding exercises can be used to help everyday stress and anxiety issues as well as severe anxiety-related disorders by helping bring you back down to earth, to the present.