Grounding is a way to calm anxiety or to get back into your body and the present moment when feeling overwhelmed or dissociated. Grounding is different from soothing or relaxing because the goal is to get back to a physical and emotional state of alert presence, rather than feeling relaxed or mellow.
There are many different ways to ground yourself, but they all have one goal in common: to bring your attention back to the here and now so that you can feel more in control of your body, thoughts, and emotions.
How Does Grounding Work?
When we are feeling anxious or triggered, our thoughts are usually focused on something that has happened in the past or on something that we are worried might happen in the future. Or we may be more focused on how bad we feel or how our hearts are racing.
Often our anxious thoughts often make our bodies respond with increased heart rates or shallow breathing, causing us to in turn feel even more anxious. This can make us feel like we are out of control and can lead to panic attacks or dissociation.
How Do I Ground When I’m Anxious or Triggered?
Grounding techniques help to break this cycle of thinking by bringing our focus back to the present moment. When our focus is on the here and now, we give our bodies and brains a chance to take an “off ramp” in this cycle.
With practice, grounding can be a great way to calm anxiety and ease times of being triggered and build your confidence that you can handle life’s ups and downs.
There are many different ways that you can ground yourself. Some people prefer to use physical techniques, while others find that mental techniques work better for them. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and to practice it regularly so that you can use it when you are feeling anxious or triggered.
Here are some examples of grounding techniques:
- Focus on the feeling of your feet on the ground. Press your feet gently but firmly into the ground. If you can, use your hands to gently push your feet down into the ground, then move to your knees and legs.
- Write down everything that you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel in the present moment. Get very detailed.
- Count how many red objects you can see. Then blue, yellow, green, etc.
- Smell something strong. Peppermint oil, perfume, even something less pleasant like your gym shoes – the goal isn’t enjoyment, it is to get you back into the present moment.
- Name an animal starting with every letter in the alphabet. Then make it harder and do dog breeds or fiction book titles. If you need to skip one, no problem.
- Wiggle your entire body, or wiggle one section of your body at a time.
One or two of these things on this list might sound ridiculous to you and work well for another person. It’s not uncommon to have to try a few until you find ones that work for you.
Practice regularly so that you can use it when you need it most. Keep a list of what works for you on your phone or in your wallet so you can reference it when needed.
Another thing to remember is that you should continue grounding past the point of feeling better. I typically advise people to keep grounding until you feel “okay-ish”, and then do it for another two to three minutes.
Therapy is a great place to both learn, practice, and incorporate grounding in your life. If you’d like to learn more about how therapy works with me, please free to learn more here.