Grounding techniques are small tricks that help bring us into the present moment. When we feel anxious or overwhelmed by negative emotions, grounding techniques can be used as coping mechanisms. They help guide our minds away from distressing thoughts or memories and situate us in the here and now. In this way, grounding techniques are a way to combat feelings of panic through mindfulness.
Groundings techniques have traditionally been used by those who suffer from extreme anxiety or PTSD, but they are helpful for just about anyone. You can use them anywhere and at any time. Here are a few common grounding techniques to get you started.
If you are swept up in a moment of anxiety, speaking out loud is affirming and encouraging. Brief statements like, “I can sit through this,” or “This feeling will pass” are helpful. If you like, find a mantra that is meaningful to you and say it out loud over and over. As you recite it, really listen to the sounds and annunciate each syllable. For more extreme bouts of panic, some people use “safety statements” to remind them of who and where they are. The following is an example.
My name is _______. I am ______ years old and I live in _______. The date is ______and it is the year _______. I am safe right now.
Feel free to add more to this statement. What room are you in? What are you doing? Who is with you?
Handle a Worry Object
Worry objects are exactly what they sound like: small tokens that you can touch and feel during moments of stress. Smooth rocks, silly putty, or soft pieces of cloth are all excellent. Try something small that you can fit in your pocket so you can access it at any time. If you are experiencing anxiety but don’t have a worry object, simply focus on the objects around you. Notice the table in front of you or the chair you are sitting on. Ask yourself how they feel and what they look like. Do this for at least five different objects until the panic subsides.
The 54321 Game
This quick and easy game is a sensory awareness exercise. It works like this:
Name 5 things you can see right now (“A spot on the wall” or “The clouds outside.”)
Name 4 things you can feel (“My feet in my socks” or “The breeze on my face.”)
Name 3 things you can hear. (“Traffic outside” or “The coffee maker.”)
Name 2 things you can smell (“My lotion” or “The flowers on the table.” If you aren’t in a stimulating environment, feel free to move to where you can smell something or simply think of 2 smells you enjoy)
Name 1 good thing about yourself
As you concentrate and try to find answers for each of the prompts, you’ll be distracted from distressing feelings and drawn into the space around you.
Breathing and Meditation
Sometimes when we are panicked, our breath becomes shallow and quick. This can cause even more distress and cause your emotions to spiral more. Guided meditation and slow breathing is a way to level our breathing and get our bodies back to a place of stability. Begin by sitting comfortably and taking slow breaths in and out. Don't worry about doing it “right” or getting distracted. If you feel your mind starting to wander to a negative place, just draw your attention back to your breath. If you’re new to meditation, Mind Fuel Daily has lots of great tips!
Take your mind off upsetting thoughts by putting focus on your body. Go for a quick walk or jump up and down. If you don’t have lots of space to move around or you can’t leave the space you’re in, try a few simple stretches. Pay attention to the physical sensations that you feel: notice whether you are hot or cold, listen to your breathing, and feel the solidness of the ground beneath your feet. If you decide to get up and go for a walk, count your steps or say “Left” and “Right” out loud for each step. Notice your arms swinging at your side.
One of the best part about grounding techniques is that no one necessarily has to know what you are doing or that you are experiencing panic (But keep in mind that it’s okay if they do! Lots people have been where you are). And don’t feel like you have to wait until you are feeling overwhelmed to try these exercises! Practicing these techniques may help you feel better prepared when do you find yourself feeling upset and needing to reorient yourself.
At the end of the day, know that you have what it takes to get yourself through a rough moment. You are your own best ally, coach, and mentor!