All About Grounding: 5 Grounding Techniques For Anxiety
On Mondays we write about health and wellbeing here at ULU. So, this Monday, ULU SEO content manager, Vicky is taking the reins again to talk about grounding techniques for anxiety. If you suffer from any kind of anxiety, or just want some advice on how to be more connected and present during times of stress, then this blog is for you! Read on to learn 5 grounding techniques for anxiety.
Hi, I’m Vicky, SEO content manager at ULU and long-term sufferer of a few different anxiety and panic disorders. As a perpetually anxious person, I’ve tried everything under the sun to help with stress, overwhelm and panic. (I even recently wrote a blog for ULU about my anxiety journey.) In addition to anxiety, I also have episodes of dissociation where my brain disconnects from reality and everything feels a bit ‘spacey’ – kind of like feeling drunk but without any alcohol! As a result, I use grounding to help my brain stay focused, connected and to feel more present. So, I’d love to share with you some of the grounding exercises and techniques that I find most useful!
What is grounding?
I first learnt about grounding during counselling. Grounding is sometimes also called ‘centring.’ It’s a mental activity or exercise that helps your brain to, quite literally, stay grounded and present. It’s used by people with anxiety or panic disorders, PTSD, sufferers of depression and it’s about staying connected to yourself, your surroundings and the present moment.
There are a variety of different grounding exercises, and the most important thing is to find something that works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to do grounding! It’s a very personal experience.
So, here are some of the most common grounding techniques for anxiety, panic and overall mental health improvement!
1. Check in with yourself
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from therapy is the importance of checking in with yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, or anxious, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint a reason for this. If you’re particularly busy, it can also sometimes be difficult to detect those little ‘warning signs’ that mean you’re becoming overloaded.
So, if you start to feel like something is a little bit ‘off’ or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, check in with yourself and ask yourself ‘How am I feeling?’ ‘Is there any particular reason I’m feeling like this?’ ‘What was happening just before I started to feel anxious or stressed?’ ‘Do I need anything right now?’
Checking in with yourself is almost having a little conversation with your brain to make sure it doesn’t have any unmet needs. Just make sure to be honest with yourself – if you need a little break, a glass of water or even just a breath of fresh air, make sure to notice and prioritise that!
2. Reconnect your brain with your body
Your brain is essentially a supercomputer that sits in a little dark box inside your head. It relies on context cues and signals from your body to do its job. However, when we get stressed or anxious there’s often a disconnect that occurs between the brain and the body. As a result, it’s easy for your brain to spiral into a panic episode and it can be difficult to calm yourself down.
So, there are a variety of grounding techniques to reconnect your brain with your body. If you’re sitting down, wiggle your toes and really try to feel every moment. Are you wearing socks or shoes? If so, how does this feel against your feet. Take your shoes off and feel your feet against the floor. How does the soft carpet or the cold hardwood feel against your toes? Feel the chair against your body. Notice how you’re sitting and whether your arms are in contact with the chair or table.
Helping your brain to reconnect with reality and also your body can help to centre an unfocused brain.
3. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise
The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise is another way to connect your brain to your surroundings and help you to say present. It involves taking the time to notice details about your surroundings, and the way your body experiences them.
Follow the diagram below – and make sure to save somewhere you’ll remember where to find it the next time you’re feeling anxious!
4. The 4, 4, 4, 4, breathing technique
Breathing exercises are particularly useful grounding techniques for anxiety and panic. Not only do they help to stop your anxious thoughts from spiralling, they also deliver calming oxygen to your brain whilst also preventing hyperventilation.
This grounding exercise is simple: Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and then hold for another four counts. Then, carry on breathing in this way for as long as it takes to feel less overwhelmed. It can also be helpful to visualise a square whilst you do this like in the diagram shown below:
5. Allow yourself to truly feel – then let it go
When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed it can be natural to just want to push these feelings away and to simply distract yourself. However, whilst this may feel better in the short-term, it often means that negative feelings go unaddressed – which makes them more likely to resurface at another time.
So, another piece of great advice given to me by a therapist is to sit and accept the negative feelings for what they are. Allow yourself to truly feel everything that’s happening to you. Experience the negative feelings and negative thoughts as they are, without giving into the urge to push them away.
Then, when you feel like you’ve acknowledged the worry, stress or anxiety, you can let it go. Imagine yourself standing in a pool full of water. The negative thoughts and feelings are sort of like a beach ball, floating on the water. If you try to push them away forcefully, this will disturb all the water around you and cause a splash. So, accept that this negativity and worry may bump in to you from time to time, but that they will also gradually float away from you.
Try grounding techniques for yourself
So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, now you have 5 grounding techniques to try out!
- Check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing, if you need anything, or if you need to step away
- Reconnect your brain to your body by noticing bodily sensations and actions
- Try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise to reconnect to your surroundings and stay present
- Carry out the 4, 4, 4, 4, grounding technique for anxiety to regulate your breathing
- Visualise yourself standing in water, with negative feelings as a beach ball floating in the surface – allow them to bump into you, experience them for what they are, and then visualise them floating away
Anxiety and overwhelm can sometimes come on very quickly. So, make sure to bookmark this page somewhere you’ll be able to easily locate it the next time you need to stay grounded. – And remember to share with anyone else who might find this useful!
Because here at ULU, we love u – and we want to help U love U too!
To read more of Vicky’s content about all things mental health, why not check out her recent article: ‘Stop and Savour the Coffee – Britain and the Glorification of ‘Busy’