What is Grounding?
In psychology, the term quite literally means “grounding yourself” in the here and now. Grounding techniques assist you with staying present, so that your mind doesn’t become consumed by overwhelming thoughts. Often times, we worry about the future or are preoccupied with the past. These tactics can be helpful when it comes to getting out of your own head.
Experts in the field use grounding techniques as a way to cope with flashbacks and PTSD. Grounding is also a great tool for managing anxiety, stress, and difficult emotions. There are many tactics you can try, but the goal is to regain a sense of clarity and calm.
How Can Grounding Techniques Reduce Anxiety?
In moments of high stress and panic, your brain sends out a “fight or flight” signal. This reaction traces all the way back to our ancestors and occurs due to the release of stress hormones. Basically, your body is preparing to either stand your ground or flee the stressful situation. You will start to experience symptoms that keep you alert like a racing heart, sweating, and shaking.
This instinct is crucial during dangerous situations. However, when you have a panic attack, your body will give you a “fight or flight” signal without warning. You’ll feel distressed even if there isn’t any real danger present.
The thing is, panic attacks leave you feeling drained for hours on end. Grounding can help keep anxiety under control and connect you with the present moment. It also gives you the tools you need to prevent a full blown panic attack.
Helpful Tips and Resources
When it comes to grounding, the most crucial thing to remember is that it is such an individual experience. We’re all unique, so different techniques work best for everyone. For example, maybe you find mindfulness most helpful for anxiety and stress relief. Looking up guided meditations or doing yoga would be a fitting grounding technique. Try out a few and see which one works best for you!
Also, don’t worry if grounding techniques don’t work instantly. These things take time and you have to find calming strategies that best fit your specific needs. Just keep trying and don’t feel discouraged! You’ve got this! 💛
For more info about grounding, here are some helpful resources:
8 Calming Grounding Techniques
There are a lot of grounding techniques created for combatting anxiety. They range from self-soothing techniques to mindfulness, proper breathing, physical and mental tactics, and so many more. You can also try relaxation through the five senses. The key is to test out which ones are most effective for you. These are some of the most well known techniques to calm your body and mind!
When you talk about grounding techniques, the 5,4,3,2,1 method is most common. You’ve probably heard of this tactic before!
Take a moment and look at your surroundings. The first thing you should do is name five things you can see around you. Then, name four things you can feel. Make sure you’re taking slow, deep breaths in-between. Continue noticing your breath as time goes on.
Now, name three things you can hear and two things you can smell. To finish the exercise, give yourself a compliment or recite one positive affirmation!
I’ve actually covered the 5,4,3,2,1 method before in my 78 Simple Ways to Relax + Slow Down Right Now post! You’ll find other helpful ways to relax after a long day in that post!
2. Grounding Object
A grounding object is a comfort item you can keep or easily take with you on the go. The item should be meaningful and remind you of happy things and memories. Good examples are small objects like marbles, a healing crystal, a scarf, or a necklace from your loved one.
When you’re feeling anxious, hold the item in your hands and notice its texture. Then, start asking yourself a few questions. What does it feel like? Who gave you the item? Why is it important to you? Keeping a sentimental item brings you comfort and also helps you feel better through moments of anxiety.
My grounding object is a ring that my grandma gave me for Christmas. When I’m overwhelmed at work, I like to wear it or hold on to the ring because it reminds me of my Nonna!
Breathing techniques are a common strategy for fighting anxiety. In fact, one of the first techniques my counselor taught me during therapy was a breathing exercise. When your breath is shallow and you’re not breathing properly, this often times makes anxiety worse. The goal here is to really slow your breathing down so that your physical symptoms start to go away.
For the 4-7-8 method, first sit in a comfy position and relax your muscles. Take a big deep breath in through your nose for four seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Next take an even bigger breath out for eight seconds. As you’re breathing out, part your lips and make a “woosh sound.”
If you want a visual guide for the technique, I recommend watching this video! I love that the background sound is waves crashing against the shore. 🌊
This is an another pretty popular grounding technique. It’s also quite an easy and straight forward tactic! All you need is a chair. (You can also use a stool or do this from the comfort of your sofa). Sit down on the chair and make sure your feet reach the floor. Grip your hands tightly on the chair. Also, keep your feet at an equal distance apart.
Take deep breaths — in and out, in and out. Do this until your heart rate slows down and you feel relaxed. The idea is to only focus on what the chair feels like and this will distract you from stressors.
Truthfully, this exercise doesn’t work as great for me. Because of my health anxiety, I start thinking too much about how my body feels on the chair. I tend to feel more anxious afterwards. However, Alejandro tried the exercise too and it completely relaxed him. A perfect example that different things work for different people!
Another way to simplify grounding is to focus on your five senses. This method gives you the ability to feel grounded in a more physical way.
Pay attention to what is going on around you right now. What can you see? Feel? Taste? Smell? Hear? Being aware of your surroundings will literally “ground you” in the present moment. Here are just a few ideas to help you through the process:
- Make a calming playlist.
- Sing your favorite song.
- Listen to rain falling outside.
- Play an instrument.
- Listen to ASMR videos.
- Paint a picture of a sunset.
- Go on a scenic hike or walk.
- Lay on the grass and watch the clouds go by.
- Visit a beautiful garden.
- Read a book you can’t put down.
- Rinse your hands in cold water.
- Play with a fidget spinner.
- Take a bubble bath.
- Wear a comfy sweater.
- Give yourself a foot massage.
- Snuggle up in bed with a blanket
- Bake a sweet treat.
- Light a soothing candle.
- Visit a flower shop and smell a bouquet of flowers.
- Try aromatherapy.
- Spray your favorite perfume.
- Eat dinner without watching TV or internet.
- Chew on a piece of sour candy.
- Try a new dish and really take in the flavor profile.
- Enjoy a cup of tea.
There are so many other grounding techniques you can try via the senses. Just remember that you want to focus your energy only on what you’re doing at the moment.
If you notice that your mind starts to drift, bring your thoughts back to the present. For example, let’s say you’re cloud watching in your backyard. Reflect on the individual shape of each cloud, how the grass feels against your skin, and the beauty of the sky. ☁️
7. Distract Yourself
Another way to truly stay in the present is through mental grounding techniques. You can do this by distracting yourself, whether it’s through a simple game or counting backwards from 100. When your mind is racing, you need to find healthy ways to shift your thoughts. Playing games with yourself helps you to refocus your mind on what’s going on in the here and now.
- Download brain training app like Lumosity
- Play a fun category game
- Look up “this or that” questions. (Pinterest has so many cute options!)
- Challenge a friend to a lyric association game
- Count sheep before bed
- Take a silly online quiz
- Make a list of things in your journal
- Count backwards from 1,000
- Play solitaire
If you still need more inspo, here are 11 games for reducing anxiety and stress! 🎮
Finally, one of the best ways to remain present is by practicing mindfulness. This teaching is all about taking in the moment fully and being truly aware of yourself. This includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and what’s happening around you.
Meditation and mindfulness tend to go hand in hand. However, mindfulness is more like a subsection of meditation. With mindfulness, the purpose is to stay fully engaged with what you’re doing (even if you’re simply folding laundry!) Meditation, on the other hand, is a formal practice where you’re in a seated position and focusing on your internal world.
Both practices are crucial to know when it comes to remaining present.
I’d recommend downloading mindfulness apps as a starting place:
Mindful is another good resource to learn more — their site offers informative and free articles!
Youtube also offers quite a few guided meditation videos. I found this one super calming:
Lastly, feel free to check out my full guide on how to practice mindfulness. In the post, I go more in depth about the topic. Also, I give a few daily exercises that will assist you in staying present! 🌺
I hope that you enjoyed this post, everyone! Have a wonderful rest of your day! x
Have you ever heard of grounding techniques before? Also, what helps you stay calm during stressful moments?