5 quick ways to ground yourself when anxiety hits

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We all know how terrible anxiety can feel. From the nauseous feeling before you give a presentation, to the panicky sensation when you have to try something new, to the overwhelming anxiety that incapacitates you.

Grounding is a simple but effective therapeutic technique that can help you when strong anxiety hits. You can use grounding when you feel like the anxiety is taking over, when you feel numb, like you are in a dream, lost in past events, or having an out-of-body or out-of-reality experience.

Grounding helps to bring a person back to the here and now, to realise that they are safe and in control of their reality and emotions. It helps a person to refocus and find calmness and strength in the present moment when they are highly anxious and emotional.

There are many different grounding techniques for anxiety and the following 5 ways are some of my favourites:

Grounding techniques for anxiety

The 54321 technique.

Name 5 things you can see in the room with you (e.g. chair, painting)

Name 4 things you can feel (e.g. my feet on the floor, cool air on my skin)

Name 3 things you can hear right now (e.g. people talking outside)

Name 2 things you can smell right now (e.g. toast, perfume)

Name 1 good thing about yourself (e.g. I am strong)

Touch and describe an object

Find an object around you e.g. cushion, handbag, water bottle.

Try to describe it as if you are explaining it to someone who has never seen it before. e.g.

“This is a cushion, it is a square shape with a red and purple pattern of stripes…it feels soft with some hard ridges around the corners”

Repeat until you feel calm.

Memory game

When you are feeling anxious, you need to try to reorient yourself to the present moment, and using declarative memory can help with this. e.g.

Name as many types of dog breeds you can.

How many cities have you visited around the world.
Repeat the alphabet backwards.

Mantra

When you are not in an anxious state, it can be helpful to develop a list of personal mantras or affirmations that help you when you become panicked or disoriented. Write them down somewhere and keep them in your handbag. e.g.

I am safe, I am here in the present moment

This feeling will pass, nothing bad is happening right now
I can handle these emotions, I am strong

Square Breathing

Getting your breathing under control can be hugely effective in reducing anxiety, but most people either breathe too fast or hold their breath when they are trying to calm down. Square breathing is a simple way to refocus your attention to your breath and the present moment.

With your index finger, slowly trace the shape of a square in front of you, keeping your eyes on that finger.

With one side, breathe in for 3 seconds…

With the next side, hold your breathe for 1 second…

With the third side, breathe out for 3 seconds…

With the final side, hold for 1 second…

To download these tips in a pdf format, click below!

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Comments

  1. I use the 5 senses and touch and label with my clients with panic attacks, anxiety and trauma as grounding techniques. They do find it quite helpful. I like the square breathing you’ve described…hadn’t come across that before.

    Great to see Confident Life up and running! Go you! 🙂

  2. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never really suffered anxiety (except for the usual before public speaking or an interview type stuff) … depression though that’s another story. My sis however does have troubles with anxiety so I will tell her to check this post out!

    1. jessmccallum

      I hope your sister benefits! Grounding can be useful with depression as well, when some people feel zoned out or disconnected from their family/surroundings/self.

  3. Well I must confess… I skimmed this yesterday and was feeling pretty smug. I seem to thrive on chaos and use anxiety to my advantage. BUT and it is a big one. It would seem that is only the case when I’m in some sort of control of the situation. Take this morning’s email letting us know we need to vacate so the owner can move in. Anxiety levels through the roof and I really needed to revisit this post and try and gain some perspective and composure.

    1. jessmccallum

      Yes I am the same, unexpected change is really not my area of comfort. Such bad news to start 2016, how frustrating for the family! Here for help of any kind if you need it x

  4. I’m going to try the 54321 technique next time anxiety gets the upper hand over me. I live in a constant state of stress most of the time and I would like to get that aspect of my life under more control. This is a great list that I’m going to share – thanks for sharing and for linking up to #imustconfess

    1. Jess

      Thanks for sharing Kirsty! It is so important to have a collection of tools to use when you are stressed or anxious. We can’t always avoid life stressors, but we can have our arsenal of strategies to cope 🙂

  5. I think the first one would make me more panicky because I’m not great with numbers! Breathing definitely helps and having a mantra. Even reminding yourself that the feeling always passes. Great tips.

    1. Jess

      Oh yes, telling yourself that every feeling passes eventually can be very helpful, thanks!

    1. Jess

      We all need a little reminder that there are ways to get on top of anxiety!

  6. Great tips and I use the first one a bit, along with my version of breathing in…holding and out again. Thank your for sharing!

  7. I get terrible anxiety attacks and I find that I need to concentrate on my breathing. Hadn’t heard of the 54321 technique. I’ll try that one next time.

    1. Jess

      Sorry to hear about your panic, they are horrid to have. Yes, grounding can be very effective for panic.

  8. Tried this yesterday and it worked, just tried it again, not sure if it has worked yet, givingbit a few minutes to sink in, thank you so much for the tips!

  9. Linda

    I do suffer from anxiety attacks and the 54321 seems to work the best for me.

  10. Brittany

    Trying to remember and implement techniques during a panic attack is very difficult. But I have been told that medication will help, but i have been trying to stay away from that route. I had a bad anxiety attack today and used these techniques and I felt a sense of relief. Finally. I will use these techniques in the future! Thank you for your help. You have brought fresh air into my life.

    1. Jess

      You are right Brittany, trying to remember and practice techniques during a panic attack is very challenging! Having a list of them somewhere, and practicing them when you are calm may help. I am so glad that these helped you!

  11. Pingback: How to overcome Anxiety and gain confidence as a business owner  - Confident Life

  12. roxie

    Just realized depression and anxiety has been an issue I’ve ignored. Learning new ways to deal within myself

  13. Jane

    Awesome! Finally. Thanks goodness, these tips are really helpful!
    I was struggling with heightened A for quite some time, and it’s really hard. the 1st and 2nd one is interesting. I really appreciate this post, I shared it for others as well. my gratitude again!

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