Anxiety Grounding Techniques to Use Anywhere
Dealing with anxiety can be exhausting work. Anxiety can make you feel like you’re always on edge, waiting for the shoe to drop, which can wreak havoc on you physically and emotionally. Managing anxiety can sometimes feel like a full-time job in itself.
We are fortunate to be living in a time where there are many treatment options available for mental health disorders, including anxiety. Two of the big ways to manage anxiety are psychotherapy and medication, but there are other treatment options out there and some people find relief from anxiety symptoms with lifestyle changes. Developing a mindfulness or meditation practice can be helpful to relieve worries and focus on the present moment, for example. One of the benefits of psychotherapy is that it teaches skills to use outside the therapy room, so when you’re struggling outside of your session you can feel empowered to deal with what’s happening. Therapy skills can be like tools in your mental health toolbox to pull out when you need them. Today, we’re talking about anxiety grounding techniques.
One of the common feelings associated with anxiety is a sense of being disconnected from the present moment. Some people feel worry for the future or regret over their past. Some people feel like they’re not connected to their body or that they’re having an out of body experience. Grounding techniques are extremely helpful to come out of that anxiousness and into the present moment.
Here are a few common anxiety grounding techniques to try the next time you feel overcome with anxiety. You don’t need any equipment to do these, just a little bit of time. You can always find a private space if you feel more comfortable grounding yourself privately, but many of them can be done in your head so you can practice them in public (like when you’re on the train, when you’re in line for something, or when you’re in a meeting).
Engage Your 5 Senses
This technique asks you to use each of your senses to bring you back to the present. When you’re finished with the exercise, your mind is often no longer focused on whatever was causing the anxiety in the first place. Here are the steps:
- Find five things you can see.
- Find four things you can feel.
- Listen for three things you can hear.
- Find two things you can smell.
- Notice one thing you can taste.
There are many types of breath work that can be helpful in moments of anxiety. Taking the time to focus on your breath can help you calm down mentally and physically. You’re disrupting the sense of panic you were feeling by focusing on taking calm, deep breaths. Box breathing is an example. Picture your breath like a box. Since all sides of a box are equal, you will breathe in and out for an equal length of time. For example:
- Breathe in for four counts.
- Hold for four counts.
- Breathe out for four counts.
- Hold for four counts.
Visualize a safe space
Where do you go when you need to feel comforted? Do you have a favorite room or place where you feel safe and relaxed? Imagine it in your mind’s eye vividly. Picture every detail. How warm or cold is it? Is there music playing? What’s surrounding you? How do you feel when you’re there? When you notice anxiety creeping up, visualize that safe space. Remember that you have created that sense of safety for yourself.
Another trick that can help is to count things you can see. Taking the time to focus on finding something can shift your attention away from what’s making you feel anxious. For example, count cars that pass you on your commute. Count flowers you see on a walk. Count artwork on the walls, plants you see, anything you can focus on.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
It might not always be possible to lay down and relax fully, but if you’re feeling anxiety coming on, try actively relaxing your muscles. Start at one end of your body and actively tighten and relax each muscle as you work your way to the other end. You can do this sitting or standing or whatever way feels best to you and is doable at the moment.
If you’re looking for more anxiety management techniques, counseling can be a great way to learn skills that will help you in your everyday life. Our clinicians can help you manage your anxiety in a way that works for you.
-Lindsay N Sanner, LSCSW, RPT