Last Updated on November 9, 2021
Grounding techniques are used to bring ourselves into a more stable, calm and secure state of mind.
Throughout the last several weeks many of us have experienced moments of great anxiety, and have had our confidence in social structures shaken. While many of use cope well generally, we have also had moments of uncertainty.
These are grounding techniques are simple tools that we can use to bring ourselves back into the present, to turn off our racing minds and settle our equilibrium. They make us feel grounded and secure. Of course there are many more ways to calm and to ground than the few I will describe here.
The general idea is to bring our awareness back to our bodies and to experience what is happening physically and to get us out of our spiraling or racing minds.
The science behind grounding
Simply put, grounding works by turning off the emotional response that develops around stressful thoughts.
When our mind focuses on something stressful a portion of the brain, known as the amygdala, becomes more active. The amygdala is a part of the limbic system and helps us manage during emergencies. Remember the thing that activated the amygdala was a stressful thought, not an actual emergency.
Once activated the amygdala releases hormones that increase muscle tension, accelerate our heartbeat and respiration rates. These physical changes then feedback to the amygdala which, can ramp up the stimulation even more sending us into a panic attack. Even if it doesn’t got that far it leaves us feeling emotional drained.
Grounding techniques can stop the process and shut the amygdala down by focusing our minds and turning off the thoughts that started the whole process.
Grounding in a Chair
Sit down in a comfortable chair. Put your feet firmly on the ground, so that they feel stable. Slide your back into he chair and begin to focus on your breathing. Allow your breath to come in and out slowly. Keep the breathing calm and even, counting to three for the inbreathe and four for the out breath.
Become aware of how your body is contacting the chair. Feel your back against the chair. Feel the sensation of your hands in your lap, your arms on the rests, and your feet on the floor. Become aware of all the sensations in your body.
Begin to feel heaviness in the body. Start in the head and work your way slowly down the body ending in the feet. Check out each area you pass through for a few breaths as you move downwards. Finish by pressing your feet firmly into the ground and gently opening your eyes.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This technique make use of your five senses. Again begin by finding a comfortable seated position. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breath in to a count of three and out to a count of four several times.
Now open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings.
Name 5 things you can see. Look around the room, or out of the window, explore the corners.
Name 4 things you can touch and feel. Can you feel your shirt, the weight of your body or touch things like your hair or you pants.
Name 3 things you can hear. Listen carefully. The world of full of noise that we simply block out.
Name 2 things you can smell. Hopefully you have some lovely essential oils around for this portion of the exercise!
Name 1 thing you can taste. You can always plan for this portion and have something around that you like to taste. Either a salty treat or a lovely piece of high quality chocolate. Take your time to enjoy the flavor mindfully!
Finish with a few more deep breaths
Focus your mind on something you can hold
Many people like to hold something substantial and heavy for this technique. Something made of metal or stone functions well for this technique. If you enjoy having crystals or rocks around your home grab one of those.
This can also be done while sitting in a comfortable chair. Again begin with a few deep breaths. Now focus your attention on the chosen object. See if you can notice small things about the object that you haven’t noticed in the past. Look for ridges, or scratches. Notice its weight, is it light or heavy, is the color uniform?
Finish with a few more deep breaths.
Allow Your Thoughts Come and Go
During stressful times our thoughts become focused on worries and anxieties. These thoughts get caught in our brain and we go over them time and time again. Without noticing it we can spend whole chucks of time worried about things we can not control.
To break this cycle we can take a step back and watch the thoughts in our minds come and go. This is very much like a basic meditation technique. Begin by focusing on your breathing and get into a comfortable seated position.
Try to watch your thoughts as they arise but don’t connect to them. Allow them to pass through you mind like clouds passing over a field. This is not an easy technique! At first you will find yourself swept away in the thoughts. Every time you notice you’ve wandered off, come back to your breath and try watching the thoughts again.
Finish with a few more deep breaths.
To quickly get yourself out of anxiety spiral anywhere you might find yourself try some simple self distracting techniques. These can be done quickly at home, at work, in a back room, while pulled over on the side of the road.
There are many distractions choose from I’ll name just a few.
Try to memorize and recall all the objects that you see in a room. Take a picture with your mind, close your eyes and see how many details you can recall.
Write a letter to a good friend or family member. This is a dying art!
Pick a color. Noe see how many things your can find that are shades of that color.
Count backwards by 7, starting at a random number like 745. This distraction forces your mind to focus on things other than those that are causing you stress.