4 Simple Grounding Techniques
Why Grounding Works To Calm You Down
Before I start describing some grounding techniques let’s talk about why grounding works and the science behind it. When we start to think about something stressful, our amygdala, a section of the brain located in the temporal lobe, goes into action. The amygdala, simply put, is the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotional responses, especially fear. It is great for preparing for emergency events but sometimes it kicks in to action and detects a threat where there really isn’t any.
Here is a typical process; we have a negative thought about a situation (remember a thought doesn’t necessarily mean it is real), our amygdala says “trouble! trouble!” and initiates changes in our body such as increased muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and faster breathing. This then interprets these body changes as further evidence that something is actually wrong which of course further activates it and creates a vicious cycle where you become more and more anxious and physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
Thankfully, we can use grounding techniques to break out of this vicious cycle. By re-focusing on your body and what you’re physically feeling, you get out of your head and divert your mind away from anxious or stressful thoughts and into the moment.
7 Grounding Techniques
I am going to describe seven different grounding techniques. Practice them when you are slightly stressed or anxious so they will become familiar and then you will be able to launch into the technique that works best for you next time you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or stuck in an anxiety attack.
1.The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
Name out loud:
5 – things you can see (you can look within the room and out of the window)
4 – things you can feel (the silkiness of your skin, the texture of the material on your chair, what does your hair feel like? What is in front of you that you can touch? A table perhaps?)
3 – things you can hear (traffic noise or birds outside, when you are quiet and actually listening things in your room constantly make a noise but typically we don’t hear them).
2 – things you can smell (hopefully nothing awful!)
1 – thing you can taste (it might be a good idea to keep a piece of chocolate handy in case you are doing this grounding exercise! You can always leave your chair for this one and when you taste whatever it is that you have chosen, take a small bite and let it swill around your mouth for a couple of seconds, really savoring the flavor).
Take a deep breath to end.
2.Hold Something and Really Focus On It
Hold an object in your hand and really bring your full focus to it. If I was looking at one of my gems I would see the patterns that run through it, see the color variances. Some have veins of different colors going through the or sparkly bits. Look at where shadows may fall on parts of it or maybe there are shapes that form within the object. Feel how heavy or light it is in your hand and what the surface texture feels like under your fingers.
This can be done with any object you have lying around or if you know you are going into a stressful situation, take one of your favorite small objects and put it in your pocket or purse so you can do this calming exercise on the go.
3. Countbackwards from 100
Find a quiet space and count backwards from 100 in either 7s or 3s this is to help give you a positive distraction to focus on.
4. Get Your Adrenaline-Fueled Energy Out
Sometimes my clients tell me that they just can’t concentrate enough to do any of these grounding exercises because their body seems too pumped full of adrenaline fueled energy. If this is happening to you, it is good to kick-start the calming down process by doing something physical first to get that pent-up energy out and then come back to your favorite grounding techniques.
Run on the treadmill/elliptical if you have one at home run up and down the stairs. Take a brisk walk or run outside, cleaning up the kitchen, house or backyard channels that extra energy into something useful. Dance around the house while listening to loud music
When you are physically spent, you can return to trying these techniques to calm down your mind.