If you are someone who struggles with anxiety, negative thoughts or stress, you may already be aware of the physical symptoms that can arise during those times of high stress and anxiety. During these moments you may notice your heart racing, your breath becoming more shallow, your hands shaking, and light-headiness. All in all, you may feel a major disconnection between your brain and body. You may already have great coping mechanisms for these anxious feelings. However, there may be times when you are not able to access your go-to ways to cope. This may be when you are at work, school, or other events. In that case, the list of Grounding Exercises below may be the way to help bring you back into self-regulated mode.
What is Grounding?
Before going into the specific exercises let us briefly explain what exactly Grounding is. Grounding is essentially just bringing yourself and awareness back into your body and into the present moment (or what is currently happening). Grounding Exercises can either involve physical or mental processes that can guide your mind away from any anxious feelings that arise. It is also important to keep in mind that Grounding is a continued practice. Try to be gentle with yourself as you try these. It may take some time and practice, but with patience these exercises will help!
Examine the room and name five things you can See, Hear, Touch, Smell, and Taste in the present moment.
Try out Box Breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds and repeat. This should help you settle your breath and mind.
Do a quick body scan. Notice if you are holding any tension in your face, shoulders or hands for example and try to release some of that tension. Example: if you notice your hands are clenched into a ball, unclench them to relieve some of that tension. Or if you notice your jaw is clenched or teeth are grinding, unclench and open your jaw and release any facial tension present.
Get up and do a quick stretch. Try to get yourself back in your body by focusing on stretching your arms and legs.
Use Finger Breathing. Start with one hand, take your thumb and move it up your index finger. While moving up your index finger breathe in. Then on the exhale, move your thumb gently back down your index finger. Continue this cycle of breathing and touching with each finger.
Animal Alphabet. Start with the letter A and begin to list animals whose names start with the letter A. Continue this for the rest of the letters in the alphabet. (This one may seem a bit silly but will help distract your brain from any unwanted thoughts or feelings!)
If you want to get mathematical. Try starting at 100 and in your head begin to subtract by 13 until you reach zero.
Use temperature. Try running your hands under cold water. Or if you have access to ice, try holding the ice cube in your hand or in your mouth. Notice the coldness and sensation of the ice in your hand or mouth.
Keep a sour or bitter candy on your desk. When you start to feel yourself becoming anxious or distressed eat a piece of sour candy. You will notice that your awareness will almost instantly shift to the sourness and bitterness of the candy in your mouth.
Try jotting down a list of your favorite things (activities, people, animals, etc.) This will help refocus your thoughts on to things and people that you feel grounded around.
When you're in the middle of feeling a lot of anxiety, it an be really overwhelming. Our hope is that while you are practicing or trying out new grounding skills, you are also kind to yourself. It gets easier over time, especially when you recognize your own warning signs of anxiety that signal when to use your skills. Hopefully, you find some of these exercises on the list to be accessible and of great use to you! Another way to get even better at using these skills is through therapy.
At Cultured Space, our therapists are trained to help you navigate the distress in ways that feel right for you. You can schedule a consultation today to learn more about how we can best support your healing journey.