6 Helpful Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Wednesday June 26, 2024

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When your anxiety gets too high, everything feels like it’s spinning out of control. That’s a really scary experience. Prepare yourself for stressful situations by learning these grounding techniques for anxiety. They’ll calm your nervous system and give you a sense of control over your mental health again.

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What Are Grounding Techniques?

Grounding techniques engage your muscles or brain to distract your nervous system. Instead of telling yourself to calm down — which rarely works during an anxiety attack — these techniques keep your body busy so your nervous system realizes there isn’t a threat.

It’s crucial to try both physical and mental grounding techniques for anxiety as you explore what works best for your mind. One may be more effective than the other in various situations. Knowing how to do both could resolve your anxiety in times of crisis.

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Best Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

These are some of the best grounding exercises you can try when you feel like you’ve lost control of your anxiety. Keep the steps saved on your phone or by your bedside so you always have directions to follow when you need help.

1. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Many people prefer the 5-4-3-2-1 method because it may feel like you’re checking things off a to-do list. If you find staying productive soothing, you might enjoy it too. Follow these directions to calm your mind:

  • Say five things you can see, like a lamp or TV.
  • Say four things you can hear while doing this grounding technique.
  • Say three things you can feel, which may require touching the carpet or your chair.
  • Say two things you can smell (if you can’t smell anything, name two smells you love and imagine inhaling their aroma).
  • Say one thing you can taste, like a sip of water or a bite out of a cracker.

Try taking deep, slow breaths between each art of this technique. Repeat it as often as needed and switch environments to engage with new sensations. You can also follow this video guide for extra help.

2. Practice Box Breathing

People can feel anxious anywhere. The spike in mental and physical tension occurs when people hear loud sounds, encounter social situations or smell something related to a bad memory. If anxiety affects you while you’re busy, like during your commute to work, box breathing can help. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Breathe in through your nose while slowly counting to four.
  • Hold your breath while counting to four at the same pace.
  • Exhale while counting slowly to four.
  • Wait four seconds and repeat until you feel calm.

Bookmark this video to follow it when you’re too anxious to sleep or feeling nervous before a meeting. It’s also helpful if you need someone to count to four while your mind races.

3. Use One of Your Five Senses

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique has structured steps that engage all of your senses. Sometimes, anxiety attacks make following multiple instructions more difficult. If your thoughts won’t slow down enough to count things in your environment, use one of your five senses to hone your focus. Choose one and follow these general ideas:

  • Sight: Choose one thing in your vicinity and describe it out loud to yourself, focusing on every tiny detail.
  • Hearing: Pick something you can hear or turn on some calming audio. Describe what it sounds like and any good memories you associate with it.
  • Smell: Choose a smell or talk out loud about an aroma you love.
  • Touch: Touch something near you and talk about what it feels like, what temperature it is and if it’s something you enjoy feeling.
  • Taste: Grab a water bottle, soda or a nearby snack and describe what it tastes like. Focus on every sensory experience related to tasting it.

Save this tutorial in a playlist to make it part of your calming auditory input. The calming instructor and music will ease your mind and might make this technique more successful for you.

4. Doodle Anxiety Away

Keep a sketchbook and pencil near where you typically feel nervous. Even if you only doodle on a sticky note, drawing may reduce your anxiety by helping you focus on your creative expression. Free drawing can even reduce burnout symptoms when practiced while you’re feeling anxious.

Use these inspirational ideas to start drawing next time your nervous system starts overwhelming you:

  • Draw abstract shapes and see how you can connect them.
  • Let your hand move over the paper in any direction.
  • Sketch a photo of something that brings you joy, like a puppy or a flowering plant.
  • Draw something you did the other day that made you happy.
  • Try outlining a picture of what you’ll eat for your next meal.

Many people enjoy watching this technique tutorial while they draw to avoid feeling like they’re alone. See if it helps you while trying this anxiety resource.

5. Explore Somatic Grounding

Somatic techniques involve interacting with your environment with your body. You’ll stimulate your nervous system with outside things like textures and temperatures. It distracts your body from its high anxiety state, making it easier to calm down. Use these steps to ground yourself anywhere:

  • Place your bare feet on the carpet and wiggle your toes. Notice how it feels, how the pressure distributes in your feet and what it feels like to flex your toes.
  • Place your hands on a tree trunk and note what the bark’s texture does to your skin.
  • Lie down on the floor until you’re fully prone. Notice where the pressure in your muscles goes and how gravity pulls you to the earth. 
  • Sit comfortably on a chair and pay attention to how your body adjusts to the chair’s softness or firm arms.
  • Press against the ground like you’re about to do a plank. Feel the pressure in your hands, the firmness of the floor and the strength in your body.

If you’re having trouble picturing this freestyling technique, this instructional video might make it easier. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly by following each guided step.

6. Trace Your Hand

If other resources like positive affirmations don’t ease your mind by affirming your reality, focus on what’s in front of you. Hold up your hand and follow these steps to guide yourself through another grounding technique:

  • Hold your non-dominant hand in front of you with your palm facing away.
  • Place the pointer finger on your dominant and against the base of your thumb.
  • Slowly trace up your thumb, over your fingernail and down the other side toward the base of your other pointer finger.
  • As your finger rises, inhale slowly.
  • Exhale when your finger falls down to the next finger on your non-dominant hand.

Hold your hand up like the instructor below to see if this grounding technique helps you gain more control over your breathing.

A woman wearing a black and grey outfit with a tan infinity scarf laughs with her eyes closed. Behind her is a small town on a hillside with cloudy mountains filling the image.

Ease Your Anxiety During Tough Times

Use any of these grounding techniques for anxiety to ease your mind when life gets challenging. You’ll gain more control over your mental health and always know how to support your well-being in times of crisis.

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