Today I will be sharing with you 10 natural grounding exercises for anxiety.
Grounding exercises are a way to stabilise strong emotions during stress, anxiety or trauma.
Grounding is achieved by redirecting your attention away from what is causing your stress back to something more pleasurable and relaxing.
There are infinite ways to practice grounding, but the general idea is to connect with the present moment by settling into your body through the five senses.
Throw yourself into one of these grounding exercises to manage stress and improve focus.
When your mind wanders back to worries or things that are outside of your control, gently ground yourself back in the present moment – even if you have to bring your attention back over and over again.
With high stress, try one exercise after another until you find the one or a combination that makes you feel calm, safe, and relaxed.
Today I will be talking you through 10 of my favourite grounding exercises.
Disclaimer: I am not in any way a certified therapist/councillor, therefore all the advice given is from my own experience and should not be taken as medical advice.
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What is anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the United Kingdom.
Even if you don’t meet the clinical criteria for an anxiety disorder, I’m sure you’ve experienced some of the hallmark symptoms from time to time:
- uncontrollable worry
- trouble concentrating
- rumination or obsessive thoughts
- muscle tension
- stomach aches, headaches, back aches, gastrointestinal problems
- blushing, sweating, trembling
- feeling on edge
Anxiety can also include panic attacks, specific fears, flashbacks, compulsions, or social anxiety.
Health benefits of grounding
Though grounding techniques for anxiety is an under-researched topic, there are emerging results that show positive effect.
Some of these health benefits include reduction of pain, depression, stress, and fatigue.
In my experiences with grounding, I’ve also found some added benefits.
For example, when I’m stressed while working, it’s not uncommon for me to utilise various grounding techniques to enhance my concentration.
How can grounding reduce anxiety at home?
Grounding is simple and free strategy to reduce anxiety that you can use anywhere.
Grounding distracts you from your worry and anxiety. It uses mindfulness principles to refocus your attention on concrete, observable things in the present.
As the name says, it grounds you in reality so that your mind isn’t stuck in the past or future.
There are very few “rules” to grounding. You can change the questions as they suit you and your environment.
The key is to just get you to tune into observing and using your senses.
Now let’s look at some different grounding techniques.
10 Natural Grounding Techniques for Anxiety – Ultimate Guide!
5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
One of the most studied and preferred methods of distraction is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique.
This method is simple and effective for helping you to regain control of your mind by grounding you into the present moment.
It works by incorporating all five of your senses to keep you in your present surroundings, which is incredibly effective for fighting anxiety.
The best part? It only takes one minute of your time!
Here’s how it works:
5 – Sight:
Take a deep breath and look around you to recognise five different things.
Say each thing out loud, such as, “I see a clock,” or “I see the leaves on the tree.”
4 – Feel:
Recognise four things you can feel the texture of. Say each thing out loud, such as, “I feel the carpet beneath my feet,” or “I feel the fabric of my shirt.”
Take a few seconds to actually touch each of these textures.
3 – Hear:
Listen for three separate and distinctive sounds around you.
Say each sound out loud, such as, “I hear the birds chirping,” or “I hear the clock ticking.”
Take a few seconds to really listen to each sound.
2 – Smell:
Breathe in and out a few times and name two distinct smells you encounter.
Say each smell out loud, such as, “I smell the scent of my perfume,” or “I smell the flowers blooming nearby. “If you can’t smell anything, remember the smell of your favourite scents and recall them out loud.
1 – Taste:
If you have food in front of you, take a bite and name the taste out loud.
If not, see if you can pick up on an aftertaste in your mouth.
Alternatively, you can recall the taste of a favourite food. Say it out loud.
Once you’re done with the last exercise here, breathe in deeply for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and then breathe out for five seconds.
At the end of this exercise, you should be in the present moment.
While walking/on route to a destination
You can also use the five senses method to further ground yourself and practice embodied living while walking or driving to your next destination.
This meditation in motion allows you to become more aware of nature and the overall environment that surrounds you.
Furthermore, it can help you recognise yourself as a unique part of that natural world.
If you would like to have some guidance during your mediation, try using Headspace’s walking meditation feature.
Whether you are walking in nature, at home, or in the city, guided meditations are also available to you on many other platforms such as YouTube and Spotify.
With or without guided meditations, here are a few things to keep in mind when entering into your meditative space:
Consider setting an intention for the walk or drive
You can ask yourself what it is you wish to gain or experience from this walk.
Or you can simply approach this walk with the intention of leaving more grounded and focused.
Be aware of how your body feels when you are walking
Does it feel light or heavy? Does each step feel automatic or require a lot of effort?
Bring attention to your posture and how your body glides or trots during your walk.
If you are sitting, be aware of your feet planted on the ground and the position of your body.
Are you standing tall? Are you slouching? Notice if your muscles feel tightened or loosened.
Where are you feeling tension?
This bodily awareness allows you to connect with your physical nature more mindfully.
What is in your line of sight?
Acknowledge any tall trees, bright flowers, or birds flying by. If you are driving, it could instead be the passing of cars or multi-sized buildings on your left and right.
Notice any sounds that are surrounding you
Perhaps you hear the rustling of leaves, birds chirping, or your feet lightly tossing dirt as you walk.
While in the car, maybe you notice the sound of your blinker on, a car speeding up, or music flooding out from your radio.
Allow these sounds to be present with you in the moment until the moment passes.
Remember, these sounds and other sensory perceptions are not the main focus of your awareness and should instead be used as guideposts.
Next, make note of any physical sensations you are feeling
Maybe you feel your feet pressing against the earth or your hands tucked in the cosy pockets of your jacket?
It could be the feeling of the steering wheel in between your palms or the air-conditioning blowing in your direction.
For the last step, embrace your body’s natural rhythm
What movements are you making? Are your arms swinging back and forth or your feet moving at a certain pace?
Allow yourself to continually notice the moment you are experiencing and allow it to pass into a new one.
Focus on your rhythm and on your natural movement as you continue on your path.
This rhythm is what will guide you.
Finally, if you feel yourself losing focus, bring your attention back to your steps or the movement of your feet once more.
The distress tolerance skill of STOP
S – Stop!
When intense feeling of anxiety arises and you begin to feel overwhelmed, just STOP!
Do not react. Stop in your tracks.
Don’t do anything at all with your body or say anything with your speech.
T – Take a step back
Remove yourself from the situation you are in.
Walk away from the person, the event or the situation that you find yourself in.
Step away and take five deep and long belly breaths.
O – Observe
Observe, notice, pay attention and grow curious as to what is going on around you both on the outside and inside.
Notice with your five senses all the things that you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
And notice what thoughts are showing up in this moment and what is showing up in your physical body.
Perhaps you might notice shallow breathing, a tight chest, knots in your stomach, hands and jaw clenched.
P – Proceed Mindfully
After you have stopped, taken a step back and observed both inside and outside of your body, then you can proceed mindfully.
Act with awareness. Ask yourself “Even in this moment of anxiety, which action can I take that will help me move in the direction of ease and peace of mind”?
A practice of self-compassion
Within your own heart is a source of healing energy – if we can allow ourselves to open to it by practicing self-compassion.
The following is a loving kindness meditation that can help us tune into and cultivate our natural sense of caring love.
Begin by choosing a spot to sit in that is both comfortable yet dignified, either in a chair or on the ground.
Allow your eyes to gently close, or softly focus your gaze on an object in front of you.
Place your palms either face up or face down on your lap and gently roll your shoulders back so that your back is straight up.
Feel strong and relaxed with the ground or cushion beneath you. Hold your head upright, as if there is an invisible string gently pulling at the top of your head.
Then, when you’re ready, breathe from your belly, in through your nose and out through your mouth.
After five rounds of deep belly breaths, begin to introduce the following statements to yourself, silently or out loud, whichever feels best.
“May I be safe”, “May I be happy”, “May I be healthy”, “May I live with ease”.
You can say one at a time over and over again, or you can say all four in a row, as many times as you wish.
As you repeat the phrases, just relax and allow yourself to feel what you feel. If you don’t feel of a direct result in the moment, it’s ok, and just let yourself to connect whatever is there.
In that way, you are cultivating loving kindness towards your experience, just as it is.
We will try another breathing exercise. Again, if you’re driving, skip this one. You’re going to need a few minutes.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Now, imagine that the sun is shining, as you’re laying at a place where you feel safe: the beach, your favourite spot at the park, or simply looking through the window curled up in your favourite blanket.
Notice the warm sunlight going through your body, starting at the top of your head.
Then, moving down to your neck, your chest, your hands, your belly area, your legs, up until it reaches your feet.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Now, you can go back to your normal pace of breathing.
Open your eyes when you’re ready and move your hands and legs gently.
Practice deep breathing
When you feel anxiety approaching, sit or lay in a comfortable position.
Breathe in for four long counts. Breathe out for six long counts. Continue this deep breathing for a few rounds.
If you would like to take this exercise further, you can close your eyes and visualise roots growing from the bottom of your feet or tailbone and going deep into the earth.
If you struggle with quieting your mind during deep breathing, try adding a mantra to the practice like “I am safe. I am grounded. I am loved.”
Otherwise, simply acknowledge the thoughts that come to mind and release them as you exhale.
Breathing is really one of the best ways to slow our nervous system down.
This technique will help you face the day with a clear mind and also help you fall asleep at night.
Breathing techniques are a common strategy for fighting anxiety. In fact, one of the first techniques my counsellor taught me during therapy was a breathing exercise.
When your breath is shallow and you’re not breathing properly, this often times makes anxiety worse.
The goal here is to really slow your breathing down so that your physical symptoms start to go away.
For the 4-7-8 method, first sit in a comfy position and relax your muscles. Take a big deep breath in through your nose for four seconds.
Hold it for seven seconds. Next take an even bigger breath out for eight seconds. As you’re breathing out, part your lips and make a “woosh sound.”
If you want a visual guide for the technique, I recommend watching this video! I love that the background sound is waves crashing against the shore.
Place your hands under running water
We’ve heard so much about the importance of hand washing lately. Hand washing not only helps protect us in terms of hygiene.
Take a moment while allowing the water to run over your hands before or after lathering with soap to acknowledge how the water feels on your skin. Is it warm or cold?
Adjust the temperature of the water.
Do your hands feel better under warm or cold water?
Acknowledge what your hands look like under the water.
Take a moment to really feel your palm touching the other (this is also a great technique to help children slow down and become mindful).
Paying attention to our tactile sense is a great way to remain grounded.
A grounding object is a comfort item you can keep or easily take with you on the go.
The item should be meaningful and remind you of happy things and memories.
Good examples are small objects like marbles, a healing crystal, a scarf, or a necklace from your loved one.
When you’re feeling anxious, hold the item in your hands and notice its texture. Then, start asking yourself a few questions.
What does it feel like? Who gave you the item? Why is it important to you?
Keeping a sentimental item brings you comfort and also helps you feel better through moments of anxiety.
Meditation & Mindfulness
Finally, one of the best ways to remain present is by practicing mindfulness.
This teaching is all about taking in the moment fully and being truly aware of yourself.
This includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and what’s happening around you.
With mindfulness, the purpose is to stay fully engaged with what you’re doing (even if you’re simply folding laundry!)
Meditation, on the other hand, is a formal practice where you’re in a seated position and focusing on your internal world.
Both practices are crucial to know when it comes to remaining present.
10 Natural Grounding Techniques for Anxiety – Final thought
These 10 practices are each quite simple, and easy to apply. It can be helpful to write them down or put them in your phone, so that when anxiety arises, you’ll have them at the ready.
It’s also helpful to work with them one at a time, using the same one several times to get somewhat familiar with it, before trying the next one.
Then once you are confident in all three, you’ll know which one to try in a given situation.
Have you ever heard of grounding techniques before? Also, what helps you stay calm during stressful moments?
I would love to hear your thoughts on what you are doing to change your life in the coming days and years!
If you have any questions please reach out to me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I really hope you found inspiration in this article.
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Hello! My name is Adam and welcome to my space on the internet. Here you can find me writing about subjects such as spiritual growth, self-discovery, expanding your awareness, inner peace, self-care and mental health. Please connect with me on my journey and join the community!