When it comes to anxiety, many of us feel as though we don’t have control over our thoughts. However, you’d be surprised to find we have a lot more control than we lead ourselves to believe. And the best way to gain that control is by developing grounding techniques for anxiety.
Grounding techniques are a tool to use in moments you feel anxious. Just as your mind is racing, you incorporate these coping mechanisms as a means of grounding yourself. In turn, the goal is for your brain, body, and spirit to relax and take back control.
Throughout this article, we’re going to look at 5 grounding techniques you can use for anxiety. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Why Should You Use Grounding Techniques?
Beyond the fact that many benefit from grounding techniques, there is a science behind it. Whenever we feel stress or fear, our amygdala jumps into action. The amygdala is responsible for processing threat stimuli and activates fear-related behaviors. ¹
While the amygdala isn’t the sole reason we experience anxiety, we know it kicks into gear whenever our brain thinks there’s an emergency. Those who struggle with an anxiety disorder have an amygdala that acts out even when there’s no noticeable threat. This causes our body to respond and, in turn, we experience physical symptoms, such as: ²
- Heavy breathing
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heartbeat
By developing grounding techniques for anxiety, we can ease this cycle of fear before it spirals out of control.
Best Grounding Techniques for Anxiety
Truly, there are numerous ways to ease anxiety before it’s out of our control. Furthermore, you may find mechanisms that work more in your favor than another person’s.
The purpose of our list is to give you a general idea of how to ground anxiety when you feel an oncoming attack.
1.) The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is meant to bring you back to the present and incorporates all five senses. Before you begin this, it’s important to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. From there, you’ll want to: ³
- Observe what you can see. Either in the room or out the window.
- Embrace what you can feel. From the chair you sit in to something in front of you.
- Listen closely to what you can hear. Whether it’s birds outside or your own breaths.
- Consider what you can smell.
- If possible, see what you can taste. Sometimes, a little treat can help to ease tension.
As you continue through this grounding technique, it’s important to take deep steady breaths. For those with social anxiety disorder, it may help to step away from a social situation in order to incorporate the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.
2.) Allowing Thoughts to Flow
When we feel anxious, it’s natural for us to want to solidify control over our thoughts. However, this usually makes us more stressed and gives our amygdala the opportunity to spiral out of our control.
The next time you experience an anxiety attack, try to simply not do anything. Just observe your thoughts like you’re another person. It will become immediately obvious how ridiculous most of these thoughts are.
As you continue to watch your thoughts, begin to imagine scenarios you find comforting. For some, this may be wind calmly blowing against a tree. For others, it may be the crickets chirping away on a warm summer night.
Whatever thought calms you down, use it to your advantage and watch as your thoughts come and go. You may find this to be more beneficial than responding to every thought you have.
3.) Get Adrenaline Out
For many who live with anxiety, it may feel like our body’s are over wired with adrenaline. And there is a science behind this.
Being as our anxiety keeps our amygdala in a constant state of alertness, it’s common to feel an overabundance of energy. In fact, many researchers are finding that it’s best for people with anxiety and stress to reduce caffeine intake in order to ease fears. ⁴
Some research has also found that regular exercise is a great way to combat this excessive energy. ⁵ While many equate this with going to the gym and working out, there are other ways to physically relieve energy:
- Cleaning up your living space
- Dancing in the house to loud music
- Running up and down the stairs
- Taking a walk around the neighborhood
While this isn’t a grounding technique you can incorporate while experiencing an anxiety attack, it can be used to help ground daily anxieties. Furthermore, you may find one activity to work better than another.
4.) Focus on Something
Similar to the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, it may help you to focus on a physical object. Some people carry gems with them, others carry a journal to document their anxiety. Regardless of your preference, it can help to focus your energy on something other than your anxious thoughts.
And by focus, we mean really focus. For example, if you’re going to use a gem, go beyond observing it’s intricate patterns. Consider how heavy it is, how it feels against your fingertips, and little details about it you may not have noticed before.
While this technique is best when carrying an object you often have on you, it can be incorporated in any moment. For example, if you’re at a restaurant and feeling a bout of anxiety, you may want to pick up a napkin, a fork, a pen – anything to focus yourself on while your anxiety passes.
5.) Distract Yourself
The entire point of this list is to help you develop ways to distract yourself from anxiety. However, you can always take it a step further even when these techniques aren’t working.
For example, you may find it beneficial to count backward. Or you may pick a color in your head and try to find every object in the room that is the same color. These distractions force you to concentrate on things outside your anxiety. And they may become vital tools in overcoming an attack.
Other Ways to Ground Yourself From Anxiety
Beyond the above mentioned tips, there are some other grounding techniques for anxiety. These include:
- Adopt an emotional support animal
- Be kind to yourself
- Make yourself laugh
- Move your body around
- Play memory games
- Practice breathing exercises
- Savor a scent
- Savor food and drinks
- Think positive thoughts
It’s also important to keep in mind that lifestyle changes are key to overcoming anxiety. Some may find it beneficial to:
- Enroll in anxiety treatment. It’s important for a mental health professional to help you on your journey to recovery. They’ll be sure to give you medication and psychotherapies to ensure your best chance at beating anxiety. ⁶
- Incorporate all-natural herbs and supplements into your daily diet. A number of alternative medications have been found to help with anxiety.
- Practice a healthy diet. Research shows that the healthier we eat, the less likely we are to experience mental illness. ⁷
While anxiety isn’t easy to overcome, there are ways in which we can ease symptoms. By developing grounding techniques, we’re giving ourselves the best chance at stopping anxiety in its tracks.
Admittedly, it may take some trial and error before you find the best grounding technique for you. However, when you do find this grounding, we guarantee it’ll make all the difference.
Still have questions about grounding techniques for anxiety?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further advice to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ HHS Public Access: Amygdala Activity, Fear, and Anxiety: Modulation by Stress
² National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Anxiety Disorders
³ University of Rochester Medical Center (Behavioral Health Partners): 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety
⁴ Korean Journal of Family Medicine (KJFM): The Relationship of Caffeine Intake with Depression, Anxiety, Stress, and Sleep in Korean Adolescents
⁵ frontiers in Psychiatry: Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety
⁶ Dialogues in clinical neuroscience: Treatment of anxiety disorders
⁷ Missouri Medicine: Food, Mood, and Brain Health