Anxiety can make us feel detached, dissociated, panicky or unreal. Grounding techniques help to bring us back t the here and now, with an awareness of our own bodies. They are strategies that help us to be in the present moment, in reality, rather than in the traumatic experience of the past or the midst of current distress.
These techniques are simply suggestions for you to try and learn what works best for you. They are strategies to turn your focus away from the past or current distress and into the here and now of reality and safety. Try them out and find which ones you like. If they don’t work, there are plenty of other tips out there on the internet of ways other people have found to ground themselves.
1. Reassure yourself: Tell yourself you are having an anxiety or panic attack and that is ok and normal. It happens to most people. Use positive coping statements (aloud if you can): “I am [name] and I am safe right now. Even if it feels difficult, this is just a normal feeling. I have felt like this before and I know it will pass. I can cope with this.” Imagine the feeling is a wave that you are riding on, it is at its peak but it will recede soon and if you just let yourself float on the surface, knowing you can cope with it, noticing what is happening, rather than struggling against it and being pulled under, then the wave ebb and will drift gently back into the shore. Remind yourself: the worst bit is over now.
2. Five, four, three, two, one…: Focus on the physicality of the here and now. Think about 5 things you can see right where you are, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch (and touch them), 2 things you can smell or like the smell of, and now take 1 deep breath.
3. Breathe mindfully: Breathe deeply right down to your belly, put your hand there (just above your navel) so that your hand goes up and down as you breathe. Imagine you have a balloon in your tummy – imagine it is fully inflating as you breathe in and fully deflating as you breathe out.
4. Carry a grounding object with you: Carry a smooth stone or any other object which you like the feel of in your hand, perhaps something which has personal meaning that you find comforting. Have it in a pocket which you can reach easily when you need it. When you need it, simply hold and touch it, allow your mind to focus on how it feels in your hand.
If you find these techniques aren’t the right ones for you, there are plenty of other tips out there on the internet or in self-help books that other people have found they have been able to use to ground themselves. Have a look. It can be really empowering to find out for ourselves what works for us.
Remember though, after an anxiety or panic attack, even if you have successfully used one of these techniques, you might still feel drained of energy. Take some time to look after yourself. Try something you know helps you to relax – a warm bath, some soothing music, a meditative walk in the woods or just some quiet time to yourself. Whatever works best for you and will help you feel rested.