All About Grounding: 5 Grounding Techniques For Anxiety
On Mondays we write about health and wellbeing here at ULU. So, this Monday, ULU SEO content manager, Vicky is taking the reins again to talk about grounding techniques for anxiety. If you suffer from any kind of anxiety, or just want some advice on how to be more connected and present during times of stress, then this blog is for you! Read on to learn 5 grounding techniques for anxiety.
Hi, I’m Vicky, SEO content manager at ULU and long-term sufferer of a few different anxiety and panic disorders. As a perpetually anxious person, I’ve tried everything under the sun to help with stress, overwhelm and panic. (I even recently wrote a blog for ULU about my anxiety journey.) In addition to anxiety, I also have episodes of dissociation where my brain disconnects from reality and everything feels a bit ‘spacey’ – kind of like feeling drunk but without any alcohol! As a result, I use grounding to help my brain stay focused, connected and to feel more present. So, I’d love to share with you some of the grounding exercises and techniques that I find most useful!
What is grounding?
I first learnt about grounding during counselling. Grounding is sometimes also called ‘centring.’ It’s a mental activity or exercise that helps your brain to, quite literally, stay grounded and present. It’s used by people with anxiety or panic disorders, PTSD, sufferers of depression and it’s about staying connected to yourself, your surroundings and the present moment.
There are a variety of different grounding exercises, and the most important thing is to find something that works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to do grounding! It’s a very personal experience.
So, here are some of the most common grounding techniques for anxiety, panic and overall mental health improvement!
1. Check in with yourself
One of the most valuable lessons I learned from therapy is the importance of checking in with yourself. If you’re feeling stressed, or anxious, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint a reason for this. If you’re particularly busy, it can also sometimes be difficult to detect those little ‘warning signs’ that mean you’re becoming overloaded.
So, if you start to feel like something is a little bit ‘off’ or you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, check in with yourself and ask yourself ‘How am I feeling?’ ‘Is there any particular reason I’m feeling like this?’ ‘What was happening just before I started to feel anxious or stressed?’ ‘Do I need anything right now?’
Checking in with yourself is almost having a little conversation with your brain to make sure it doesn’t have any unmet needs. Just make sure to be honest with yourself – if you need a little break, a glass of water or even just a breath of fresh air, make sure to notice and prioritise that!
2. Reconnect your brain with your body
Your brain is essentially a supercomputer that sits in a little dark box inside your head. It relies on context cues and signals from your body to do its job. However, when we get stressed or anxious there’s often a disconnect that occurs between the brain and the body. As a result, it’s easy for your brain to spiral into a panic episode and it can be difficult to calm yourself down.
So, there are a variety of grounding techniques to reconnect your brain with your body. If you’re sitting down, wiggle your toes and really try to feel every moment. Are you wearing socks or shoes? If so, how does this feel against your feet. Take your shoes off and feel your feet against the floor. How does the soft carpet or the cold hardwood feel against your toes? Feel the chair against your body. Notice how you’re sitting and whether your arms are in contact with the chair or table.
Helping your brain to reconnect with reality and also your body can help to centre an unfocused brain.
3. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise
The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise is another way to connect your brain to your surroundings and help you to say present. It involves taking the time to notice details about your surroundings, and the way your body experiences them.
Follow the diagram below – and make sure to save somewhere you’ll remember where to find it the next time you’re feeling anxious!
4. The 4, 4, 4, 4, breathing technique
Breathing exercises are particularly useful grounding techniques for anxiety and panic. Not only do they help to stop your anxious thoughts from spiralling, they also deliver calming oxygen to your brain whilst also preventing hyperventilation.
This grounding exercise is simple: Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and then hold for another four counts. Then, carry on breathing in this way for as long as it takes to feel less overwhelmed. It can also be helpful to visualise a square whilst you do this like in the diagram shown below:
5. Allow yourself to truly feel – then let it go
When you’re feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed it can be natural to just want to push these feelings away and to simply distract yourself. However, whilst this may feel better in the short-term, it often means that negative feelings go unaddressed – which makes them more likely to resurface at another time.
So, another piece of great advice given to me by a therapist is to sit and accept the negative feelings for what they are. Allow yourself to truly feel everything that’s happening to you. Experience the negative feelings and negative thoughts as they are, without giving into the urge to push them away.
Then, when you feel like you’ve acknowledged the worry, stress or anxiety, you can let it go. Imagine yourself standing in a pool full of water. The negative thoughts and feelings are sort of like a beach ball, floating on the water. If you try to push them away forcefully, this will disturb all the water around you and cause a splash. So, accept that this negativity and worry may bump in to you from time to time, but that they will also gradually float away from you.
Try grounding techniques for yourself
So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, now you have 5 grounding techniques to try out!
- Check in with yourself and ask yourself how you’re doing, if you need anything, or if you need to step away
- Reconnect your brain to your body by noticing bodily sensations and actions
- Try the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding exercise to reconnect to your surroundings and stay present
- Carry out the 4, 4, 4, 4, grounding technique for anxiety to regulate your breathing
- Visualise yourself standing in water, with negative feelings as a beach ball floating in the surface – allow them to bump into you, experience them for what they are, and then visualise them floating away
Anxiety and overwhelm can sometimes come on very quickly. So, make sure to bookmark this page somewhere you’ll be able to easily locate it the next time you need to stay grounded. – And remember to share with anyone else who might find this useful!
Because here at ULU, we love u – and we want to help U love U too!
To read more of Vicky’s content about all things mental health, why not check out her recent article: ‘Stop and Savour the Coffee – Britain and the Glorification of ‘Busy’
Vicky Smith – Laughing My Way Through Anxiety
Hi, I’m Vicky! I take care of content and SEO here at ULU. And this week I’ve been asked to write about my own mental health and experience with anxiety for the ULU community: ULU Nation. I don’t tend to open up much about suffering from anxiety. So, writing about it is a bit scary. But I think talking about mental health de-stigmatises it. And the more that people read about mental health issues, the more they’ll understand them.
So, if you literally have no idea what anxiety is like, or if you have experienced feeling anxious and want to see what it’s like for somebody else, then look no further! Here are my answers to some questions I’ve been asked by my team:
How long have you had anxiety?
I guess you could say I’ve always been highly-strung. Even from an early age I was a worrier and an over-thinker.
I had my first nosebleed from stress at age 8 – what can possibly even be that stressful when you’re 8? (I think that one was about a dodgy Pokémon card trade I made and then regretted in the playground.) So really, I’ve just always taken things too seriously.
But I don’t think I started using the term ‘anxiety’ until I was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder during my second year of university – about 7 years ago.
What does anxiety feel like?
Anxiety feels truly awful. I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy!
I have lots of people ask me what anxiety feels like. And of course, everyone is likely to experience symptoms of anxiety slightly differently. But for me, I always explain it like this: think of a time in your life when you were really, truly nervous or afraid. Maybe it was how you felt when you were standing outside of your high school exam hall, waiting to take an exam you were entirely unprepared for. Perhaps it was the feeling you felt before you had to give an important speech or presentation. Or maybe it’s the feeling of being up really high when you’re afraid of heights.
That’s what my anxiety disorder feels – except in all of the examples I gave, there’s a reason why you might be feeling anxious or afraid. For me, there’s not necessarily any reason to feel anxious. Often, the feeling is just with me all the time, from the moment I wake up in the morning. Some days are better than others – occasionally I’ll go a few days without feeling it. But in general, anxiety is a regular part of my life.
What about anxiety attacks?
Ah, the dreaded anxiety attack!
Sometimes everything just gets a bit too much. If I don’t catch the warning signs or I don’t take some time to de-stress or relax, then I’ll have an anxiety attack. This usually involves not being able to breathe, having chest pains and lots of ugly crying – there’s a reason that anxiety episodes often cause people to end up in A&E thinking they’re having a heart attack!
And for me personally, I always have dissociative episodes when I get really anxious. (I feel like nobody ever talks about this! But it’s such a common symptom of anxiety.) I’ll start to forget where I am or not recognise my surroundings – even if I’m at home in my apartment! And sometimes I don’t remember large chunks of my day due to this. (It’s called ‘dissociative amnesia‘ in case you’re interested.)
How does anxiety affect your life?
You might think ‘oh, that’s not so bad, you can learn to deal with unpleasant feelings!’ – and yes, to an extent this is true.
But anxiety has a wider effect that people don’t always think about! I once had a therapist tell me that when your brain is anxious, it goes into a primal ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means that an anxious brain is always on alert, always looking out for something it can perceive as a threat. It’s like your brain thinks ‘I’m feeling afraid! There must be a reason I’m feeling this way! Better be on high alert!’
And when your brain is in this state, it can affect your concentration, focus, creative thinking, sleep – and so much more!
How do you deal with anxiety?
I have a few coping mechanisms I use to deal with anxiety.
In the last 4 months or so, I’ve taken up swimming regularly. Swimming is literally the only form of exercise that I can stand. You’ll never find me in the gym or (heaven forbid) going for a run. But I find that doing some kind of exercise helps train my brain to deal with feeling uncomfortable. I feel like swimming is making my brain more resilient – if I can push past feeling tired to finish my swim, then I can push past feeling anxious or upset.
I also use an app called ‘Quirk’ every day. It’s a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) app that helps me track my anxious thoughts and train my brain to look at them another way. It’s a literal lifesaver!
Is there a positive side to anxiety?
It’s not all doom and gloom – I promise! In recent years, I’ve learnt to look at things in a different way. I’m a believer in ‘reframing’ things – looking at negativity from another angle to see if there’s another more positive side.
And I think being anxious makes me a more caring person. – Hear me out!
Because I know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in my surroundings, or to feel socially anxious, I always try to make sure that nobody else has to feel that way. So, I always try my best to make other people feel as comfortable and at ease as possible. And I always check in on people if I know they’re having a hard time to offer a friendly ear and a cuppa! Really, I think this is quite a common trait for people who have anxiety disorders. I know a lot of anxiety sufferers who are the most caring and wonderful people I’ve ever met!
(That realisation cost me thousands of pounds in therapy. So, if you’re an anxious person, there you go – I’m giving you this one for free!)
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading my anxious ramblings! I hope I haven’t made myself sound too crazy.
But if you have someone in your life who suffers from anxiety, make sure to check in on them from time to time to see how they’re doing! You never know when someone might be in need of a friendly face!
For more content from the ULU community: ULU Nation, read Anthony Peacock’s insights on what we can learn about human behaviour from the airport.
For more content related to anxiety, read ‘Anxious Times’ – a blog from ULU founder, Paul Hembery.