Anyone who has experienced a bout of anxiety or panic attack knows the signs all too well. Adrenaline tends to rush through the body and everything seems to move faster than you ever thought possible. You may shake, sweat, experience blurred vision, and feel like reality is a light years away. Your skin may break out in a cold sweat and you may tense up with fear as you attempt to confront the perceived threat.
Anxiety can be very overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks. You can learn to manage your anxiety with various grounding techniques. We cover some tried-and-true techniques, which help restore your body, in this article. Ideally, you want to find stillness in moments and intentionally slow down when you experience stress. You don’t have to rush!
What Are Grounding Techniques?
Grounding exercises or techniques help shift your focus to the present moment in order to distract yourself from anxious feelings. You calm yourself by creating a connection to the present. You literally ground or anchor yourself to the certainty of the present. Grounding techniques aim to get your body back to the baseline. By refocusing your attention back on the present from your worries, grounding works to decrease the intensity of emotions and bodily stress. Grounding can help assure your brain that you are safe and okay, returning you to a state of calm via a parasympathetic nervous response. Read on to learn about some great grounding techniques.
Tense And Release Tension
Ball your fists and tense your hands for several seconds and then release the tension. You can do this with your feet, arms, or legs, but the tension allows you to channel the energy of your emotions into your hands, and then you have the power to release it. By tensing and releasing, you can help the body notice sensations of tension and relaxation. That distracts you from intense anxious thoughts or physiological experiences in the body.
This is a common breathing technique that many people use to calm the mind. It is highly beneficial for promoting peace and relaxation, so much so that it can help the body fall asleep. Start by releasing all of your air through a giant exhale. Take an inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold that breath for seven seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds, thus completing one cycle. Repeat this cycle at least four times to quiet the mind and help you feel safe. Many people report less tension in the body after a few rounds of 4-7-8 breathing.
Stretching helps redirect your attention from anxious thoughts to tense muscles. If your neck and shoulders are stiff, take a moment to relax them before engaging in a stretching sequence. You can stretch any muscle group that needs relief, but aim to feel how the muscles contract when you activate them during the stretch. Observe your muscle groups between your tense and relaxed state. You should experience some relief from agitating thoughts after a few minutes of stretching.
Say What You’re Observing Out Loud
Look at the time and observe your surroundings. What is in the room or space you’re in? If you are thinking about a past event, observing your current surroundings and saying them out loud can help bring you back to the present moment. If you only have a lamp, a few walls, and a houseplant in your vicinity, think of lists instead. Try to name as many flowers or animals as you can. Therapists encourage you to say what you see or think of out loud to help connect to the present moment, as opposed to the chaotic environment in the mind.
Journaling helps establish a deeper relationship between yourself and your emotions. A great grounding technique is to sit with your reflections to help you better understand your anxious thoughts. When you come to the understanding that they are just thoughts that come and go, it’s easier to let them pass or disappear in the future. Begin by writing down all of the thoughts that pass through your mind as a form of release. Once you finish, read what you wrote as an exercise to remind yourself that these anxious thoughts are normal reactions to your anxiety.
Lastly, above all else, be patient with yourself when experimenting with these grounding techniques. It may take time to find a strategy that works because every person is different. When a grounding technique works, though, you will no longer spiral because you have a better connection to your body and immediate environment.