Christine Treski, MA, LMFT

Anxiety is a common emotion that we all share and, at times, it is actually useful. Its helpful functions are to alert you to danger or threat and to increase your awareness and motivation of a task that needs your attention (preparing for a presentation, or checking on your sleeping child). It is when anxiety gets out of control that it can become problematic and dominate the emotional state. High anxiety can manifest in many different ways, yet a very common theme for most people suffering with anxiety is a sense of disconnection or distractibility from the present. This could be a feeling of “getting stuck” in worrying thoughts, an inability to concentrate, or feeling preoccupied with physical symptoms (a pounding heart, restlessness, sweating palms). Becoming present and bringing yourself back to a grounded state can diminish these physical and mental symptoms when they occur. Here are some easy to use, in the moment techniques to get grounded and get present when you feel pressured by anxiety.

Drop Your Anchor

  • Sit in a chair with your back comfortably straight and both feet on the floor. Relax your arms and hands and close your eyes.
  • Focus on the sensation of your feet firmly planted on the floor. Push down with your feet, noticing the firmness of the ground beneath.
  • Press your fingertips together and gently, slowly roll your shoulders back a few times.
  • Take a moment to notice and acknowledge your physical presence: the weight of your body on the chair, your arms at your sides or on your lap, tension in your face or neck. What else do you feel?
  • Lastly, open your eyes and take a moment to stretch and move your body.

Scan Your Senses (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)

This is as simple as it sounds! Begin by being still, either standing or sitting comfortably, and concentrate on the following, either saying aloud (if you are alone) or to yourself:

  • Name 5 things you see: “A wooden square table, a painting of a sunset on the wall, a pair of black shoes on the floor…”
  • Describe 4 things you physically feel: “My toes inside my shoes, a light breeze on my arm, the softness of the chair…”
  • Notice 3 sounds you hear: “A car passing by outside, a dog barking in the distance”
  • Name 2 things you smell, or think of 2 things you would like to be smelling
  • Identify 1 thing you taste in your mouth, or think of 1 pleasant taste

Focus on Your Breathing

Breathing from the diaphragm stimulates our body’s relaxation response.

  • Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
  • Concentrate on breathing from your diaphragm, so that the hand on your belly rises and falls more than the one on your chest. It can help to imagine a balloon filling and deflating with air
  • Continue this for about 1 minute.

Another technique is rhythmic breathing, such as this 4-6-5 method:

  • Take a deep breath in while counting to 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 6
  • Exhale slowly while counting to 5
  • Repeat 10 times
  • You can change the numbers you count to, just be sure to keep a steady rhythm and make sure you breathe slowly and deeply.

With the use of some or all of these exercises, you should find yourself feeling calmer, more centered, and better able to continue on with your day with less distraction from your anxieties.