Amanda Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Practitioner

Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace. — Steve Goodier

Anxiety is a stormy road that can leave you disoriented, distracted, and even physically or emotionally detached. Grounding is an approach to manage anxiety by helping you to focus on the present moment. When you are focused, it is more difficult to continue to feel anxious, as your mind must choose between experiencing anxiety and being present. Specific grounding exercises help you to force your mind to choose to be in the present.

Here are some common symptoms of anxiety that can be managed by grounding:

  • Anxious or irritable mood
  • Restlessness or edginess
  • Racing thoughts or constant worrying
  • Flashbacks or dissociation
  • Lack of concentration or mind going blank
  • Panic attacks

Grounding techniques often use your five senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste—to help you to connect to the present moment. Engaging the senses helps the brain to quickly refocus. Give these grounding exercises a try:

Sight

  • Focus on a particular object or your immediate surroundings and notice all of the details that you see. Identify colors, shapes, imperfections, things that are out of place, objects that you like or dislike, and so on.
  • Pick five objects that you can see and focus on each one for five seconds in turn. Then move on to the next. Change the order each time you begin again.
  • Play a counting game based on what you see in your environment. Examples: How many squares can I see? How many objects are made of wood? How many shades of blue can I spot?

Sound

  • Stop and listen. Try to identify all the sounds that you hear. How many different sounds can you pick out? Be patient, as it may take a few moments for background sounds to become noticeable.
    Make your own noise. Read something out loud, sing, or make a sound that only you can hear. Don’t just make the sound—listen to it closely.
    Listen to music. Try to isolate all the instruments you hear—listen to them separately and then together.

Touch

  • Feel the ground below your feet or the chair beneath you. Notice how it feels to be supported. To intensify this effect, press your feet firmly into the floor or grab tightly onto your chair.
  • Place something cold on your face or wrists or on the back of your neck. Feel how your body responds.
  • Touch something close to you and notice everything about how it feels. You can use your phone, keys, purse or wallet, pillow, or whatever is nearby. Pay attention to details of the texture and temperature.

Smell

  • Stop and smell your environment. Try to identify every scent that you can. Be patient—some scents are mild, and it takes focus for them to become noticeable.
  • Smell an essential oil, a perfume, a cologne, a candle, or anything that is strongly scented. Breathe it in deeply, focusing intently on the aroma.

Taste

  • Notice whatever taste is in your mouth right now. Focus solely on that. What does your mouth taste like?
  • Taste something that has a powerful flavor, like a lemon, hot sauce, or peppermint. Let the flavor run its course in your taste buds until you can taste it less and less.
  • Drink something warm or cold. Recognize how it feels as it is in your mouth and as it travels down your throat. Savor the experience.

Grounding through your senses can help you to manage the stormy roads of anxiety. If you’d like to learn more ways to understand and cope with anxiety, Symmetry Counseling has therapists who specialize in anxiety treatment. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to schedule an appointment.

DID Research. (2017, December 12). Grounding techniques. [Blog post] Retrieved from http://did-research.org/treatment/grounding.html

Goddier, Steve. (2009 March 8). Getting yourself grounded. [Blog post] Retrieved from http://stevegoodier.blogspot.com/2009/03/getting-yourself-grounded.html