Let’s face it – no matter how helpful our coping skills, self-care, supports, and therapists can be, we are all be bound to have an emotionally or mentally overwhelming week (or month(s)!). We are human beings and life stressors, triggers, and transitions can all interfere with our balanced day-to-functioning. Sometimes, there is simply no avoiding or suppressing an emotional or mental breakdown. These breakdowns can look very different from person to person. For one, a breakdown may be diving into a depressive cycle that is hard to get out of. For another it may mean a week or two of intense crying spells. And for others, it may look like intense anxiety that overrules basic functioning. There is no black or white answer to the complexities of an emotional or mental breakdown. As difficult and painful as they are to face and flow through, it is important to note that you are able to overcome it! This blog post will reflect on Dr. Sarah Allen’s article, 7 Grounding Techniques for Calming Down Quickly.
Before getting into the several grounding exercises that are helpful for calming down, Dr. Allen stresses that it is first important to understand why grounding works. Whenever we are faced with a stressor, our amygdala goes into action. The amygdala is a part of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses, including stress and fear. Sometimes, the amygdala can become over-aroused over stressors that aren’t necessarily a threat to our immediate safety. When our amygdala gets kicked into overdrive when it does not need to, a vicious cycle can start. This vicious cycle can cause us to become emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed. Grounding techniques help us get out of these vicious “on over-drive” cycles by helping us refocus on our body and what we are physically feeling. This mind-to-body connection can help you divert negative thoughts and feelings away, and shift your focus to the present. Below are several grounding techniques that allow you to do this.
The Grounding Chair
This technique requires that you sit in a comfortable chair that is in a safe, positive environment. Find this chair, whether it be at home, work, or a relatives home, and take a comfortable relaxed seat in it. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and notice how the physicality of the chair feels against your relaxed body. Take as much time as you need to sit in the chair and relax. Notice how your breath flows and how the energy ebbs and flows throughout your body. You want to end this grounding exercise feeling calm and relaxed.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This technique encourages you to utilize all five of your senses to help you get back to the present. First, sit comfortably, wherever that may be, and take some deep breaths. When you are ready, look around you and take in your current environment. Next, name out loud five things that you can see. Then, notice four different things you can feel (it can be as simple as touching your own arm, your hair, the chair you’re sitting on, the grass, etc). Then, notice three things that you can hear (your own breath, cars driving or traffic, any softer noises in a room, etc). Next, notice two things that you can smell. Lastly, notice one thing that you can taste. For this last one you can pop food into your mouth to have a tangible flavor, or simply take note of how your breath tastes. Take a deep breath in and out to end this exercise.
Let Your Thoughts Come and Go
When we are anxious the negative thoughts keep cycling over and over through our mind. If you have ever experienced this, you know how draining it can be. Instead of pressuring yourself to stop these thoughts in their tracks, try to become an outside observer looking in to your mind. Take a moment to simply watch your thoughts – visualize them and observe. Allow these visualized thoughts to come and go – you do not need to respond to them or suppress them.
If you struggle with managing your mental health or with feeling grounded, therapy can be a beneficial resource. Sometimes having the support and perspective of an outsider is all we need to get a new positive shift in our life! Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians today.
Dr. Sarah Allen’s article, 7 Grounding Techniques for Calming Down Quickly, was referenced or this blog post. Please read her article to explore all seven grounding techniques in detail.