Psychology•March 1, 2023
Anxiety is a perfectly normal emotion, but it can also be overwhelming. If the negative thoughts and feelings resulting from anxiety are a constant part of your life, impair your daily functioning, introduce stress, or cause panic attacks, there are practical solutions to help.
Grounding is a technique commonly used to reduce stress and anxiety. Read on to learn how to engage your senses to connect with the present moment, lower your levels of anxiety, and find inner peace.
Grounding exercises can help you bring your attention to the present moment, helping you become calmer and more centered. These grounding techniques work by shifting your focus away from anxious thoughts and feelings and toward physical sensations and experiences.
All grounding techniques are fundamentally mindfulness techniques. These techniques aim to reduce anxiety and bring your mind and body back to a state of equilibrium and peace by facilitating a reconnection with the present moment. A scientific review including 19,000 studies showed that mindfulness is beneficial for mental health and can reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain.¹
There are several popular grounding techniques ranging from breathwork to simply engaging with your senses. Take a look at the specifics of some of these techniques and how you can incorporate them into your life.
Taking deep breaths is a simple and effective way to reduce your feelings of anxiety. This involves taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on the sensation of air as it moves in and out of your body. Studies show that slow breathing helps synchronize brain waves, allowing diverse brain regions to communicate effectively.² A scientific review revealed that breathwork could be especially helpful for individuals who experience anxiety and stress.³
Meditation involves focusing your attention on your breath and observing what comes into your field of awareness - including thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations - without judgment. While paying attention to the stimuli that enter your field of awareness, there should be no attachment to a particular thought, feeling, or sensation. After observing these stimuli, there is simply a return to your breathing. Research has shown that meditation can improve your sleep and immunity, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress and anxiety.⁴⁻⁵
This technique aims to improve your awareness of physical sensations in the body by tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. You might start by tensing the muscles in your forehead for 10 to 15 seconds, becoming mindful of the increased tightness and tension in the area. Then, release the tension and let the muscles relax as you count for at least 30 seconds until the area feels entirely at ease. From there, you may move on to another area, such as the jaw or shoulders, to immerse yourself in the experience of your body.
Engaging your senses is an efficient way to ground yourself. This could involve actively listening to music, wiggling your toes, focusing on how the hair on your scalp feels, or noticing the weight of your shirt on your shoulders.
This technique involves taking a few deep breaths and then identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This exercise engages your senses and helps you get in touch with the present, which can be highly useful in stressful situations.
The 3-3-3 rule for anxiety is a simple grounding technique similar to the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, which can help quickly reduce feelings of stress. This one involves finding three things you can see, three things you can touch, and three things you can hear in your current environment. By the time you’ve finished this exercise, you will have hopefully reconnected with the present and prevented escalated feelings of anxiety.
Regardless of the technique you choose, the important thing is to integrate these into your daily life and routines in order to proactively manage symptoms of anxiety.
Some evidence suggests that specific foods, drinks, and nutrients can lower your anxiety levels. Here are a few examples:
Gradually introducing these foods into your diet could help lower your stress levels and improve your overall health.
Having a wide range of techniques at your disposal is important for managing stress. Creating a personalized toolkit of techniques, such as the techniques we’ve mentioned here, can help you feel more prepared and in control when feeling anxious.
The creation of this personalized toolkit can help you to integrate the techniques into your daily routine. You might make a habit of taking a few deep breaths before you start working or listening to music while you wash dishes. In order to have significant results, it is essential to practice your chosen techniques consistently.
Grounding techniques can efficiently diminish your feelings of anxiety, but they might not be sufficient in all cases. If you are struggling with persistent feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, or impaired daily functioning due to your symptoms, you should consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
A therapist or counselor can help you by developing a comprehensive treatment plan, including grounding techniques and evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or exposure therapy.
Grounding techniques are simple and pragmatic solutions for managing your anxiety levels. By engaging your senses, you can bring your mind and body back to equilibrium and peace and reconnect with the present moment.
Incorporating grounding techniques into your daily routine and creating a personalized toolkit can help you prepare for situations that could trigger an anxiety attack. Nevertheless, if you feel like you are overwhelmed by feelings of stress and anxiety over a long period of time, you should consult with a mental health professional to receive the support you need.
If you want to learn more about stress-management techniques and how to help people suffering from anxiety, check out our Psychology Program Overview or speak with an Admissions Advisor to learn more about our programs.