Grounding Tips

Coping with anxiety is hard. My mind goes right offline and all I can feel is tension and fear. My thoughts start racing and when it gets high, it feels like I am about to die. It is only a matter of when, not if.

I have had anxiety for many, many years, and it is only in the last year or so that I feel I am finally able to manage it. It has taken months and months of practice and dozens of tips and techniques. And grounding has been almost wholly instrumental in that.

Grounding, for those who may not be familiar, is basically as it sounds. It is grounding yourself in the current moment while it feels like your mind and body have become detached, usually due to high anxiety, but grounding need not be exclusive to those only trying to cope with anxiety.

Grounding allows you to come out of the fog and the past or the future and into the present moment. It can be done somatically (in the body) and getting your mind to focus on this moment. Doing grounding both mentally and somatically is the most effective way to bring you into the current moment and reducing your anxiety.

Now, it sounds simple but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Because in a lot of ways, it is not. Getting into some (head) space in order to ground can be very hard. Especially the first few times you try it.

The tasks, tips or techniques may seem like they wouldn’t help, or they might seem too simplistic, but they can help. They really can.

For those experiencing anxiety, I feel you. It is torturous and debilitating. It is not easy to find the space to practice so I encourage anyone wanting to try the grounding tips and techniques to keep trying. Over and over and over and over again. And when you think you’ve tried enough, try again.

Honestly, I can’t stress this enough. Don’t just try it once or twice. Or for one or two days. Try it every single day. Multiple times a day. For a looooong time. If you are dealing with chronic anxiety, where it consumes and dictates your day, it will take repeated effort and practice over several days, maybe even weeks, to crack through the tough anxiety shell.

Your body is most likely frozen in fear from constant activation. And to get your activation reduced will take some work. Your sympathetic nervous system is finely tuned, and in order to have that released, relaxed, and even switched back to your parasympathetic system will not be done overnight. Please keep trying. Don’t give up. It will work.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Every. Single. Day.

Try every tip and technique you can find because you never know what will help, and there are some that may be effective for you in one situation and not in another. So having an arsenal of tips and techniques can really make a difference.

Also, keep the tips, tricks, tools and techniques readily available for you to use. Because when anxiety takes you over, your ability to think probably goes bye-bye. So having them at the ready will make a HUGE difference.

I put the tips and techniques in my phone and I have also created index cards for my travel coping kit of each grounding tip and technique because I want to be able to refer to them as I need them. And having them on index cards means I can bring them with me, and they are ready to use.

So put it in your phone, put it in your purse, put it in your bag, put it on your dresser, put it on your bookshelf, put stickies on your mirror, write it in your journal, record it on voice memos, take a picture of it, put it anywhere and everywhere you will be able to grab whatever you need to help you cope.

If it means you have stickies, or index cards or coping kits all over the place in your home, at work or school, in your bag, then so be it.

I have several coping kits for my bag, for my purse, at home, because I never know when I’ll need the help. And what will work. And I update my coping kit as needed. If this week silly putty is what helps me then that’s my coping kit. If I need a quote and maybe some scented lava beads next week, then next week I carry the cards and the beads. Do what works for you.

Here is a list of grounding tips and techniques that I have found so far (courtesy of MDAO (Mood Disorders Association of Ontario):

Mental Grounding
Describe your environment in detail using all your senses. For example, “The walls are white; there are five pink chairs, there is a wooden bookshelf against the wall…”
Play a “categories” game with yourself. For example, “types of dogs”, “female singers”, countries that begin with the letter “A”, “TV shows”, “sports”.
Do an age progression. If you have regressed to a younger age (e.g. 8 years old), you can slowly work your way back up (e.g. “I am now 9 years old”; “I am now 10 years old”…)
Describe an everyday activity in great detail. For example, describe a meal that you cook (e.g. Cooking dinner: First, I peel the potatoes, and then I cut them into quarters before putting them into a pot, which I fill with water…).
Imagine. Use an image: Glide along on skates away from your pain or panic; change the TV channel to another show (in your mind); imagine a wall as a buffer between you and your pain or panic.)
Say a safety statement. “My name is ….; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not the past. I am located in… the date is…”
Read something backwards. Focusing on each letter and word instead of the meaning of the words.
Counting. For example, if you’re outside, count the number of people you see wearing blue jeans; count the number of white cars you see; count the number of convenience stores you see. Count from 1-100 by fives. Count from 1-100 by twos.

Physical Grounding
Run cold or warm water over your hands.
Grip onto your chair as tightly as you can.
Touch various objects around you. For example, a pen, your keys, the table, the walls, a chair. Notice textures, colours, materials, weights, temperatures. Compare objects you touch; Is one colder? Lighter? Softer?
Dig your heels into the floor. Literally “grounding” yourself. Notice the tension in your heels as you do this. And remind yourself that you are connected to the ground.
Carry a grounding object in your pocket. For example, carry a small rock, a ring, a squishy ball, a small toy, that you can touch when you are feeling triggered.
Jump up and down.
Walk up and down a few steps of a set of stairs.
Notice your body. The weight of your body in the chair; wiggling your toes in your socks; the feel of your back against the chair. You are connected to the world.
Stretch. Extend your fingers, arms or legs as far as you can. Roll your head around.
Walk slowly, noticing each footstep, saying “left” and “right” with each step.
Chew on a candy or piece of gum.
Focus on your breathing. Noticing each inhale and exhale. Inhale for a count of four. Exhale for a count of six.

Soothing Grounding
Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a small child. For example, “You are good person going through a hard time.”
Think of your favourites. Think of your favourite movies, TV shows, animals, food, season.
Think of people you care about.
Remember the words to an inspiring song, quotation or poem.
Think of a safe place. Give it as much detail as possible. Would it be inside or outside, maybe in a garden or a cabin? Would it be decorated? How?
Say a coping statement. For example, “I can handle this.”, “This feeling pass.”

What if Grounding Doesn’t Work?
Remember to practice as often as possible. Even when you don’t “need” it, so that you’ll know it by heart for when you do need it.
Try grounding for a looooooong time (20-30 minutes). And repeat, repeat, repeat.
Try to notice which grounding works best for you, physical, mental…
Try different types of grounding, mix physical and mental grounding techniques
Create your own grounding methods
Start grounding early in a negative mood. Start when the craving or urge first starts or when you have just started having a flashback.

I created these index cards, yellow with orange marker, of each tip/technique so that I can carry them around if I need to. Or just have them ready to use at home.

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