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3 Simple Grounding Techniques to Help You Cope With Anxiety

Grounding Techniques to Help You Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety can feel like a river of worries and fears threatening to sweep you away. Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your stomach ties itself in knots. 

Luckily, there are grounding techniques you can use to calm the storm raging inside you. These simple self-care strategies can help you shift your focus away from the whirlwind of anxious thoughts so you can reconnect with the rational part of your mind.

  1. Get in Touch With Your Senses With the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique

One of the most popular grounding techniques, this elegantly simple practice has you identify:

  • 5 things that you can see
  • 4 things that you can feel
  • 3 things that you can hear
  • 2 things that you can smell
  • 1 thing that you can taste

Whether it’s the scratchy fabric of the chair you’re sitting on, the ticking of a nearby clock, the citrusy smell of your perfume, the minty flavor of your toothpaste, or the sunlight filtering through the curtains on the window, systematically engaging each of your senses diverts your attention to the here and now. This makes it harder for anxious thoughts to retain their power over you.

  1. Take Comfort in a Special Grounding Object

Grounding objects function as a therapeutic tool to shift your attention away from the mental anxiety spiral. This works in several ways:

  • Acting as a mindfulness anchor. The texture, weight, temperature, or other physical properties of the object act as an anchor to pull you into the present moment. Focusing on the concrete details of the object’s shape, material, etc. facilitates mindfulness—bringing your awareness to the here and now rather than getting caught up in anxious thoughts about the past or future.
  • Promoting nervous system regulation. The repetitive motion of rubbing or rolling the object can have a soothing effect that helps regulate your body’s nervous system and the physiological responses, such as an increased heart rate, that often accompany anxiety.
  • Serving as a familiar ritual. Having a grounding ritual of reaching for the same object when you feel anxious can provide a sense of psychological security, habit, and familiarity to counteract the feelings of being “out of control” that are common during an anxiety attack.

A grounding object can be anything that has personal meaning or positive associations for you. This could be a gift from someone special, an object from a happy memory, or one with symbolic meaning. Ideally, it should be something small and portable, such as a stone, crystal, coin, ring, or bracelet. Objects with distinct visual details or soothing textures provide added sensory input that can make them more effective at helping to keep your anxiety in check.

  1. Focus on Your Breathing 

When you’re feeling anxious, your breathing tends to become shallower and more rapid. In fact, many people initially mistake shortness of breath caused by anxiety for a more serious heart or lung problem.

By controlling your breathing, you can actually trigger physiological changes that promote relaxation. Here are some breathing techniques that can help with anxiety:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing. Breathe deeply from your diaphragm rather than taking shallow chest breaths. Inhale slowly through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. As you exhale fully, feel your belly deflate. This deep abdominal breathing induces a sense of calmness by engaging the diaphragm properly.
  • 4-7-8 breathing. Begin by exhaling completely through your mouth. Then, inhale quietly through your nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Finally, exhale slowly through pursed lips for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle of 4 seconds inhaling, 7 seconds holding, 8 seconds exhaling as needed.
  • Resonant breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4. Then exhale even more slowly through pursed lips for a count of 6. This longer exhalation is key to activating the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response.
  • Alternate nostril breathing. Begin alternate nostril breathing by using your thumb to gently close off one nostril. Inhale through the open nostril. Then close that nostril with your finger, release your thumb, and exhale through the other side. Repeat this cycle, alternating which nostril you inhale and exhale through. 

Anxiety Doesn’t Have to Control Your Life

At Eagle View Behavioral Health, we know how crippling anxiety can be. If you’ve tried grounding techniques, meditation, and other self-care strategies and the worried thoughts just keep coming back, it’s time to get professional help.

Located in Bettendorf, Iowa, our inpatient and outpatient treatment programs provide the tools to manage your anxiety in healthy, effective ways. Our dedicated team of mental health care providers will utilize cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, and community support to help you break the grip of your anxiety and start living freely again. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to request a free, confidential assessment

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