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Grounding Techniques for Anxiety & Overwhelm

“Being in nature is my go-to when I feel overwhelmed and need emotional grounding”

Faith Agugu

According to an article on the Beyond Blue website, grounding yourself is about balancing your physical, emotional, mental and energetic state and reconnecting them.

When we are not grounded we may feel lightheaded, tired, disconnected, dazed, confused, shaken, flighty, emotionally unstable etc.

Grounding techniques are a set of tools used to assist you to stay in the present moment during episodes of intense stress and anxiety or other overwhelming emotions. Staying in the present moment allows people to feel safe and in control by focusing on the physical world and how they experience it.

Grounding Skills Can Help You Feel in Control

If you struggle with a mental illness such as anxiety and depression, you may also find it uncomfortable to stay in the present moment.

People who have experienced trauma may find themselves feeling hyper-vigilant, irritable or angry, anxious, panicky, or hyper-aroused. Alternatively, you may also feel frozen or numb.

Psychologist Rachel Eddins states that learning how to self-soothe is as important for adults as it is for babies.

Grounding and self-soothing are how we calm our bodies when we are overloaded by stress or overwhelming emotions. If you’ve experienced trauma, self-soothing and grounding exercises are especially important tools to have available.

Grounding Techniques by Rachel Eddins

Grounding is easy to do. Just focus on some aspect of the physical world, rather than on your internal thoughts and feelings (see suggestions below).

Focus on the present rather than the past. Practice your grounding techniques so that they will come naturally when you are upset.

Let go of any negative feelings. Try a variety of techniques and rate the effectiveness of each technique in keeping you calm.

Have others assist you in using these techniques by reminding you to practice them and use them as soon as you are feeling emotionally distressed.

  • Run cool water over your hands. Hold onto ice cubes if the urge is intense.

  • Place a cool washcloth on your head/face. (Store a hand towel with lavender essential oil in your refrigerator).

  • Place an ice pack over your eyes for 30 seconds or put your face in cold water for 30 seconds.

  • Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can.

  • Touch various objects around you: a pen, keys, your clothing, or the wall.

  • Dig your heels into the floor - literally “grounding” them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself you are connected to the ground.

  • Carry a grounding object in your pocket, which you can touch whenever you feel triggered.

  • Notice your body: the weight of your body in the chair, wiggle your toes in your socks, the feel of your chair against your back…

  • Stretch. Roll your head around.

  • Clench and release your fists.

  • Walk slowly, notice each footstep, saying “left or “right”… in detail to yourself.

  • Focus on your breathing, notice each inhale, and exhale. Continue for 10 slow, deep breaths.

  • Eat something, describing the flavours to yourself.

  • Scan the room and notice five things you see in detail.

  • Listen for five things that you can hear. The clock ticking, the A/C humming, your own breathing etc.

  • Focus on five things you can feel in contact with your body (i.e., your clothes, your back against the chair, your feet on the floor, your hair touching your neck, your watch on your wrist.

  • Do the above 3 things simultaneously.

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