Staying Grounded From Heightened Anxiety
Updated: Jan 5
You know you are well-prepared for this class presentation; you have practised presenting to yourself and your siblings, but you still feel very apprehensive about it a few minutes to the presentation. Does this sound familiar? Sure, it does. Anxiety is a common emotion that we encounter in response to potentially stressful situations and even mundane tasks.
Grounding is a skill in psychology that helps you manage stressful events, emotions, or thoughts, insulating you from their negative impact. Grounding helps you refocus your thoughts and emotions at the present moment. You will find it helpful if you are dealing with anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, and addiction.
Grounding techniques use your five senses and your mind to distract you from anxiety. You may use physical or mental grounding techniques.
Examples of physical grounding techniques include:
1. Feel your body: Do this by focusing on the smallest details of your body from head to toe. For instance, touch the hair on your head, feeling for the texture, smoothness, and thickness. Also, touch your chest where you feel your heartbeat most and enjoy the rhythm of your heart, beat by beat.
Focus next on your fingers and toes; curl your fingers and wiggle your toes. Enjoy the view while you do this, examining how they change in shape and how they appear with each movement.
2. Take slow, deep Breaths: This is a popular mindfulness exercise in psychology that helps you stay calm in stressful situations. Do this by slowly inhaling and exhaling, observing how your chest moves with each breath and how your breath feels when you breathe in and out.
3. Touch an Item near you: You probably have never paid attention to the intricate design of your phone or your wristwatch - now is the time. Pick up your wristwatch; follow the movement of the second hand or how the minute hand changes every minute.
4. Put your hands in water: Dip your hand in clear water and notice every detail. Does it feel warm or cold? How does light refraction change how your fingers look in the water? How does it feel when you take your hands out and back in again? Focus on these small details.
5. Listen to your environment: We all can watch a TV ad multiple times and still won’t recall what the ad was about. This time, listen carefully to the words on the ad; enjoy the images and videos noticing how the actors talk, how they express their emotions, and what colour of clothes they’re wearing.
6. Relish a food or drink: This is the time to enjoy the experience of each bite of your favourite meal. Do not just chew and swallow, relish the taste; focus on how it smells, how your mouth grinds food into a paste ready to swallow.
These grounding techniques use mental distractions to refocus your mind from anxious thoughts and emotions. Examples of these techniques include:
7. Recite: It could be a song, a passage in a book, or a poem; recite something in your mind, focusing on and visualizing every word in each sentence. You may also recite aloud; this changes the focus to how your lips move and what shape your mouth takes with each word or alphabet.
8. Visualize a task you enjoy: Envision yourself singing karaoke or doing your laundry. Beyond the imagery, feel the experience as if you were doing it in real-time. How does it feel cheering a small crowd at a bar with your favourite songs?
9. Play a mental game: Look at a picture on your phone for 10 seconds. Then, turn the screen face-down and try to remember as many details as you can from the picture: the people in the picture; what they were doing; the colour and the design of the clothes they were wearing, and; what inanimate objects appeared in the image.
Grounding techniques are powerful skills in psychology that help you cope with anxiety and other distressing emotions. As you practice these exercises regularly, it becomes easier to refocus your mind and lower anxiety when faced with distressing thoughts.