Experiencing an anxiety attack can be scary. It comes out of nowhere and can make you feel like you can’t breathe or think. Sometimes, you even feel like you are dying. Fortunately, there are grounding techniques for anxiety to help pull you out of your spiral and into the present, shortening the length of time spent in an anxiety attack and lessening the symptoms.
Here are some common techniques to help you ground yourself during your next anxiety attack:
The 5-4-3-2-1 Method
One common and highly effective grounding technique for anxiety is the 5-4-3-2-1 method. It’s so simple to do; the instructions are even in its name:
- Name five things you can see around you. Open your eyes and look around. Try to really focus.
- Name four things you can touch right now. Connect your thoughts with what you physically feel, even if it’s the texture of your shirt or the firmness of the ground.
- Name three things that you can hear. Focus especially on things outside of your body (listening to the ringing in your ears or the sound of blood rushing in your head isn’t the most helpful).
- Name two things you can smell. Focus on the air around you. Breathe it in and name that smell. Sniff your armpit if you have to.
- Name one thing you can taste. It doesn’t have to be something you need to taste, but maybe focus on what the inside of your mouth tastes like right now. Does it still taste like this morning’s coffee?
By focusing on all your senses and surroundings, you’ll be able to bring yourself out of your panic attack and into the present. Distractions and focusing strategies work great as grounding techniques for anxiety.
Using breathing exercises during moments of high stress or anxiety attacks can be extremely effective. These grounding techniques for anxiety are especially appealing because you can conduct them by yourself, any time and anywhere.
Studies show that certain breathing patterns are linked to specific emotions. Stress, anxiety or fear can cause your breath to be short or irregular, while happiness and contentment tend to be slower and more regulated. That’s why it’s essential to slow down your breathing during an anxiety attack. Here are some popular and effective breathing techniques to try:
Evolving from EMDR, “Tapping In” is a grounding technique for anxiety that you can do yourself. EMDR requires the help and guidance of a trained therapist, but “Tapping In” still uses the same concept of bilateral stimulation.
Here’s how you can do it during your next panic attack or even in the moments beforehand to help keep your symptoms at bay:
- Find a comfortable place to sit and begin breathing slowly.
- Listen to music or bring up a memory or visualization you can focus on.
- Cross your arms and tap either your knees or your shoulders: right hand to left shoulder or knee and left hand to right shoulder or knee.
- Tap as fast or as slow as you like. Tap around 15 times and check-in with yourself.
According to Psychology Today, “the left hemisphere of our brains deal with facts, figures, data, logic, and sequences, and the right hemisphere deals with feelings, emotions, intuition, melodies, and vibrations, [so] the simultaneous tapping can serve as a whole-brain exercise.”
Studies have been conducted to explore the validity of this grounding technique for anxiety and have had positive results on the outcomes for people using “Tapping In.”
Another grounding technique for anxiety that is easy to do focuses on the place where you’re trying to calm yourself down. Earthing takes grounding to a more literal level as you’re meant to sit on the ground and be as close to the Earth as possible.
One study had participants either sit grounded or ungrounded for an hour and recorded their moods. Researchers found an increased improvement in mood for those participants who sat connected with the ground as opposed to those who did not.
If you want to try earthing during an anxiety attack or time of high stress, simply go outside and sit on the ground. You can even sit on a pillow or mat and still get many of the same benefits. Feel the grass, breathe slowly and ground yourself when you need it most.
Engage Physical Senses
It’s easy to suddenly become over-stimulated, especially if you struggle with an issue such as panic or anxiety attacks. When experiencing this, it can be very helpful to focus on one thing that you’re holding or feeling to help you get through the negative emotional experience.
According to Medical News Today, “focusing on one stimulus can reduce other stimuli. As the person looks at the item, they may want to think about how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is. This technique can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.”
This can be taken a step further if a person is dealing with recurring panic attacks. Some people find that one grounding technique for anxiety that especially helps is carrying a specific object around with them for this purpose. If an anxiety attack is brewing, they can hold onto their object and use it as a focal point. Medical News Today suggested these objects for this grounding technique for anxiety:
- smooth stone
- a seashell
- a small toy
- a hair clip
- Anything small that can be easily carried around and accessed
But an object isn’t the only way to drown out other stimuli. There are other ways to achieve this same effect during a panic attack or before one happens. Here are some suggestions on how to embrace the physical to get you through:
- Put your hands in water (alternate between warm or cold)
- Hold a piece of ice
- Feel your body from your head to your toes
- Get your energy out
- Take a shower or bath
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Use Mental Methods
If “mind over matter” is more of your go-to, mental strategies can work as effective grounding techniques for anxiety.
- Think in categories.
- Pick a sport and name every team you can think of, or if food is more your thing, name every kind of cheese you know. This kind of mental game can serve as a great distraction to help you during an anxiety attack.
- Think through numbers.
- Counting upward can help, but if you need more of a challenge to harness your mind, consider counting backward from 100 or doing mental math problems and fact families.
- Use an anchoring phrase.
- An anchoring phrase or mantra can be beneficial as a grounding technique for anxiety. Holding a go-to phrase that you can repeat over and over can help reframe your mindset and get you through the high stress and panic.
- Recite a passage or poem you’ve memorized.
- If you love literature, use it to your advantage. Memorize poems or passages from books and plays and recite them when anxiety sets in. This kind of mental focus is a perfect grounding technique for anxiety.
While grounding techniques for anxiety that you can do on your own are very beneficial, especially during a panic attack, you don’t have to struggle through this alone. If your anxiety attacks or moments of high stress are becoming more and more frequent and a daily or weekly occurrence, it may be time to reach out for extra support.
For Pennsylvania locals, Native is here to help. With our team of highly trained professionals, we can help you learn to manage your anxiety more effectively and support you through learning techniques that can give you more control of your life.
For more information about how Native can help, contact us today.