Anxiety Skills 101 -Grounding Exercises

Grounding exercises are a quick strategy to keep you in the present moment and reduce the ruminating thoughts.


When we feel anxious, we tend to focus on pushing the thoughts and feelings as far as we can and our goal becomes to make it stop. Different tools and strategies work for different people. There is no right or wrong here and it may take you some time to find "your" way of managing your anxiety.


Grounding techniques fall in line with mindfulness practices as its goal is to bring you back to the present moment. There are many exercises available for you to practice and it may be helpful to have trialed a few in case you become overwhelmed or find yourself in a stressful situation.


The majority of these exercises focus and engage other bodily senses and incorporates engaging different areas of the brain, thus taking away from your ruminating thoughts of strong emotions.


I have prepared a list of a few easy techniques that you may find useful or fun to try even when you are not feeling a sense of impending doom.


One of the most engaging and the most popular techniques is 5-4-3-2-1.

This method forces your brain to take in all your surroundings and encourages your brain to recount what you see and feel. It allows you to distract your mind by engaging all your five senses.

Stop and notice:

  • five things that you can see

  • four things that you can feel

  • three things that you can hear

  • two things that you can smell

  • one thing that you can taste


If this becomes challenging and you cannot recall the order of the senses, take a minute and name everything you see around you, placing the accent on noticing and calling the objects out loud. You can also try naming different items like your favorite movies, your favorite actors, colors, books, etc. Feel free to come up with a memory/grounding technique of your own!


Another grounding exercise is focusing on your breath. there are many methods and approaches to breathing and breathwork, I like to keep things simple. When you are anxious, trying to recall how to breathe may create feeling even more stressed and anxious. 4-4-4 - method is typically easy to remember. Following the numbers, you will inhale on a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four and then exhale on a count of four, repeat this four times (or until you feel less anxious).


Rubbing your palms together and noticing the warmth and the sounds they make can also help you focus on your palms and hands rather than your busy mind.


Clenching your fists, holding it for a few seconds, and releasing the tension can also be quite helpful. Repeat this five times or keep going until you feel calmer.


Keep in mind that these are some quick suggestions that you may want to try when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. Find the one that you like the most and feel free to come up with one that works for you!


Do you know other techniques that worked for you? Feel free to share your comments and your own techniques!


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