Anxiety, panic, stress, dissociation and harmful flashbacks are quite common for many people, I suffer from a few of these symptoms myself. There is a way to get relief from these uncomfortable feelings and memories and it’s called grounding. In this article I want to discuss some of the grounding techniques I use when I’m dealing with stress, anxiety or distress and how I find ways to stay grounded throughout my day.
Grounding exercises can help, if you find that you are feeling a bit overwhelmed or if you have become distracted by a distressing memory or feeling. If you realize that you are caught up in strong emotions like anger or anxiety you might want to consider trying a grounding exercise or two. By practicing some centering techniques you essentially distract yourself from the negative thoughts and behaviors you are going through.
What Is Grounding?
Grounding is a coping strategy that helps to put you back in touch with the present moment. Practicing these exercises when we feel distressed or anxious brings us back to the here and now and by doing that we can break the cycle of our anxiety or discomfort. When we break the cycle we can come back to the problem with a new outlook.
Grounding usually involves bringing your awareness to one of your 5 senses – this connects you with the present moment immediately. Imagine taking a cold shower, as soon as you get under the freezing water you will be fully in the present moment. It would be hard for you to be distracted in that moment because you will be thinking of nothing else but the cold. Sucking on an ice cube is another example of a grounding technique you can use to bring your mind to the here and now.
What Is The Difference Between Grounding And Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of being where we pay attention to the present moment, without judgement. Grounding is a technique that brings us into this present moment.
When you find that you are in an intensely emotional state you can practice one or two grounding techniques to regain your mental focus. Grounding and mindfulness are very similar in that they both focus on bringing you back into the here and now. I am a fan of mindfulness and the benefits mindfulness offers me.
I like to think that they are kind of the same thing. I practice many different mindfulness techniques and I have found that I get the same benefit from both grounding and mindfulness. In my experience when I am having a hard time or facing a problem in my life I can practice some grounding and get back to the problem with a fresh mind.
Its a strategy I use to cope with my problems. Grounding works especially well for me when I am angry. When I realize I am angry I will take three deep breaths to calm myself before I say anything further or do anything further. I am positive this strategy has saved many relationships and potential damages.
Grounding can be very personal so what might work for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. I suggest that you play around with these techniques below and try to find one or two that works best for you.
“it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”
― Rupi Kaur
- Open your eyes. When you feel like you need to be a bit more grounded open your eyes wide and allow them to become unfocused. When they refocus become aware of the first thing you see. Let yourself be with the object or person for a bit of time.
- Deep breaths. Take some deep belly breaths. Breath in for three counts, hold your breath for three counts and exhale for three counts. I use this grounding technique very often throughout my day. We also have a great blog post written about breathing exercises you can try out.
- Take note of your limbs. Look at your legs and feet or your arms and hands. Move your fingers and toes and focus on the sensations of your movements. Try and pinpoint the moment you have the thought of moving your limb to the actual real-time moment your limb moves.
- Use your voice. Not one I use often but I know that this grounding technique works for many people. Sing your favorite song out loud or hum a tune that you love. You could whistle as well. While singing you should be focused on your voice and the words of the song or the medley of the tune.
- Cold showers. Another one of my favorites. Taking a cold shower first thing in the morning has an amazing grounding effect on the rest of your day. Cold showers have also been linked to many health benefits so why not give it a splash.
- While driving. Grounding yourself while driving will not only make you a safer driver it will also allow you to be in a state of calm and peace. Take a look at our article on mindful driving and learn how you can become a safer and more relaxed driver.
- Have a stretch. If you can do this outside on some grass or sand without any shoes it will work even better. Have a long stretch, open up your body in any areas you might have stiffness. Focus all your attention on the way the stretch feels and notice any aches and pains in your body. Being mindful of the body while stretching is a great grounding technique.
- Affirmation time. I have been doing affirmations for years and I believe that they really do work. Not only do affirmations help you to shape your reality they also allow you to be fully present and grounded while you do them. I think this is a must have on anybodies list of grounding techniques.
- Keep a journal. keeping a journal is a fantastic way to stay grounded. When you notice some distress or anxiety pull out your journal or grab the nearest piece of paper and write down your feelings. Journalling is very therapeutic and calming. You could even write down your pain tear out the page and burn it to release those feelings into the universe.
- Get active. Exercise is very good for your health and it’s one of the grounding techniques that can be done anywhere. Whether you are doing ten push-ups or going for a five kay run. While you are exercising stay focused on your breath. I personally hit the deck and do ten quick push-ups when I feel like I need a bit of grounding.
- Body awareness. This grounding exercise takes about 10 minutes to do but it delivers impressive results. It’s called a body scan and it’s best to do this in a quite space. If you want to learn how to do a body scan head over to this article to learn more about it.
“Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace.”
― Steve Goodier
5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This grounding technique is purposefully designed to force you to take in your surroundings by using each of your senses. It helps you to notice the small things that your mind would usually tune out such as textures, distant sounds and smells. This grounding exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime and it’s one I always recommend to someone who asks me how to ground themselves.
How to do the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique
Below is a guide on how you can practice this very effective technique.
1. First you notice 5 things you can see with your eyes.
Actively look for the finer details in the objects you are looking at such as colors, damages, patterns or the way light reflects from it.
2. Notice 4 things you can feel.
What does the clothing feel like touching your skin? Is there a breeze blowing against your face? What does your chair feel like against your body? Pick up something in your vicinity and explore it’s texture, weight or any other properties it might have.
3. Notice 3 things you can hear.
The rattle of the ceiling fan or the hum of your computer. Perhaps it’s the distant traffic or the trees rustling in the wind. Pay attention to the sounds you don’t usually notice.
4. Notice 2 things you can smell.
What smells are in the air around you? Perhaps it’s the smell of rain or the various smells of the city. If you are inside it could be the smell of a coworkers perfume or the aroma of lunch.
5. Notice 1 thing you can taste.
If you have a snack it could come in handy for this final step. If you don’t have anything simply focus on the taste of your mouth.
How To Know If You Are Ungrounded?
So we know how to ground ourselves now but how do you know when you are ungrounded?
- You are easily distracted
- You find yourself spacing out often
- You are attracted and engage in personal drama
- Anxiety and constant worrying is present
- You overthink things
- You find that you obsess over material possessions
- You are very image conscious
- You aren’t honest with yourself or others
Being ungrounded can make you feel like you are out of touch with reality. You may feel like you aren’t your normal self at times. When we find that we are extremely ungrounded we may take things to the extreme and exaggerate all our problems. In short you become a drama queen.
You might notice some of these symptoms in yourself or in the people around you. The first step to becoming more grounded is to realize that you are ungrounded at times.
Being un-centered is a worldwide epidemic at the moment. Very few people have the awareness to realize that they are ungrounded. We are to distracted by all the shiny things that life has to offer. Slowly more and more people are coming to the realization that materialistic living will not bring happiness. It’s all about living a grounded and present life if we want to get a glimpse of what real fulfillment and happiness looks like.
How Do You Ground Yourself To Earth?
Another example of a grounding exercise is called “EARTHING” When we ground ourselves to earth we connect our physical body to the ground. It is recommended that we go barefoot for at least 20 minutes a day.
1. Mindful walking
Mindful walking means to walk with no destination in mind while being acutely aware of each step and breath you take. This practice must be done barefoot and on grass or soil, you have to allow yourself to be connected to the earth while walking. Here is an in depth article on how to walk mindfully.
2. Roll around like a cat
Have you ever noticed how animals roll around on the ground or how children roll around while they play? Rolling around on the ground discharges negative energy and its a way to access your inner child. Next time you are outside why not give it a go.
3. Stand like a tree
Stand with your bare feet hip width apart. Keep your neck long and your head floating above your body, make sure your spine is straight and your pelvis tucked under. Rest your hands on your sides or place them over your navel. Consciously sink your body weight into your feet without adjusting your posture. Feel the ground with your feet and imagine roots growing out of your body extending deep into the ground underneath you. Stand here for a couple of minutes and breath deeply.
4. Earthing visualization
Try and visualize yourself physically connecting to the earth. I find if I stand up tall and center myself while focusing on my breathing I can picture my body’s energy connecting to the ground. Sometimes I imagine a beam of light coming down from the top of my head through my body out my feet and into the ground.
Grounding yourself regularly will have amazing benefits for your overall well being. Below is a Ted-X talk given by Stacey Schuerman, she talks about the importance of breath and breathing. Breathing is one of the fundamentals of grounding and mindfulness meditation. I urge you to take a few minutes and watch the talk.
In the video she does a bit of a guided meditation for you to follow, go try it and observe how you feel afterward. It’s short and sweet but packs a real punch.
With all of these grounding exercises at your disposal you will be able to stay grounded throughout your day. If you practice these exercises it will become like second nature over time. The more you practice grounding and mindfulness the more it becomes a part of who you are.
The person I was five years ago would not recognize the person I am today because the person I am today is a more grounded and mindful individual. It took time and still takes time to become better at being human. I’m sure in five years from now this version of myself will not recognize the future me.
Keep on trying to be better and seek out new ways of dealing with life and everything life has to throw at you. This is the way you truly grow.