CONSUMER HEALTH

Feeling Anxious? Focus on These Grounding Techniques

Feeling anxious? You are not alone. These days, many of us are experiencing some level of anxiety, the body’s natural physical response to stress or fear. Techniques that can help us manage anxiety can be especially beneficial. 

Grounding is a coping skill that helps to distract one’s attention away from negative or challenging emotions. It is particularly helpful for managing short-term anxiety. By focusing our attention on what we are doing instead of on our anxiety, grounding techniques help us to move more into the present. Here are some particularly good grounding techniques: 

Focus on Your Five Senses 

  • Sight: Conjure up an image in your head—a happy place, a visual that is comforting for you. Perhaps you see yourself relaxing by a pool or sitting on a beach. Visualization can be especially useful at night, when many of us struggle these days with falling asleep.
  • Hearing: Focus your mind on soothing sounds. Wear earphones and listen to a waterfall or your favorite music. Try using a white noise machine or turning on a fan. If there are birds outside, focus on their calls. 
  • Smell: Focus on a smell you like. Perhaps spray some perfume or light a scented candle (though not when trying to fall asleep).  
  • Taste: Practice mindful eating. Try something simple like a glass of juice. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Does it feel cool? Refreshing? Or perhaps savor a piece of chocolate. Focus on the taste, the texture, the sweetness. 
  • Touch:  Perhaps touch a pet. Notice how the fur feels. Is it warm from the sun? Is it soft or coarse? Focus on the feel of a fabric, perhaps a favorite sweatshirt or sweater.  

An effective variation on focusing on the senses is the  5-4-3-2-1 coping technique: Name five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste.  

Also helpful are deep breathing exercises, ideally done while seated or lying down. Breathing slowly, allow the belly to fully expand as you inhale and then deflate as you exhale. Or try box breathing: Inhale for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4, then repeat.  

“Practice these grounding techniques when you are not in distress,” says Judith Hart, LCSW, an Englewood Health social worker who focuses on population health and practices at Englewood Health Physician Network – Behavioral Health in Englewood. “If one technique doesn’t work for you, move on to something else. Try to recognize your anxiety early; don’t wait until you are in full-blown distress. Reducing anxiety when it’s at lower levels and more manageable can enable you to keep yourself healthier, both emotionally and physically.” 

She adds, “These are challenging times. Grounding techniques can be useful for coping with short-term anxiety. They take practice, and not every technique works for everyone—find the techniques that work best for you. Most important, if anxiety becomes chronic and interferes with your life such that you can’t work, think, or sleep, it is important that you seek professional help.”

Posted July 13, 2020