8 Grounding Exercises That Actually Work
When experiencing anxiety, negative or challenging emotions, flashbacks, the practice of using grounding exercises can help you take control. Grounding exercises are especially effective for managing feelings of overwhelm and panic. Medication takes time to work, but having access to a vault of grounding exercises can help you feel better almost instantly. Grounding exercises take you away from these anxious thoughts and back into the present.
How Do Grounding Exercises Work?
While feeling stuck with these intense emotions, grounding exercises help bring control back to a chaotic mindset. Grounding exercises help us to control these symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment.
Everyone is different so what works for one person may not work for another. Here is a list of our suggestions for effective grounding exercises. Try different ones to see what works best for you.
Grounding Exercises to Try:
Try counting to 4 as you breathe in and 4 again as you breathe out. Slow, deep breathing has been shown to physiologically calm us down. It also has many other positive health benefits such as respiratory, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory and autonomic nervous systems. Breathing deeply is counterproductive to anxiety or panic because it tells your brain to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system which then promotes a feeling of calmness. Specifically using breathing techniques can help you gain a sense of control over your body which is helpful when you are feeling panicked.
Go for a walk
Similar to slowing your breathing and taking deep breaths, walking forces us to expend energy and breathe longer and deeper, helping us to feel calmer.
Hold a Piece of Ice
Holding on to a piece of ice is shocking to the skin and the body. The cold, crisp, almost painful feeling in your hand is known for bringing people back to the “here and now”. When we feel panicky, we are often lost in the emotions and thoughts swirling through our heads and not aware of our bodies or surroundings. Bring yourself back to the “here and now” so you can address the feelings head on.
Practice a meditation
The Loving Kindness meditation can be particularly helpful when we are feeling down. The meditation asks you to find things about yourself that you love as well as those around you. The idea is to help remind you of the good things you have around you.
Having an oil diffuser or beeswax candle with calming scents such as lavender, jasmine, chamomile, or bergamot have been shown to help people relax. Certain scents such as lavender, have been known to reduce cortisol in our bodies, helping us to feel more relaxed and at ease. Lavender is also known for helping the body to induce melatonin naturally to help you wind down for a good rest. Try adding in aromatherapy in your day to day life to help you stay calmer overall. This is a grounding technique that can also be part of your self-care routine.
Look around you, find 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This exercise, asks you to observe what is around you to distract you from the thought or feeling that is causing you pain/discomfort. Distraction, as mentioned above with the ice cube example, can help us come back to the “here and now” and reduce the immediate surge of cortisol running through our bodies. You can do this exercise in your head, on paper, or with a social support.
Listen to some relaxing, soothing music
Sometimes, we just need something to distract us from the thoughts intruding on our mind. Cleaning, zoning out to a good TV show or movie, reading a book can all be good distractions when needed. Right now is the time to do what is soothing and distracting. Making up a go-to list can be quite helpful in times of panic.
Everyone will experience anxiety at some point in their lives. It is good to have some tools to help you stay grounded when you need them most. If you are finding yourself worrying and can’t stop and feel you need additional support. Check out my One on One Support page for more information on the services I offer. Alternatively, you can always search for agencies in your area that may be able to help. If you are feeling lost, know you’re not alone and there are people out there that want to help.