What is grounding?
Grounding basically means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious. It helps you stay in the present moment instead of worrying about things that may happen in the future or events that have already happened, but you still find yourself going over and over them in your head.
Why does grounding work to calm you down? (the science bit!)
When we start to think about something stressful, our amygdala, a section of the brain located in the temporal lobe, goes into action. The amygdala, simply put, is the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotional responses, especially fear. It is great for preparing for emergency events but sometimes it kicks in to action and detects a threat where there really isn’t any.
Here is a typical process; we have a negative thought about a situation (remember a thought doesn’t necessarily mean it is real), our amygdala says “emergency! emergency!” and initiates changes in our body such as increased muscle tension, rapid heartbeat and faster breathing. The amygdala then interprets these body changes as further evidence that something is actually wrong which of course further activates it and creates a vicious cycle where you become more and more anxious and physically and emotionally overwhelmed.
Thankfully, we can use grounding techniques to break out of this vicious cycle. By re-focusing on your body and what you’re physically feeling, you get out of your head and divert your mind away from anxious or stressful thoughts and into the moment.
Why not read this article that explains a few other grounding techniques you could try?
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This technique gets you to use all your five senses to help you to get back to the present. It starts with you sitting comfortably, closing your eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths in through your nose (count to 3), and out through your mouth (to the count of 3).
Now open your eyes and look around you. Name out loud:
5 – things you can see
You can look within the room and out of the window.
4 – things you can feel
The silkiness of your skin, the texture of the material on your chair, what does your hair feel like? What is in front of you that you can touch? A table perhaps?
3 – things you can hear
Traffic noise or birds outside, when you are quiet and actually listening to things in your room constantly make a noise but typically we don’t hear them.
2 – things you can smell
Hopefully nothing awful!
1 – thing you can taste
It might be a good idea to keep a piece of chocolate handy in case you are doing this grounding exercise! You can always leave your chair for this one and when you taste whatever it is that you have chosen, take a small bite and let it swill around your mouth for a couple of seconds, really savoring the flavor.
Take a deep breath to end.