4 Simple Grounding Exercises You Can Do Anytime
By: Sawyer Cecena
Grounding is the process of managing anxiety by focusing on physical occurrences. The theory behind grounding is that by bringing your attention to things that are actually happening, you should be able to tune out negative or worrisome thoughts. One of the most common forms of this is meditation, a practice which involves being in a quiet place – often alone – and calming the mind by focusing on breathing or other physical sensations. This may seem like an impossible feat if you are in a situation where you’re feeling overwhelmed in a place that is public or noisy. However, there are several grounding exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime you feel the need to take a break and clear your head.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
I learned about this technique from an episode of The Fosters, and it quickly became my go-to when I need a quick snap back to reality. This technique works by engaging all five of your senses: sight, touch, hearing, scent, and taste. Engaging these senses is key to distracting the mind and allowing yourself to focus on the present moment. You start by naming out loud five things you can see in the space around you. Then four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. As you are engaging with these things, try to take note of exactly what you are sensing. For example, how does the wood table feel against your fingertips or what flavor was the gum that you can taste on your tongue?
The Color Game
Think of your favorite color. Easy, right? Now, glance around the room and point out of the things within sight that are that color. If there’s a window nearby, take a look outside as well. Note how many different shades you see, and how things like light or distance affect how the color appears. This is another technique that works by distracting your mind and giving you something else that’s simple and pleasurable to focus on. You can repeat this with other colors, shapes, or really any identifying quality you can think of. The sky’s the limit!
Play With Temperature
Have you ever gotten in the shower only to realize that the water was way too cold? A shock to the senses like that can be a great wake-up call for your brain. If you’re feeling a mind-fog coming on, you can replicate that sensation by playing around with different temperatures. One good way to do this is to grab a drink that’s either super cold or super hot (just don’t burn yourself!) and just hold it in your hands for a while. Don’t rush to drink it, but rather wrap your fingers around the cup or even hold it carefully against your face to feel the change in temperature. Another way to do this is to place bare feet against a cold floor and take note of how your body reacts.
Sometimes anxiety can make us feel a disconnect between who we are and the world around us. I find this happening to me often in the middle of the night, especially if I’m feeling ill or have woken from sleep paralysis or a bad dream. This technique helps bridge that gap and remind us of who we are by giving an introduction. Try to speak these things out loud, even if it’s only in a whisper. Start by saying your name, age, and where you are from. After that, I like to list the other people in my home, what I do for a living, and what I do for fun. You could also try recounting what you did the day before, and what you’re planning to do the next day.