Grounding is one of my favorite coping skills because it can be both preventative, such as bringing you back when you begin to spiral or start having symptoms of anxiety, as well as having some more hardcore techniques if you are in a full blown panic attack or feel like you are past the point of no return. I promise, nothing lasts forever.
Grounding is all about literally bringing your feet back to the ground, as well as mentally pulling you back to a solid safe space in reality.
There are a lot of different techniques and not of them will work for you. For example, one technique is breathing (inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts), but if I was really anxious and some one told me to breathe I would want to scream and punch them in the face because for me it’s just not helpful. Please don’t punch people in the face though, just know that what helps some people can do the complete opposite for others.
The first technique has to do with different exercises and activities you can do to occupy your mind and put it to work doing something neutral and distracting.
- Counting colors. Think “I Spy” except you can play by yourself. Choose a color, like red, and look around you to find everything that is red. Some people like to actually count every red thing they see, I personally just like to take a second to mentally note “that book over there is red” before moving on. Don’t actually move around to do this, unless you are walking somewhere in which case stay on your path, just observe your surroundings and try to notice the details. My favorite technique when I am outside walking is instead of looking for one color, I try and find the smallest details of color, such as a green stripe on a gum wrapper, or an orange sticker on someone’s car. There are no rules, if you want to find the whole rainbow, or change colors after you’ve found 5 things, just do whatever works for you.
- Mental Math. This seems to work best with people that are average in skill at mental math (like me), if it’s second nature to you and way too easy it is not going to occupy your brain, and if it’s way too hard to the point that it is just frustrating its going to hurt more than help. Basically you pick a 3-digit number like 253 and subtract 7. You keep subtracting 7 from your answer until it gets too simple and then you pick a new 3-digit number. Again, if this sounds like something you could do in your sleep or like high school has come back to haunt you, don’t do it.
- The 5 senses. Ask yourself, what can you feel? Maybe you can feel the carpet on your feet, or the air from a fan blowing on you, whatever it is focus on that sense until you can name three things. What can you hear? Cars outside, your dog walking around, your own breathing, whatever it may be. Do this for all of the 5 senses, hearing sight smell touch and taste. When you are done it can be helpful to remind yourself that all of those things you just named mean that you are here, right now, and you are safe. (My partner wanted me to add that they love putting their bare feet in the grass and focusing on that feeling, so if you know you love walking in the grass or sand, or smelling a specific candle, make your settings work to your advantage and bring out your favorite scented lotion, or head outside to find a patch of grass.)
These next techniques are when you need to bring in the big guns as they say.
- Ice Diving. This is exactly what it sounds like. Get a bowl big enough to fit your face/head and fill it with water and ice. Then, dunk your face in the bowl for a seconds and let cold shock your system back to reality. (Holding ice or a frozen orange, or freezing a knotted wet rag and then untying it are less extreme versions.)
- Tactile sensory objects. Sometimes your brain is just past the point of trying count colors, in these cases grabing something tactile and focusing on the feeling can be very grounding. This could be things like silly putty, soft stuffed animals, fidget toys, weighted objects like weighted blankets or those stuffed toys filled with rice, or even just holding something warm like a handwarmer or sitting with a heating blanket.
The last thing is something I do a lot not just as a coping skill but also just as a regular every day practice in my life, and that is crystal meditation.
It might sound daunting, and I’m sure there are official techniques for this, but honestly the method I use is something I completely made up on my own because it felt right. Now I do also work with crystals in a spiritual way, but you do not have to be connected to any specific religion or spirituality to find this helpful. Think of the crystal as just something to hold and focus on.
For those who are into crystals and witchy woo stuff read on, if that is not your thing just scroll down till you see these bolded words: so you have your stone.
When I am grounding with crystals I tend to go for my favorite three: Green Fluorite to connect my mind and heart , Eudialyte to help me be more present in my body and to help counter self doubt, and Angelite which is my ‘god stone’ because it helps expand awareness and strengthen communication, especially with guiding spirits and angels.
Choose a stone that feels right for you and the situation, or go with an old favorite.
So you have your stone. Hold it in your hand and focus on pouring your energy into the stone. If it helps to use visualization you can think of your energy as a rope being pulled or a vine growing from your center and into the stone. This is similar to focusing on the energy or rhythm of of your breathing as you might do in yoga or other forms of meditation.
At the same time you want to be opening yourself to the ‘clean’ (read: not filled with anxiety) energy from the stone and allowing that to replace the panic or tightness in your body.
Even if you are a skeptic or do not believe that you can tap into the energy, feeling of god, or what have you, that embodies everything around us. Just humoring yourself for a second and focusing on the visualization should occupy your mind long enough to ground you. Granted, spending the whole time frustrated about how ‘stupid’ this feels is not grounding, so as I mentioned in the very beginning if it is going to frustrate you, try something else.
As I said, different things work for different people, so try some out and let me know how it goes, or leave your own favorite methods in the comments below.