When we are feeling anxious we often experience physical symptoms such as heavy breathing, a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms. In addition to this, we also experience psychological effects such as feeling stressed, overwhelmed and having our minds run a million thoughts per second. Anxiety is our innate capacity to prepare our bodies for potential threat.
Imagine walking through the jungle and seeing a large bear in the distance. Our brains would immediately prepare us for action to either; fight, run away or freeze in the moment. In this instance, we would be thanking our bodies for being so readily prepared. However, anxiety in the modern world is very different. Increased frequency and intensity of anxiety in our everyday lives can cause negative impacts on our work performance, relationships and in going about our day in general.
Grounding techniques are coping strategies that we can use to reduce symptoms of anxiety. These techniques can calm the body down and bring us back into the present moment where we can recognise that there is no threat or harm around us.
Grounding techniques have been effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, unwanted flashbacks and difficult emotions. There are many different techniques you can use, so we have broken them down into simple and easy steps.
- Take a breath!
Breathing is one of the best things we can do to soothe ourselves when we feel overwhelmed. When things get tough we may feel like we are lacking control. But what we can control is our ability to breathe and our ability to consciously focus on it.
Boxed breathing is a simple way to calm down the nervous system.
- To begin, inhale deeply for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- And then pause for 4 seconds
Repeat the cycle for at least 4 times or more by deeply filling your lungs with air and then releasing. Keep in mind to focus on your breath, by counting to 4 each time, or by placing your hand on your belly to feel yourself inhale and exhale.
- Move your body!
Moving your body is another way to relieve tension and stress. Exercise can help to regulate our emotions and put us into a more clear state of mind. Whether it’s just 5 minutes of light stretching or a 30 minute run, getting our endorphins running can reduce the possibility of an oncoming panic attack.
Try to find the right exercise that works for you! Think of something you enjoy. A simple walk around the block can be just the cure to get out of a foggy headspace. Clear air can lead to a clear mind!
For many people, mindfulness may seem like a boring task where you sit with yourself for half an hour and close your eyes. However, I’m here to tell you that mindfulness can be approached in many ways that are not daunting and are quick and easy. Mindfulness activities have many benefits in regards to regulating our emotions and calming our nervous system. It is also a handy way to bring ourselves into the present moment to alleviate any fear about the past or the future.
The 54321 Method
- Start by naming 5 objects you can directly see
- Name 4 things you can physically touch
- Name 3 things you can hear
- Name 2 things you can smell
- And lastly name one thing you can taste
By focusing on our 5 senses we can distract our minds from wondering off and maintain the present moment. This reminds us that we are safe and calm.
- State your surroundings!
This technique is helpful in getting our attention to our current state. When we are anxious we tend to be thinking about future situations. This can create a pattern of over thinking and evaluating different scenarios, or even thinking about worse case scenarios. The only thing we can control is our current situation. Right here right now.
State your surroundings in terms of facts. You may say something like:
- My name is (full name)
- I am currently at home
- I am in a safe place
- I am sitting on a chair
- My feet can touch the ground
Try to remember where you are, who you are and why you are safe. Stating these facts out loud can help us feel secure and relaxed. Remember to take a deep breath in between each statement.