One in four Canadians will experience anxiety symptoms at some point in their lifetime. Anxiety can present in many different ways; as the anticipation of new or uncomfortable events, within social settings, obsessive compulsive thoughts, panic attacks, trauma or as a more generalized anxiety. Fortunately for those who experience the discomfort of anxiety, grounding techniques exist to eliminate or lessen the effects of the symptoms. There are many forms of grounding techniques, and not every technique will work for every person; however, if one solution does not work for you, do not be afraid to try out another, or develop your own technique that helps you refocus in an anxious situation.
1- 5,4,3,2,1 Method:
In this method, individuals are asked to combine slow breathing and recognizing their environment. Take a deep breath in for 5 seconds and then exhale for 5 seconds. Once your breath has been regulated, take the time to acknowledge 5 things around you that you can see, 4 things that you can feel, 3 things that you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
For example, practicing this method in an exam may look something like this:
Deep breath in
Deep breath out
See - pencil, pen, paper, desk, chair
Feel - denim jeans, wooden desk, plastic pen, cotton shirt
Hear - pencil on paper, pages flipping, clock ticking
Smell - perfume, fabric softener
Taste - coffee
2- Square Breathing:
This method of grounding is very helpful when you are suffering from panic attacks or simply beginning to feel overwhelmed in any situation. Regulating your breath is extremely helpful in overcoming the uncomfortable physical symptoms that often accompany anxiety and worry. In this method, you will be matching your breathing to the movement of your finger.
Place your finger in the center of your chest
Start taking a slow, deep breath and begin tracing a square on your chest
Aim to finish drawing the square at the end of your breath. This should take about 10-15 seconds.
Repeat this movement and breath cycle about 20 times until your breathing has been regulated.
A variation of this technique is to match your breathing with something moving slowly and steadily. This resource is a great starting point for anyone who needs to slow their breathing during a panic attack or episode.
3- Memory Game:
This method of grounding challenges you to recall as many objects in a category as possible. The aim is to reorient yourself back to the present moment and suppress any negative emotions or memories that are trying to push their way into your thoughts. For example:
List as many dog breeds as you can
Name as many countries as you can
List all of the streets nearby that you can
List as many colours as you can
Grounding techniques are great tools to have when you experience anxious thoughts or feelings. Share in the comments some techniques that you have to combat anxiety. As always, if you feel that your symptoms are too much to handle on your own, consult a mental health professional, or go directly to the nearest emergency room.
Dr. Diana Garcia
Dr. Diana Garcia has over 20 years of experience in the field of psychology. She has provided psychological and counseling services in Ontario, and the states of Pennsylvania, and Florida