5 Simple Grounding Techniques for When You’re Feeling Stressed or Anxious
Many people in recovery struggle with anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, stress, anger, and fear. It’s no secret that difficult emotions can trigger cravings, but practising grounding techniques can help you push back on the emotional chaos and re-center.
Grounding techniques can help you keep your thoughts present and rooted in the here and now, instead of taking you to a negative emotional place. This can be invaluable as you navigate through the emotional turbulence of recovery.
What are grounding techniques
Grounding techniques allow you to come back to the present moment when your thoughts begin to run rampant. They help you re-center when your emotions feel out of your control.
Grounding helps you to avoid going down a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions.
When we spiral, we let our negative thoughts take control of us.
They build on one another, making us feel worse and worse.
We may even experience physical sensations, like a tightness in our chest or shortness of breath.
Grounding techniques stop this from happening. They allow us to escape what feels like the confines of our minds that are taking us somewhere else. They bring us back into our body, and into where we are right here, right now.
Grounding techniques offer many physical, mental and emotional benefits
According to research, grounding helps alleviate chronic fatigue and chronic pain.
One study on sleep indicated that grounding techniques helped improve sleep quality and sleep duration in participants.
Another study indicated that even getting in one hour of grounding helped improve mood for those struggling with stress, depression and anxiety.
Grounding techniques help instill a sense of ease and calm within us. They help us bring our heart rate back to a normal level. They help us to relax and to destress.
Grounding techniques can range from really simple hacks to deep inner work. The seemingly simple act of touching an object next to you can ground you in the present moment.
How grounding techniques can help in recovery
Addiction recovery can be filled with such a wide range of emotions, many of which feel out of our control.
When we feel emotionally turbulent, it can cause us to make impulsive decisions that aren't always in our best interest.
For instance, many in recovery have experienced traumas in their past.
Especially in early recovery, having flashbacks and remembering these traumas so vividly can cause us to transport ourselves mentally back to an awful place.
We may experience fear, panic, anxiety, anger, stress, sadness, or shame. However, our thoughts are what are creating these uncomfortable emotions and pulling us to a place where we don't want to be.
We can so easily become consumed by the weight of the negative emotions and unhelpful thoughts that we are having.
These thoughts and emotions can lead us down an unhealthy path. In the worst-case scenario, our thoughts and emotions can feel so out of our control and can bring us to such a bad place that it causes us to experience a relapse.
Re-Balance By Grounding Yourself
By using grounding techniques, we center ourselves, gain hold of our thoughts, and come back to the present moment.
Using grounding techniques helps prevent the mind from going into a negative, unhelpful place that can lead to substance use.
Additionally, grounding techniques help improve our emotional health and stability, and allow us to nurture our mental health as well.
They provide us with clarity, so we can make informed decisions.
They help us reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and anxiety.
Grounding also helps us regulate our emotions, so that we aren't acting on impulse.
When using grounding to bring us back to the present moment, we also realise that we are only in control of certain things, and this helps us with fostering acceptance and taking accountability for what we can control.
How to know when you’re not grounded
Being grounded feels like being connected to yourself. It feels like having clarity, stability, and security.
When you aren't grounded, then, you might feel a great sense of disconnection from yourself and those around you.
You might feel a disconnection from the present moment, as your thoughts are not rooted in the here and now.
When you're not grounded, one slight inconvenience or misstep that happens can throw your mood off for the entire day.
When you aren't grounded, you may constantly focus on what other people think of you, as your thoughts are always elsewhere and not centered within yourself.
Additionally, when you aren't grounded, you may spend a lot of time feeling guilty about things that you did during active addiction or even before that.
You're stuck on choices that you made in the past, which is pulling you away from thriving in the present. Perhaps your thoughts are ruminating on things that have already happened, as you drown in memories of the past.
Conversely, your thoughts could be spinning around potential things that could happen in the future. Thoughts like this are typically rooted in anxiety or fear.
When we are remembering our past or worrying about our future, it takes us out of the present.
Grounding is what brings us back.
5 simple grounding techniques you can try right now
Grounding techniques all work differently for different people. Try out different techniques and discover which one works best for you.
Ideally, the best time to use a grounding technique is when you start to feel your mood shift. The further you let your thoughts and emotions get away from you, the more difficult it can be to center yourself thereafter.
An additional tip is to try these techniques out one day before you are in a state of emotional distress or feeling overwhelmed.
Trying them when you are feeling calm and when things are okay can give you a sense of what being grounded feels like.
Below are 5 simple grounding techniques to try out when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed:
1. 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
A widely recognized grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This grounding technique allows you to activate each of your senses, one at a time, gradually bringing you back to the present moment. The technique is super easy to use no matter where you are or what you're doing.
When practicing this grounding technique, the first thing you want to do is look for 5 things that you see around you. This engages your sense of sight. Look around you and point out five distinct things. These can be things close to you or things far away from you. It can be something like a ring on your finger, a chair that you're sitting on, or a tree outside your window. There's no right or wrong way to practice this technique, as it's all about engaging your senses.
Engaging your senses
The next step in this technique is to touch 4 things next to you, and observe how they feel. This engages is your sense of touch, continuing to bring you into the present moment. You can touch your cool, hard wooden desk, or your soft, textured knit sweater. With this step, you just want to touch 4 things, and be aware of what they feel like.
Next up, you will pay attention to 3 different sounds that you can hear. This engages your sense of hearing. This can include the cars driving outside on the road, the wind rustling the leaves on the sidewalk, or the television playing downstairs. Try not to worry about understanding the sounds, but rather, just focus on hearing them.
The next step is to smell 2 things to engage your sense of smell. This can mean smelling the lotion on your hands, or the perfume or cologne you sprayed on yourself earlier. It can mean smelling the cup of coffee in front of you, or going over to your freshly washed laundry and inhaling that scent. Again, try not to judge what you are smelling, but just focus on the sensory experience.
Lastly, focus on 1 thing that you can taste, to engage your sense of taste. When you focus on this sense, you might be able to taste the mint from the toothpaste you used this morning, or remnants of the afternoon snack you ate earlier.
After going through this list and engaging each of your senses one at a time, you will feel so grounded, and rooted back in the present moment.
2. Body Scan
Another great way to ground yourself is by performing a body scan. This can be easier to do if you are sitting or laying down somewhere that is quiet and where you won't be distracted, but you can also modify this technique to do it in public or in a busier environment.
Performing a full body scan meditation will allow you to focus on each of your individual body parts, and the subtle sensations going on within the body itself. This will take you out of your head and back into the present moment of how your body is feeling right now.
If you're in a situation where you don't have the time or capability of performing a full body scan meditation, you can still modify this practice by focusing on your individual body parts. Wiggle your toes, rub your fingers against each other, touch your ear.
Notice if your skin feels soft and smooth or rough to the touch. Allow yourself to become hyper-aware of any sensations going on within your body. Notice your breathing patterns, and if you are having short and shallow or long and deep breaths. Focusing on maintaining your breathing serves as a grounding technique in and of itself.
Earthing is one of the grounding techniques that helps you feel connected to the Earth. This is a grounding technique that allows you to feel rooted in something, giving you a sense of stability and security. This technique is very simple to practise, and involves taking your shoes off and placing your feet on the bare Earth.
Then, it's about letting yourself connect with the energy of the earth beneath you.
To enhance this experience, you can even visualize roots going from the bottom of your spine, down through your legs and feet, down through the Earth, and securing at the Earth's core.
Although this exercise may sound far-fetched to some, the earth has been proven to emit free-flowing electrons. Research has indicated that earthing has a profound physiological impact on the body, including reducing chronic inflammation and pain.
4. Using an Object
Another simple grounding technique is to have a grounding object that you can touch. You can choose a specific object that brings you comfort, or you can touch whatever object or objects are near you.
This technique allows you to engage your sense of touch to bring you out of your mind and into your present reality.
Instead of just touching the object, be sure to really take in how it feels.
- Is it soft or rough?
- Warm or cool?
- What texture does it have?
- How does it feel on your skin?
Really focus your energy onto experiencing that object, and allow yourself to come back to the present.
5. Grounding Visualisation Meditation
Practising a grounding visualisation meditation can help you re-center within your body.
It can help you notice your scattered thoughts and help bring you back to the here and now.
A visualisation meditation specifically for grounding will help you find your center while feeling stable, secure, and calm.
Below is an example of a quick, 8-minute grounding meditation:
A final note on grounding in recovery
If you find yourself using grounding techniques multiple times a day, there’s something deeper going on that should be acknowledged and explored.
To feel the need to use a grounding technique likely means that you were in a state of anxiousness, fear, or disconnectedness. These emotions are a signal to you that there is something going on underneath the surface. This is because emotions are indicators of beliefs and thoughts that we are experiencing.
Although grounding techniques can help you manage these difficult emotional states, they aren't a way to heal the underlying root cause of the distress.
Because of this, it is important to explore what kinds of things are triggering you to feel the emotional stress that prompts you to use a grounding technique.
Grounding techniques are so useful in a moment of emotional chaos or disconnection, but what's more important is working through the underlying issues that can cause the emotional discord to begin with.
When you give yourself a chance to work through the underlying issues, it decreases the need for you to turn to grounding techniques, because you're less likely to become triggered.
Have grace with yourself as you do this inner healing work, as it isn’t easy. However, it is incredibly worth it, as it will provide a gateway for you to experience continuous growth, emotional freedom, and long-lasting recovery.
You can access many mindfulness and meditation techniques delivered by our wellness professionals within our dedicated to wellbeing hub
Author - Thurga