13 Best Grounding Techniques for Anxiety and Trauma

To a great extent, grounding techniques1 help people with anxiety, stress, and trauma. Their main purpose is to bring a person back to reality in case they are having panic attacks or traumatic flashbacks by focusing more on the present.

1. Grounding Techniques: What Are They?

Grounding Techniques are different types of mental and physical activities and exercises that help an individual cope with stress, anxiety, and trauma. These grounding techniques help people focus more on the present event than the past.

The main purpose of these grounding techniques is to let a person take their focus away from worries and negative thoughts that happened in the past, and flashbacks. Techniques such as these, when practiced regularly, will lessen the intensity of an individual’s feelings and distract them.

Grounding techniques
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Over the years, many mental and behavioral health experts have recommended using grounding techniques in people with high anxiety and stress and who have been through traumatic experiences.

2. How Do Grounding Techniques Work?

Grounding Techniques use all five senses, such as sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, to connect individuals with the present then and there immediately. They help you instantly connect with the present moment and reduce the chances of stepping into negative thoughts or flashbacks.

However, these techniques are highly personal. What works for one person may sometimes trigger flashbacks or anxiety2 in another person. Therefore, it is very important to do a trial check to determine what is best for you.

grounding techniques
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Even while developing the grounding techniques, an individual needs to pay close attention to what coping mechanisms have already helped them get through anxiety and stress to build techniques centered around them or even use them as grounding techniques.

3. Grounding Techniques: Where Can We Do Them?

The answer to the above question is ‘anywhere.’ The best thing about grounding or coping techniques is that they can be done anywhere at any time.

It could be our home or in public, but once an individual starts experiencing a flashback or dissociation from the present, grounding techniques can immediately bring the focus back to the present.

4. Physical Grounding Techniques

There are both physical as well as mental ways to ground individuals.

Some of the physical grounding techniques3 include:

4.1. Breathing Exercises

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Focused breathing is one of the most popular and easiest grounding techniques for relaxation.

One of the most well-known breathing exercises is the 4-4-4 technique: you will breathe in 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and then breathe out for 4 seconds, and this same pattern will continue until you feel relaxed.

While doing so, one can also tighten the muscles and release them while breathing, all while focusing on their breath and practicing mindfulness 4in the process.

4.2. Focusing on Your Feet

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The goal of this grounding technique is to bring attention to your feet.

This technique requires you to:

  • Place both feet on the ground
  • Wiggle your toes
  • Curl and uncurl your toes several times
  • Now, notice the sensations in your feet

According to experts, this grounding can also be practiced while walking or sitting in a chair, and the main aim is to bring about a neutral physical sensation, which helps to feel more connected to the present moment.

4.3. Rubbing Your Hands Together

Grounding techniques
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Rubbing your hands together or clapping with both hands is also one of the grounding techniques that help with anxiety and trauma.

When you rub your hands together, a sense of warmth arises, which helps with anxiety. Apart from rubbing and clapping grounding techniques, squeezing your fists greatly helps with anxiety.

4.4. Splashing Cold Water

Another effective grounding technique is splashing cold water on your face and hands. According to experts, the reason for using this method is that it shocks your body persuades it to notice something, and forces your mind to come back to the present.

grounding techniques
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Also, the quick temperature change will help you bring your sensation back into your body in the present moment, redirecting all your emotions and instead focusing on the cold water sensation.

4.5. Light a Scented Candle

Smelling things that are pleasant and appealing helps you to relax greatly. Various studies have shown smelling essential oils such as lavender are set to have therapeutic effects on us and greatly help people suffering from anxiety, stress, and trauma.

4.6. Stretching/Exercising

Exercising or stretching also releases your emotions and removes negative energy from your body, whether a simple stretch or a long run on your favorite path will bring you back from the senses away from the panic.

4.7. Mindfulness Exercises

Grounding techniques
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This mindfulness exercise, also known as the ‘5-4-3-2-1’ exercise, takes you into the details of your surroundings using each one of your senses and redirects your focus and attention towards the present moment.

Here is how to practice this technique:

  • List out 5 things you can See: Watch out for the objects around you, the patterns or textures on the ceiling or the way light is reflected off a surface around you, and all those things you have never noticed before.
  • List out the 4 things you can Feel: Pay attention to how your clothing feels on your body, the feeling of the chair you are leaning on, or pick up an object near you and look out for its texture, weight, and physical qualities.
  • List out 3 things you can Hear: Notice the sounds that your mind chose to ignore, such as the sound of the fan, the ticking clock, traffic outside, and so much more.
  • List out 2 things you can Smell: Try and notice the smells in your environment. It could be the smell of a room freshener, perfume, the scent of a flower, or an unlit candle.
  • List out 1 thing you can eat: Anxiety or not, and it is always a good habit to carry candy, gum, or a few snacks along with you wherever you go. Whenever a feeling of uneasiness enters your body, immediately pop one into your mouth and redirect your focus on the flavors in your mouth.

5. Mental Grounding Techniques

Mental grounding techniques use mental distractions to turn away your focus from negative thoughts and bring them back to reality.

Some of the popular mental grounding techniques include:

5.1. Doing Simple Math

grounding techniques
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Whether you are a math person or not, this mental grounding technique is for everyone. Numbers can bring your whole attention towards it.

If you suddenly feel the uneasy feeling creeping inside you, instantly try:

  • Counting backward from 100 to 0.
  • Going through the multiplication tables in your head
  • Choose a particular number and think of many other ways you can arrive at the number. Suppose if the number is 10 (5×2=10, 7+3 = 10, 10-5=10)

5.2. Recite a Poem or Song

grounding techniques
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Reciting something is also an effective grounding technique that helps with stress and anxiety. This technique requires you to think of a familiar poem, song, or passage from a book you know.

The next step is to recite it inside your head slowly, and when you do it, visualize every word as you would see it on the page and pay more attention to the shape of these words on your mouth and your lips as you say it aloud.

5.3. Play Memory Games

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Look into a photo or picture for about 10 to 15 seconds, then turn it away and try to recreate the same picture in your mind by recollecting as many details as possible.

This same technique can be done by looking at a nearby building or landscape. Memory games help your mind by trying to center your mind toward the present moment.

5.4. Categorize Things

This technique is different from the other grounding techniques as it involves organizing and categorizing information in your mind.

Whenever you want to redirect your focus toward the present moment, choose any two categories, such as flavors or cricket teams, and try to list as many things from every category as you can within a minute or two.

grounding techniques
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5.5. List All Positive Things

This grounding technique is about being grateful for everything in our lives. It requires you to recall and write any 4 or 5 things you are grateful for in your everyday life. Briefly visualizing them or thinking about them themselves will bring a sense of warmth and joy within us.

It could be a close friend or even a pet who has played a big role in our lives.

5.6. Make Yourself Laugh

grounding techniques
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Laughing your heart out has never gone wrong in any situation, and this technique is also about laughing wholeheartedly. It could be laughing at a silly joke you just made in your head, making yourself laugh at a funny animal video, or even watching a TV show you enjoy.

It could be anything that makes you laugh your heart out while wading your negative thoughts away.

Read more about the other different grounding techniques5

6. In the End

Though grounding techniques work for people in most cases, in some cases, they don’t, and doctors have not established a clear set of guidelines regarding the use of these techniques. So always consult your doctor before doing something.

People with severe mental health problems should seek professional help to develop an effective treatment plan.

If you liked this article, here is something more.

7. Frequently Asked Questions

7.1. What are the three types of grounding techniques?

The three major grounding techniques known to be described are for-mental, physical, and soothing.

7.2. What are grounding exercises?

Because of constant anxiety and trauma pressure, a person can struggle to live happily in the present and get stuck in the past. Grounding exercises are any activity that you can do to bring yourself into the present moment.

7.3. What is the 5 senses grounding technique?

Through grounding techniques, these five senses are activated- Touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing.

7.4. What is the 5 4 3 2 1 grounding technique?



This technique tells us to find in the surroundings, five things that can be seen, four things that can be touched, three things that can be heard, two things that can be smelt, and one thing that can be tasted.


 
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  1. Shipp, D. D., and F. J. Angelini. “Characteristics of different power systems grounding techniques: Fact and fiction.” Conference Record of the 1988 IEEE Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting. IEEE, 1988. ↩︎
  2. Hirsch, Colette R., and Emily A. Holmes. “Mental imagery in anxiety disorders.” Psychiatry 6.4 (2007): 161-165. ↩︎
  3. De Tord, Patricia, and Iris Bräuninger. “Grounding: Theoretical application and practice in dance movement therapy.” The Arts in Psychotherapy 43 (2015): 16-22. ↩︎
  4. Pepping, Christopher A., et al. “Why do people practice mindfulness? An investigation into reasons for practicing mindfulness meditation.” Mindfulness 7 (2016): 542-547. ↩︎
  5. Shipp, D. D., and F. J. Angelini. “Characteristics of different power systems grounding techniques: Fact and fiction.” Conference Record of the 1988 IEEE Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting. IEEE, 1988. ↩︎

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