For many of us, anxiety is an unwelcome visitor at every dinner table, business meeting and social gathering. One that is not easily displaced or managed. It can impact every interaction, every mood and most diligent of intentions often are cast aside in its’ wake. When anxiety takes over, it’s difficult to ground yourself in the moment. But I’ve learned that it’s important to have a ‘toolbox’ of strategies and resources that can be used to reduce the effects, lessen the panic and become more focussed and centered.
Here are my top tips for grounding yourself when anxiety hits.
1. Deep Breathing
We’ll start this list with the most popular grounding technique. You’re going to need 5-10 minutes. If you’re driving, skip this one. Go somewhere you know you won’t be disturbed and sit down or lie down.
Now, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. When you inhale, try to trace the breath of fresh air as it enters your nose and goes into your lungs. When you exhale, follow the air leaving your lungs and your mouth. When thoughts creep into your mind, be aware of them and refocus on your breath. Allow the thoughts to pass and remain centered in your breathing.
Try to observe the breath instead of forcing it with your mind. Let your body lead and let go of control.
You may now open your eyes, take a look around and see if this grounding technique is the right one for you.
2. Body Scan
We will try another breathing exercise. Again, if you’re driving, skip this one. You’re going to need a few minutes.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Focus on where you FEEL the discomfort in your body. Is it a tightness in your chest or a pressure on your stomach? Where are you physically feeling the anxiety in your body.
Now, imagine that the sun is shining, as you’re laying at a place where you feel safe: the beach, your favorite spot at the park, or simply looking through the window curled up in your favorite blanket.
Notice the warm sunlight going through your body, starting at the top of your head. Then, moving down to your neck, your chest, your hands, your belly area, your legs, up until it reaches your feet.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Now, you can go back to your normal pace of breathing. Open your eyes when you’re ready and move your hands and legs gently.
3. The 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Distracting your attention to your other senses is valuable in calming your mind.
Try this: Acknowledge FIVE things you can see around you, FOUR things you can touch, THREE things you can hear, TWO things you can smell, and finally ONE thing you can taste.
4. Mindful Walking
For this one, it’s best you do it outside. But if you’re at home right now and you want to experience quick results, you can do it there as well.
Get up and walk around. Every time you take a step, count it. Concentrate on your steps. Notice how it feels to put your foot on the ground and then lift it again. Notice the surface you’re walking on, the sensations you feel in your feet, and the weight of your body.
Once you’re done, sit back and relax.
5. Tune into what is bothering you
The physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as trembling, chest pain, and rapid heartbeat, are usually more apparent than understanding just what is making you anxious. However, in order to get to the root of your anxiety, you need to figure out what’s bothering you. To get to the bottom of your anxiety, put some time aside to exploring your thoughts and feelings. Different situations, especially trauma or abuse can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Writing in a journal can be a great way to get in touch with your sources of anxiety. Write down all of the things that are bothering you.
6. Refocus on something you CAN control
Many times anxiety stems from fearing things that haven’t even happened and may never occur. For example, even though everything is okay, you may still worry about potential issues, such as losing your job, becoming ill, or the safety of your loved ones.
Life can be unpredictable and no matter how hard you try, you can’t always control what happens. However, you can decide how you are going to deal with the unknown. You can turn your anxiety into a source of strength by letting go of fear and focusing on gratitude.
Replace your fears by changing your attitude about them. For example, stop fearing to lose your job and instead focus on how grateful you are to have a job. Come to work determined to do your best. Instead of fearing your loved one’s safety, spend time with them, or express your appreciation of them. With a little practice, you can learn to dump your anxiety and pick up a more positive outlook.
7. Reach out
Too often, when anxiety hits, we retreat into our darkness, into the shadows and hide. We pull away, alienate ourselves and struggle in silence.
This is the opposite of what should happen.
When anxious thoughts take over, reach out. A simple text call or embrace can change how we see everything.
Bonus tip: Alternative medicine offers many products shown to correlate with a reduction in anxiety. Studies have shown that curcumin has an antidepressant-like effect and can improve mental health. Several studies also indicate the beneficial effects of CBD oil (without THC) on anxiety. Taken daily, this can quickly increase feelings of calmness while not affecting cognitive function. Please note that THC is NOT effective in treating anxiety and can worsen both anxious and depressive symptoms.
If you have any other grounding techniques that work for you, please share them in the comments below.
Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.