Posted by: Dr. Jennifer Fee | October 14, 2010

5 Easy Ways to Ground Yourself While Anxious

When we are anxious, we are not focussed on the present moment, we are anticipating danger (See Close Cousins: Anxiety, Fear & Worry) .  One really helpful way to lower your anxiety when it starts to rise (See 3 Critical Reasons for Rating Your Anxiety) is by “grounding” yourself or bringing yourself back into the present moment.   The 5 “easy” ways to ground yourself are simply to use your five senses:

1. Sight:  Use your eyes and name what you see in your environment.  I have a big window in my office and some clients look out the window and name everything they can see:  mountains, a church steeple, birds, etc.  You can also name things around you by going in alphabetical order (“A” is for apple computer, “B” is for bench, etc.).

2. Sounds:  Same idea as sight, but name all the sounds that you hear –people talking (try to focus on what they are saying), train noise, airplane noise, a radio.  Again the point is to bring yourself back to the environment and have your thoughts/body sensations be less powerful.

3. Smell:  Smell is a great sense to use for grounding because you do not have to simply observe what’s in your environment, you can create it!  You can make some tea, use some hand lotion, or light a candle.

4. Taste:  Another sense that you can control.  Breath mints, hard candy,  and gum are all things that you can carry in your pocket or purse and use to bring yourself back into the present moment.  Focus as intensely as you can on what you are tasting–sweet?  sour? salty? etc.

5.  Touch:  I’ve had lots of clients who pet their cats and dogs to lower their anxiety.  However, there’s all kinds of things you can touch to bring yourself into the present–even if it’s just a smooth countertop!  Whatever you are touching pay close attention to how it feels–is it smooth, rough, soft, hard, fuzzy, etc?  The point is to focus on the texture and sensation and remind yourself where you are.

Grounding can take practice and patience in order to be helpful, but for many it is an essential tool for making the sensation of anxiety less intense.

Thanks for reading!  –Dr. Jennifer Fee

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