Anxiety is something that affects everyone to some extent or the other. Small things, like getting enough sleep, getting up in time to go to work, preparing healthy meals, facing traffic, or even working, can all cause anxiety. More important things can also cause anxiety, like if you’re going through a significant life change, such as losing a loved one, a divorce, or moving. Even good changes can cause anxiety, such as getting a better job or getting married. So what are the best ways to manage it?
How to Deal With Anxiety
Each person has their way of dealing with anxiety. Some people might find it therapeutic to go for a morning jog, while others might go to yoga class. Unwinding with friends or learning a new hobby can also help relieve anxiety.
Getting into a flow state can also help relieve anxiety. Most of us have experienced flow at one point or the other. When you’re in flow, you get so absorbed in what you’re doing that time goes by quickly. But when you’re not, you might keep trying to work on a specific project without making much headway. No matter what you do, things feel “off,” and you end up dissatisfied with the result.
Can you take a time out, ground yourself, and then return to the task? As it happens, there are grounding exercises that can help you to dispel your anxiety and feel calmer and more peaceful.
What Is a Grounding Exercise?
When you’re feeling anxious, you may have many thoughts going through your head that you feel like you can’t control. A grounding exercise can help you stop this mind chatter and return to the present. Many grounding exercises are about becoming aware of yourself and your surroundings, which can help you feel more connected to yourself and your life rather than focusing on the things that make you anxious.
You can practice grounding exercises any time, whether you’re anxious or not. If you’re having a panic attack or waking up from a nightmare, a grounding exercise will help you bring your breathing and heart rate back to normal. But even if you practice them when you’re not feeling anxious, it can help increase your wellbeing. Check out these top 5 grounding exercises for anxiety.
1. 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise
You can use the five senses that human beings possess—sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste— to help ground you and make you more mindful in your day-to-day lives. When we focus on the things we can sense, we become more aware of how beautiful the world is and how many things we have to be grateful for.
To practice this exercise, pause and locate five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. For example, you might see some artwork around you and feel the touch of the keyboard you are typing on or your clothes. Maybe you can hear the sound of traffic or the air conditioner and smell the orange you just ate. And maybe, you can taste the tea you’re currently drinking.
Since this exercise focuses on all the senses, it’s powerful, and you may only have to practice it once or twice to feel grounded again.
2. 4-7-8 Breathing Method
Our breath, which we are usually unaware of, is one of the most potent tools for returning to the present. You can try deep breathing or focus on the rise and fall of your breath as it comes naturally. But if you want to get grounded, the 4-7-8 breathing method is a powerful technique. It helps slow your heart rate and calm your mind.
To practice it, take a deep breath, counting slowly to four. Then hold that deep breath for seven counts and exhale it in eight counts. Focusing on breathing and counting simultaneously helps clear your mind of anxious thoughts. Repeat the exercise as often as needed until your mind is clear and your heart rate is slowed.
3. Body Scan
Your body is always present with you, so if you need to draw your attention away from the mind, you can pull it into your body.
Start with your toes and focus on them for just a few seconds. Then move your attention to your feet and hold it there for a few seconds. From your feet, train your attention to your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs, your butt, your lower back, and upper back.
Then you can switch to the front of your body. Focus on your abdomen, your chest, and your shoulders. From here, move from your upper arms to your elbows, forearms, wrists, palms, and fingers.
If you like, you can move upwards again through your arms and then focus on your neck, chin, cheeks, nose, eyes, and forehead until you finally come to rest at the top of your head.
Once you’ve finished your body scan, you’ll find that your body is completely relaxed, as a result of which your mind is too.
4. Rainbow Game
Look around you and find something in your surroundings that corresponds to each color of the rainbow. Can you see something red? Something orange? Something yellow? Something green? Something blue? Something indigo? Something violet?
You’ll have to remove your attention from the anxious thoughts and return to the present to do this exercise. If necessary, go through the exercise a few times until you feel calmer.
5. Tune Into Your Senses
This is similar to the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, except you can focus on whichever of the senses grabs your attention.
There could be a song playing in the background that you could pause and listen to for a moment. Maybe you could slip off your shoes and touch the floor under your feet. Deliberately touching something hot or cold or smelling something good, such as an essential oil or candle, can also help bring you back to the moment.
You can do this exercise anywhere because there’s always something you can sense, no matter where you are.
Which Grounding Exercise Should You Try?
It’s a good idea to try all these grounding exercises and see which one works best for you. Different people gravitate towards different ways of grounding themselves. Some might be more in tune with their bodies so that body scans will feel natural and relaxing. Others might be more in tune with their senses, so they can quickly bring their focus to their senses. Yet others might find the emphasis on breathing comes more naturally.
Switching things up and doing an exercise that doesn’t come naturally to you is also a good idea. You may have inner resistance to that exercise, and we can all resist things that make us feel better. But fighting that resistance and completing that exercise can help ground yourself and stave off anxiety.