Grounding Techniques for Stress and Anxiety
So many things in life can get us pretty amped up.
Part 1 - Basic Grounding Techniques
1. 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness
First look around your space, and orient to where you are including what is above and behind you and where doors, windows, and other people are. Then, name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel on your skin, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
Use your hands to bring touch to your body and feel your solidity and boundaries. Gently squeeze down your arms from your shoulders to your wrists. Gently squeeze down your legs from your thighs to your feet. You might give yourself a gently hug, or a gentle neck massage. You can rub your hands together to create a little warmth and then place your hands on your face, your heart, or your belly. Experiment with any way to can make contact with yourself through touch that feels nourishing and supportive.
3. Putting Awareness into Supports
While sitting, place your feet on the ground and gently press your feet into the ground. Notice any activation of the leg muscles, feeling the strength in the legs and how your feet connect to the ground. You may also bring sensation into the feet by wiggling the toes or shuffling your feet back and forth against the ground. If this doesn't work for your body, you can also try bringing awareness to your sitting bones and hips by swaying or rocking while you sit. Or if you are lying down, bring as much of your attention as possible to where your body is supported by the chair, floor, bed, or wherever you are. The idea is to feel the support coming up underneath of you.
If you are physically able, stand and jump or hop in place. This is a way to enhance awareness of our feet, the ground, and our connection to our body and our environment.
If you are physically able, come into a standing balancing position. This might be as simple as lifting one heel off the ground, or standing with one foot up but with a hand on a chair or wall. Or, you might stand freely on one foot or engage in a more advanced balancing practice if you have that as part of a yoga practice. Balancing engages multiple parts of the brain, causes us to focus intensely on the present moment, and allows distracting thoughts and worries to fade into the background.
Part 2 - Breathing Techniques
1. The Not-Breathing-Techniques
For those of you that don't like breathing practices, this one is for you! You can start to open up the breath without having to put a lot of attention on the breath. These gentle movements in the torso may allow you to naturally slow and deepen your breathing.
2. Box Breathing
Inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath in for 4 counts, exhale out for 4 counts, hold your breath out for 4 counts. Repeat several times. Go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. If it's helpful, you can imagine a square, with your inhales, holds, and exhales traveling along the edge of the square.
3. Extended Exhale
Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 8 counts. Repeat as many times as you like. Go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. While our inhale is connected to the sympathetic (or enlivening) part of our nervous system, our exhale is connected to the parasympathetic (or calming) part of our nervous system. So, extending the exhale can signal our bodies to come into a more restful state.
4. Supported Breath
Bring one hand to your forehead and the other hand to the back base of your skull. Inhale through the nose while gently bringing your head back (like you're looking up to the ceiling). Exhale through pursed lips out the mouth while gently bringing your head down and forward (like you're looking down at your belly). Repeat several times..
Part 3 - Grounding in Nature
Being in nature is one of the best ways to ground. Take some time to go outside, go for a walk, or visit a place with dirt, tress, or water. Make physical contact with the world around you by touching a tree, smelling a flower, or sticking your toes in grass or in water. Try combining time in nature of some of the basic grounding techniques or breathing techniques listed above.
Part 4 - Somatic Grounding Sequence
These movements can be done on their own, but make a great grounding sequence when put all together.
As somatic counselor, I love using body-based practices to help my clients work with stress, anxiety, and connection to the self. If you would like support in this process,