Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Grounding is about engaging your senses in order to pull and/or plant yourself in the present moment. This is useful because it can help you to manage your anxiety, and is very useful at managing panic attacks. If you are anxious when there is no real threat in front of you, then it is a perceived threat in your mind. Some may argue “but my car breaking down and now I am late to work is a real threat.” Yes, this is threatening, to your social existence. But it is not going to kill you like a lion could, or a person with a weapon, or a car coming at you. The anxiety response it only beneficial for survival. Increased blood flow, tightened muscles, lack of foresight and logic, and increased heart rate are not useful when your car breaks down or you get a bill you cannot afford. I would argue the opposite is needed to solve the dilemma; a calm state and a clear, logical mind.
So grounding pulls you back into the present moment of reality and out of your mind, which is perceiving a threat to your life. Luckily, it is not difficult to do, in theory. All you need to do is engage your senses, as you can only see, hear, taste, touch, and feel things in the present. This is not possible in the future or past, so you know you are present when you engage your senses. Standing by your car that won’t run, but present, safe, and not in danger. This too shall pass. One of the easiest methods is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. You can follow this all the way through or just pick one or two in the moment. Here is the simple process all the way through for those really tough times. 1) Drop your shoulders down from your ears, relax you jaw, cheeks, and eyes.
2) Take a deep breath counting in to 4, then hold for 4 seconds, then release and drop shoulders again.
3) Now identify 5 things you can see in your environment, and begin to describe each one in as much detail as you would like. Example: I see a clock, it is round, black, there is a second hand, a minute hand that is longer, it has numbers, they look like calligraphy, etc. Then move to the next item.
4) Now identify 4 things you can touch in your environment, describing each in detail. Example: This keyboard is smooth, but then gaps because the keys, there is a smaller bump on this key, it is cold, etc.
5) Now identify 3 things you can hear, and describe in detail. Example: I hear the air conditioner humming, it is steady, like a low growl. I hear a bird, it sounds small, high pitched tweet, it sounds close, etc.
6) Now identify 2 things you can smell, perhaps finding an item like a candle or shirt if you need to. Example: I can smell smoke, like someone is barbecuing, smells kind of like hot dogs, etc.
7) Now identify 1 thing you can taste if possible. Something with a strong flavor and texture is best. Example: This raisin is like an oval, it is bumpy and ha ridges, it is like a thick gel when I bite with my teeth, it tastes sweet, etc.
Now take another deep breath and drop your shoulders, relax your face, and approach the situation with your logic center of the forebrain back online. Repeat as needed!