What is Grounding and how do I use it?

Have you ever found your self in one of those moments where you felt really panicky? Maybe those ‘what if’ thoughts are whizzing through your head as you imagine something awful happening. At times like these it’s hard to stay focused on the present moment. I know, I have been there, lots of times…

In those moments, Grounding might be helpful. Grounding is a practice that can bring us back from upsetting thoughts and images. In a nutshell, it helps us to be in the ‘here and now’, rather than worrying about what might happen in the future or what has happened in the past.

Grounding is a skill, and like any skill, it can take a bit of practice. Sometimes it isn’t easy, and it might be worth trying it out with the smaller stuff first. But with practice and perseverance, grounding can be there for you to call on when you need it.

If you look up grounding techniques there are loads out there, it might be worth having a look around to find something that really works for you. I have included a few here that I have found useful…

Square Breathing

This sounds simple but it can be really effective, and it can be done anywhere.
Step One: Breathe in for the count of four.
Step Two: Hold your breath for the count of four.
Step Three: Breathe out for the count of four.
Step Four: Hold your breath for the count of four.

5-4-3-2-1 Exercise

This uses all your five senses to bring you into the present. If this is difficult for you, it is okay to change the task to meet your own needs.
Name 5 things you can see. Think about small details like patterns on the floor or the reflection of the light.
Name 4 things you can hear. Think about the small sounds that we take less notice of, for instance the sound of traffic outside, a telephone ringing or a loud clock.
Name 3 things that you can feel. Maybe think about the chair you are sitting in, the texture of your clothes, the temperature of the air on your skin.
Name 2 things you can smell. Is there an air freshener or cleaning fluids, is the door open so that you can smell the fresh air?
Name 1 thing you can taste. This might be difficult if you don’t have anything with you, or if you are in a place where you can’t do this part of the exercise (for instance at school or work). But maybe carrying mints or something similar would help for when you can do this, can you really focus on the flavour and the texture?

Safe Place

For this exercise imagine that you are in your safe place, this could be at home, it could be somewhere that you have visited, or it could be somewhere that is totally in your imagination. Think about it in terms of all of your five senses. What can you see at your safe space? Think of the colours that are around you, are there buildings or are you in nature, what colour is the sky… Next think about what you can feel, what’s the temperature, is there sun, how does the temperature feel against your skin? What are you wearing, what do your clothes feel like? What can you hear, are there sounds of nature or voices, are they loud or soft? Repeat this exercise for all your five senses trying to go into as much detail as you can.

Physical Exercise

For some people physical exercise really helps. If it is possible maybe get outside and have a walk or run. If not, put your playlist on as loud as appropriate and dance around the kitchen. Not only does this release feel good hormones but it can help to bring you back from a place of anxiety and stress.

Finally, if you have tried grounding techniques and you are still struggling, it might be worth talking to someone that you can trust about how you are feeling. This could be friends and family or in a crisis you can contact your GP or 111. If you are interested in seeking help with a counsellor, sites such as Counselling Directory, Psychology Today and the BACP’s Directory can help you to find qualified counsellors in your area.