Anxiety grounding techniques can cut the worst anxious stress down to size. Think of the times that anxiety comes from the things that are all too familiar. In those times, anxiety can make even daily tasks seem insurmountable, although I’ve done them countless times before. I know the task is something I can do, it’s just that in that moment it’s implausible, even impossible that I could do it again. It’s in these everyday instances that anxiety grounding techniques become so important.
What makes simple tasks so hard? What thoughts or behaviors prevent you from feeling confident about tasks you’re familiar with but which create anxiety regardless?
One incredibly common example for anxiety sufferers is picking up the phone to call a friend. Intellectually you’re aware you’ll probably have a great conversation. But anxiety magnifies every difficult emotion, negative thought or sign of hesitation.
Pick an Anxiety Grounding Technique to Try Next Time
If you want to stop feeling “spacey,” or you feel yourself slipping into the spiral of anxiety, try some of these helpful anxiety management techniques:
- Hold today’s newspaper or a book or magazine. Feel the texture of the paper. Feel your hand on the paper. Focus on what you can touch. Can you feel the ink?
- Breathe slowly and steadily from your core. Imagine letting fear and worry go, evaporating along with each breath (A Simple, Breathing Exercise Reduces Stress, Creates Serenity).
- Trace your hands against the physical outline of your body. Experience your own presence in the world.
- Call a hotline and have a chat (Reasons People Call a Suicide Crisis Hotline).
- Change how you’re positioned. Wiggle your fingers, tap your feet. Pay attention to the movement: You are in control of what your body is doing, right here and now.
- Eat or drink something. Describe it out loud. Is it hot or cold? Sweet or sour?
- Use distractions like wastebasket basketball or playing with your pet to help settle down (Five Ways to Relieve Anxiety You’ve Never Thought Of).
- Use your voice. Say your name or read something out loud. Listen to your voice, not necessarily the words you say.
- Look at yourself in the mirror. Touch your face and name the feature you’re touching out loud. Repeat until you hear your voice slowing down and become more comfortable.
- Write out what’s going on. Keep writing until you start to notice it makes a difference, lets some of the things you’re anxious about out (Five Reasons You Should Keep A Fear Journal).
- Take a shower/bath. Notice the sensations of the water.
- Write somebody you care about a letter with a pen on paper.
- Go to a safe, familiar, comfortable space. Or, if you don’t have one, grab some of your favorite things and sit somewhere you feel secure.
- Take a look outside. Count the number of trees and street signs.
- Exercise. Jump up and down on the spot. Try some gentle yoga, or ride a bike.
- Hold onto something comforting. Maybe a blanket or an old stuffed toy (Using Comfort Objects to Reduce Anxiety).
- Laugh. Even if that’s hard. Just the act of laughing about something, anything can break that spinning out of control feeling.
- Make a list. Use this 5-4-3-2-1 journal prompt to create a list. Any list.
- Ask a friend to help you focus on what is now and what is safe. When you’re not feeling anxious, make a list of the furniture in your home and what room it’s in. Give the list to a friend and call when you need his or her help.
- Cook something. Use spices that make you think of good times. Maybe sage, nutmeg, peppermint? (It would help to have a recipe in mind and its ingredients on hand before the anxiety hits.)
- Think about the last week. Was there a moment you didn’t have so much anxiety? Remember how it felt to be less anxious than you are right now. When do you remember feeling less anxious than in that moment? Keep remembering moments of lesser anxiety until you feel better.
Before your next therapy appointment, make a list of the times and situations that caused your anxiety to spike. Take it to your therapist and ask him or her to help you find ways to desensitize you to some of those things. Then those triggers won’t be quite so powerful, and your anxiety coping skills will work better.
Another good idea is to make a deliberate effort to notice the good things, so you can draw on those feelings when your anxiety threatens to make you panic.
Finally, once you’ve found which techniques help, make a list to put on your wall, or carry in your pocket. In the middle of an anxiety or panic attack you may not remember what to do, but you will remember you have a list.
What anxiety grounding techniques can you add to this list?