Practical grounding exercises to help ease anxiety and panic
What can you do in those moments when you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by anxiety, when you feel panic rising and you cannot reason with yourself about the way you are thinking and feeling?
When anxiety rockets we need something to quickly break the spiral of unhelpful thoughts, to bring us back down in that moment. This is where practical grounding exercises can help. Different things work for different people and there is no “wrong” way to ground yourself. The main aim is to keep your mind and body connected and working together, to bring yourself into the present moment, the here and now.
In this blog I wanted to share some of the grounding exercises that I have found useful.
Adjusting your breathing
There are many different breathing exercises that you can try. The one I find most comforting is belly breathing, that is breathing from your abdominal area (not your chest) and exhaling for longer than you inhale. Focus your entire attention on your breath. This deep diaphragmatic breathing floods the brain with oxygen, signalling to your brain to turn down the sympathetic nervous system and turn up the parasympathetic nervous system which calms your mind and body down. This is an effective tool for preventing panic attacks.
Activating your senses
Activating any of your senses is a great way to anchor yourself into the present moment. It could be listening to some soothing music, running your hands over something with an interesting texture or smelling something nice. As the most powerful of all our senses, smell is the one for me that is particularly helpful. Taking a moment to pause and breathe in slowly the wonderful fragrance of summer flowering jasmine can be very calming. In the colder months I find holding a mug of jasmine tea in both hands, feeling its warmth and inhaling its scent a grounding thing to do. We often associate scent with memories so if you know a smell that triggers happy and calming memories you can use this to your advantage.
Distracting your thoughts
Distraction can be very useful during moments of panic. One effective way to distract anxious thoughts and ground yourself into the here and now is through counting. Find things in your surroundings to count. What 10 things can you see? What 5 things can you hear? Focus on a picture and count the colours or shapes. Count backwards from 100. It doesn’t matter what you count as long as you get your brain really distracted. I like to count my inhale and exhale breath as I practise the belly breathing exercise above. The counting technique works by splitting the mind’s focus so as to reduce the intensity of the anxious thoughts.
Connecting with nature
Connecting with the natural world has been scientifically proven to help with anxiety. It could be watching the birds in the trees, feeling the wind on your skin or listening to the sound of water. Nature stimulates our senses and bring us into the present moment. One of my go-to tools for easing my mind is to garden. Just 15 minutes can make a difference, whether it’s deadheading flowers, tending to the houseplants, even doing some weeding. Plants and soil can be an excellent grounder.
Repeating an anchoring phrase
Heightened anxiety can feel like a tidal wave is looming, determined to wash us away to some terrifying place. As the name suggests, an anchoring phrase helps us to stay put. Repeating to yourself something like: “I am sitting on my sofa in my house and I am safe here” offer words of comfort and reassurance. Phrases such as “I am safe”, “I can cope”, “I am ok” reinforce to us that no matter how stormy our world may feel, in this present moment right now, we are safe.
I hope these techniques are helpful. Try them out and see which ones resonate the most with you. Above all, be kind to yourself. Make self-care a priority, talk to people about how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all struggle at times. It’s ok to have feelings and need help.
If you are struggling with anxiety and would like some professional support, hypnotherapy can help. Combining talking therapy with hypnosis it is a very empowering process that enables you to change the way you think in order to feel better and more in control. It is also a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.
To find out more about hypnotherapy or enquire about an appointment, please call 07514 931 096 or email me using the contact form.