Anxiety: Making Sense of Grounding
Experiencing a surge of unprompted nervousness, unease, and tension brings you out of the here-and-now and into your natural flight-fight-freeze response. This organic survival mode can be helpful when you perceive a threat so that you can overcome it, such as meeting a deadline or goal to avoid a negative consequence. But this danger signal can misfire, causing you to perceive everyday interactions as a threat to your wellbeing. Maybe you’re always on alert and anticipating a threat, and as a result you’re feeling exhausted and fatigued.
When anxiety is something that you experience everyday, it can be overwhelming and prevent you from healthy functioning in your daily life. You might experience painful physical symptoms as a result, like stomach aches, headaches, tension in your jaw, shortness of breath, sore muscles, or sweaty palms. When you notice these symptoms, consider practicing a technique called grounding. Grounding yourself is quite literally moving yourself out of the anticipation of the future, and into the experiencing the here-and-now.
When you notice these physical sensations of anxiety, move your focus onto what your present self is feeling using your five senses; touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.
Touch -- Feel something soft around you; wrap yourself into a blanket or your favorite sweater; pet your animal, consider investing in a weighted blanket and sink into the weight around your body.
Taste -- Drink a cold glass of water; enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee; take a bite of dark chocolate with sea salt and notice the flavors. How would you describe what you’re tasting?
Sight -- Create something, whether its a painting or something as simple as scribbling on a sheet of paper. What shapes and colors do you notice? Look around, out of what you see, what’s your favorite color around you? What does the object look like? Describe the shape to yourself.
Sound -- Is someone talking around you? Is their voice high or low pitched? Sink into the rhythm of their voice. Maybe the room is silent, sit with the absence of sound. Play your favorite song or band. Create a rhythm using your wrist, knuckle, and closest table top.
Smell -- Keep an essential oil with you, whatever scent you like, and rub into your palms and breath deeply into your hands. Light a candle at home. Step outside and take a deep breathe, what scents do you notice?
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Authored by Helen Pieracacos, LPC-Intern