11 Grounding Techniques for Anxiety, PTSD, and Trauma

Anxiety is something most of us have experienced at least once in our life. Experiencing occasional anxiety is normal. Many things in our daily life can cause stress and anxiety – health, family problems, a new major responsibility, facing big life changes, going through a period of uncertainty, or being under lots of pressure, for instance. But if your anxiety does not go away and interferes with your daily activities, then it’s time for you to do something about it.

Grounding techniques can be wonderful tools that can help anyone cope with anxiety

What are grounding techniques?

panic attack

Grounding techniques are simple exercises that help distract your mind from negative feelings and thoughts and bring you back to the present. People with anxiety and PTSD often get overwhelmed with their traumatic memories or various anxious thoughts. During such panic attacks, your emotions can take over your thoughts and physical responses. 

Related: Stress Management: How to Use Your Nerves to Calm Yourself

Grounding techniques use tools such as visualization and the five senses to help you come out of those distressing feelings and thoughts. Focusing on the present environment through grounding techniques can help you detach your mind from the past and return to a place of safety. 

Let’s look at some different types of grounding techniques.

Grounding Techniques For Anxiety

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique

Coping Technique, smelling

This is the most common grounding technique as it focuses on all your five senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste) to bring you back to the present. Before starting this exercise, pay attention to your breathing. Take a few slow, deep, long breaths to calm your nerves. 

Once you find your breath, practice the following steps:

  • Five things you can hear. This can be any external sound. Even if you hear the clock ticking, that counts.
  • Four things you can see. It can be a pen, a mug, or a doorknob – anything in your surroundings. 
  • Three things you can touch from where you’re sitting. It can be your face, your pillow, or just the ground underneath your feet.
  • Two things you can smell. If you are in your bedroom, smell your pillow. If you are in a garden, smell a blade of grass or a flower.
  • One thing you can taste in your immediate environment – may be toothpaste, chewing gum, or a slice of bread. 

Make an effort to identify these things in your physical world that you might not always pay attention to. Doing this will take your focus off your intense feelings of anxiety and slow down your heart rate. 

Related: Release Your Fears & Anxieties with These Calming Mantras

Play the memory game

When your mind is bouncing around between various anxious thoughts, playing a memory game can be a fun and effective way to manage anxiety attacks. Open a photograph on your mobile (maybe of a landscape or a busy street scene) and look at it for 5-10 seconds. Then, turn the photo face-down and mentally list all the things you remember from it.

Think in categories

List out a handful of categories you’re interested in such as “classic movies”, “ice cream flavors”, “vintage cars”, or “country music”. Take a couple of minutes to mentally list as many things from each category as you can.

This activity will challenge your brain and direct it away from negative thoughts. 

Related: 6 Emotion-Focused Coping Methods for Dealing With Stress

Mentally list your favorite things


Similar to thinking in categories, this mental exercise involves three favorite things in several different categories, such as songs, movies, foods, travel destinations, colors, hobbies, etc. Focusing on these things will put you in a more positive mindset.

Use math and numbers

You needn’t be a math wiz to do this exercise. Doing numbers in your head can help center your thoughts. Try doing times tables mentally or counting backward from 100. You can also choose a number and think of five ways you could make it. For example, 5+10=15, 20-5=15, etc. 

Recite something

Think of your favorite song, poem, or a few lines from a book, or a powerful quote that you remember by heart and recite it quietly to yourself or in your head. 

As you vocalize the words, focus on the shape of each word on your lips. If you imagine the words in your head, visualize them appearing on a piece of paper.

Related: Science Says Listening To These Songs Will Reduce Stress

Use an anchoring phrase


Therapists say that developing a mental “anchor” can reduce your worry and anxiety by bringing your emotions back into balance – much like an anchor on a boat. For doing this, you can repeat a phrase in your mind. For instance, you could say, “It is 9:05 in the morning. I am calm and relaxed.” You can expand on the phrase by adding details such as, “It’s nice and sunny outside. I am sitting on a chair. I will have a healthy breakfast today.” By continuing to repeat this phrase, you will naturally feel more at peace.

This activity is similar to positive affirmations. Know all about them in our article on 10 Encouraging Affirmations to Say to Your Loved Ones.

Visualize a daily task you enjoy

If you like cooking, think about exactly how it would make you feel. For instance, “The chicken grilled sandwich is my favorite. I am slicing the tomatoes and green onions. The chicken is so soft, I bet it tastes amazing. Now, I’m adding bacon crumbles, and a dollop of sour cream,” and so on.

Smell something familiar

smelling soap

Familiar smells can trigger strong, nostalgic memories. Scent particles can even revive pleasant memories that have been long forgotten. Pick a candle, a soap, a deodorant, an essential oil, or a beverage, and smell them when you need to ground yourself. They can instantly take your mind away from those unpleasant thoughts.

Picture the voice or face of someone you love

When you are distressed or are being plagued by traumatic memories, imagine the face or voice of someone positive in your life like your child, your partner, your parent, or even a close friend or relative. Imagine that person is right there with you, putting an arm on your shoulders and comforting you. Picture what they’d be saying to you and what their voice would sound like. Imagine them telling you that this is a tough moment, but you are strong enough to pull through it. 

Related: This Technique Can Help You Achieve Instant Tranquility

Listen to your surroundings


To bring your mind back to the present, simply take a moment to be quiet and listen to your surroundings. What noises do you hear? Are there birds chirping near your window? Can you listen to the voice of some children giggling outside? Or maybe you can hear cars zooming by. Let the sounds come to you and remind you that you are in the here and now.

Note: While grounding techniques can help you cope with anxiety and stress, they won't magically make your panic attacks go away. Their main job is to prevent you from getting swept away by feelings of fear. If you’re experiencing regular anxiety attacks, seek further help from a mental health professional.

Share this post with all your loved ones!

Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy
Receive the newest health updates directly to your mail inbox
Did you mean:
Continue With: Google
By continuing, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy