Certain thoughts and feelings can feel extremely overwhelming to us when we experience them and if we don’t learn to identify and manage them effectively, we give them the power to be debilitating. Strong emotions, memories, or physical sensations tend to be associated with stress, anxiety, and abuse or violence and can result in flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, depersonalization, and derealization, which can be unsettling and frightening.
Although we don’t always have control over aspects or triggers that cause us to experience stress or anxiety, we do have the ability to control our thoughts so that our feelings and behaviors are directly impacted. It can take time to learn to reframe our core beliefs about who we are and how we think about the world we live in however there are some basic exercises we can implement in moments of stress and anxiety that can promote a sense of reality that often brings relief and comfort.
These exercises are referred to as grounding techniques, as the purpose of them is to re-establish ourselves in the present moment when we find ourselves reliving a painful memory, worrying about the future, feeling panicked, or simply feeling stressed. Research has shown a strong connection between our emotional, cognitive, and physical selves therefore changing one of these aspects of ourselves can influence the other parts.
Here are some grounding techniques that have been found to be effective during moments of distress, stress, or anxiety:
1. Orient yourself by identifying the current time of day, month, and year as well as your current location.
2. Remind yourself about who you are (name, birthdate (age), occupation, close family members)
3. Focus solely on your breathing by taking 4-5 deep breaths
4. Use your five senses to identify what you are currently experiencing:
· Sight: Name 1-3 objects you can see.
· Sound: Focus on the sounds you hear.
· Taste: Do you notice any specific tastes in your mouth?
· Touch: Feel something within your reach and identify the texture.
· Smell: Pay attention to any odors you pick up on.
5. Use your five senses to promote soothing and a sense of comfort:
· Sight: Visualize a place or picture that is calming/comforting.
· Sound: Listen to your favorite song or play music that is relaxing.
· Taste: Eat or drink healthy food/drink options that have a calming
· Touch: Feel fabric or material that is soothing.
· Smell: Use essential oils or others scents that promote relaxation.
These techniques may seem pretty basic but the effect they can have on someone who is feeling out of control can be very powerful. I always encourage my clients to practice these techniques during moments when they are not in distress for practice but also to have them experience how powerful being mindful can be.