5 Grounding Techniques for Anxiety and Emotional Distress
Anxiety and other stressful emotions can cloud your mind and hijack your brain. Grounding techniques engage your body to quickly reset your mind to a calm, grounded, logical state. They interrupt the fight-flight-or-freeze response to stress.
What's in This Post
|What are Grounding Techniques?
|List of Grounding Techniques and Activities
|1. Drop your shoulders
|2. Heart 7 Acupressure Point
|3. Body crossover
|4. Crossing the midline
|5. Using your senses, 3-3-3 Reset
|Grounding Techniques Practice
|Anxiety and Emotional Detox Journals and Workbooks
What are Grounding Techniques?
Grounding techniques are simple activities that help you snap out of overwhelming negative thoughts and quickly relax both your mind and your body.
They give your brain a break, and help reset your nervous system from stressed and alert, to calm and relaxed.
“Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace.” – Steve Goodier
Grounding techniques are a simple effective strategy to bring you out of emotional distress. They help relieve:
- circular thinking
- dwelling on cognitive distortions (i.e. awfulizing or catastophizing)
- panic attacks
- PTSD flashbacks
- distressing and/or overwhelming emotions
List of Grounding Techniques and Activities
There are many possible grounding techniques.
Here are my 5 favorite ways for quickly grounding yourself:
- Drop your shoulders
- Heart 7 Acupressure Point
- Body Crossover
- Crossing the Midline
- Using your senses, 3-3-3 Reset
1. Drop your shoulders
This is super simple, so it may be relatively easy to remember when you are panicky.
When we get mentally tense, we also tend to get physically tense. This often includes tightening our shoulders, which in turn confines breathing.
When you notice yourself feeling tense, drop your shoulders and pull them back, so that it opens your chest. Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. (Dropping your shoulders and opening your chest helps you to take deeper breaths.)
2. Heart 7 Acupressure Point
Acupressure is performed by applying pressure to specific points on your body.
A point on your wrist, just below your hand, in line with your pinky finger is known as Heart 7. It is valued as an acupressure point for its ability to relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Heart 7 quick grounding reset:
Using the thumb from your opposite hand, apply gentle pressure to the Heart 7 point feeling for the small slightly hollow spot to the outside of the tendon.
Continue applying gentle pressure for up to 5 minutes. (You may feel immediate calming.)
3. Body crossover
This one takes a minute and a half. It resets your nervous system to calm.
Cross your ankles.
Gently clasp your hands together, intertwining your fingers.
Place your clasped hands on your abdomen. Having your forearms also resting on your body.
Sit like this for a minute and a half. You can do this with your eyes open or shut. You can focus on your breathing if you like, but it isn’t necessary.
4. Crossing the midline
When we are anxious, our mind tends to be stuck in a non-creative state.
Crossing the midline (imaginary head-to-feet line down the center of your body) helps move your brain out of the stuck one-sided state and opens it up to more creative problem solving and logic.
There are many activities that can be used to cross the midline. Here are some examples:
Toss a ball or other object from one hand to the other across the midline.
Draw a large imaginary sideways 8 in front of your body in the air with your finger (about the width of your body) while crossing your midline. Trace over it four or more times. Experiment with creating a soothing rhythm as you trace the figure. You can also pattern your breath to the tracing movement.
Give yourself a hug. Place your left hand on your right shoulder and your right hand on your left shoulder. Take slow, deep breaths. Hold the pose as long as you like. Experiment to discover if you have a preference for which arm is crossed over first: left arm over to your right side, or vice versa.
5. Using your senses, 3-3-3 Reset
This technique uses your senses to reset your mind. It helps move your mental focus away from disturbing thoughts to something neutral. It also helps get you out of dwelling on troubling past experiences or awfulized imaginings about the future: it helps you focus on now.
Note: This is a shortened, less complicated version of the 5-4-3-2-1 technique that some people classify as grounding. I find the 5-4-3-2-1 technique too much to remember when you are worked up. It's a great mindfulness meditation for focusing on the now, but not so great for the circumstances we're talking about in this post.
Steps for the 3-3-3 Reset:
Take a couple of slow, deep breaths.
Name 3 things you see.
Name 3 sounds you hear.
Move 3 body parts (e.g., arm, ankle, finger).
Take a couple of slow, deep breaths.
Grounding Techniques Practice
Experiment with the techniques to discover which ones (if any) work for you.
You can use your favorite(s) daily to give yourself a calm break if you like.
Practice makes them more available when you become panicky or anxious.
Anxiety and Emotional Detox Journals and Workbooks
Through decades of helping counseling clients reduce their anxiety and process painful emotions, I've learned a lot about what helps and doesn't help.
Here are two of my journal/workbooks that include more techniques to reset and relax when you experience anxiety and stress.
- Ann Silvers