Grounding Your Anxiety
Yesterday, a friend sent me a post she saw about a method to help with anxiety attacks. It recommended looking for five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Personally, I’ve never used this specifically, but the concept is something I use.
It’s called grounding. It forces your brain to look away from the anxiety and into your physical environment. The more you can see of where you are, the more you can realize that you are physically safe, which can help you calm down faster.
By trying to find at least one thing for each of the five senses, your brain is busy and the focus is no longer on the anxiety attack. It’s looking for things to ground you to your physical surroundings and give you a sense of control.
In this post (from a long time ago), I gave advice on how to help someone having an anxiety attack. I mentioned you should remind the person who and where you are. This is grounding, because they focus on your voice. Tip #5 “do your best to make them feel safe” like singing, a blanket, or praying. These are also grounding.
But that advice only applies to the person there to help. Sometimes, no one will be there. Sometimes you’ll be all by yourself and may not be able to contact anyone. In which case, you need to ground yourself.
For that, the method I mentioned at the beginning is a fantastic idea. You don’t have to use those numbers but try to focus on where you are. You might not remember where you are and you might have your eyes closed. But you can probably feel the floor. Or hear yourself breathing or cars going by. Or smell air freshener.
I can remember having an anxiety attack in the stockroom at work and I could smell cardboard and popcorn. Those scents helped me remember where I was.
There’s also the idea of a grounding box. Again, I’ve personally never used this, but it’s a good idea. It’s a box with items you enjoy that stimulate the senses. Things like mint gum, fruit snacks, or a balloon full of sand.
There can also be a distraction items. These are items that require some level of focus and brain power while also keeping your attention. Like a Rubik’s cube, coloring book, or those bottles full of sand with little items to find. They’re great if you feel an attack coming, or when one is ending. They’re not very helpful during.
While I don’t personally have a grounding box, they provide sensory materials that may be hard to find in your environment. Smell and taste are strong grounding senses, but not always easy to find, especially in a panicked state.
Find what works for you. Or, if you know someone who gets anxiety attacks, ask what works for them so you can help if the situation arises. Personally, I like film scores, a stuffed animal, and water. Don’t think too hard about it, anything that triggers the senses works.