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10 Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/3/2022

Your heart’s racing. Your stomach’s churning. You’re jittery and fidgety and can’t stop your mind from going to the worst-case scenario. 

These are all signs of anxiety, and if you ever feel this way, you’re not alone. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million Americans over the age of eighteen. 

An anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry that interferes with everyday life. 

Of course, you don’t need to have a disorder to experience anxiety — everyone feels anxious every now and then. Especially when life gets stressful! 

So, what’s the best way to calm your racing mind when you start to feel your anxiety spiral? Try using grounding techniques. 

How Do Grounding Techniques Work? 

When you’re anxious, your body dives into what’s called a fight-or-flight response — for example, you get sweaty palms, a thumping heart and quickened breath. 

This fight-or-flight response was designed as an evolutionary adaptation to help us escape immediate danger. 

If we were being attacked by predators or facing certain death, our fight-or-flight response would kick in and help us either fight off the imminent threat or flee. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to anxiety, your body is usually overreacting to stressors that aren’t exactly life-threatening. 

Now think about it: usually, when you’re anxious, you’re often worried about something that has already happened, or that might happen in the future, right? 

But grounding techniques help you focus on the present, ultimately keeping those overwhelming feelings and extreme emotions in check. 

These techniques require using your senses and/or cognitive awareness to bring you back to the present moment. 

If you keep a few grounding strategies in your back pocket, it’s like having a secret weapon that can help you return to a calmer self. 

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10 Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

Here is a list of 10 grounding methods for you to keep in mind the next time your anxiety starts to get the best of you. 

The key here is to practice them when you’re feeling calm, so you’re armed and ready when you start feeling stressed.

The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique

This popular technique is a five-step exercise that uses your five senses to help ground you in the present when you have feelings of anxiety. 

It’s done by acknowledging the following in a moment of panic, unease or anxious feelings:

  • Five things that you can see 

  • Four things you can feel

  • Three things you can hear 

  • Two things you can smell 

  • One thing you can taste

Connect With Chair

Take a seat. Once sitting, be very mindful and notice how the chair supports your weight. Is it a soft chair? A hard chair? Does it feel comforting? Draw attention to the places where your body makes contact with it.

Focus on Your Breath 

First, make sure your feet are planted firmly on the floor. Then, take a deep, slow breath in and fill your lungs with air. 

As you breathe out, imagine you’re exhaling all the way from the soles of your feet. Repeat this at least three times.

Another good breathing exercise involves holding it, then exhaling. Try breathing in slowly for four seconds, holding it in for four seconds, then exhaling slowly for four seconds. 

Repeat this as many times as needed until you feel calmer.

Pick a Category (color/shape/texture etc.) 

Pick a category then look around the room or environment you’re in, and try to find all the items within the category that you’ve chosen. For example, let’s say you’re outside and you pick the color orange. 

Maybe you see a flower, a ball, the sun, an autumn leaf — keep going until you start to feel grounded and calm. 

Focus on a Small Object 

Find something like a coin, a stone, or a piece of jewelry and hold it in your hand. Notice the sensation of it. Is it cold? Smooth? Delicate? 

Really connect with the object and the way it feels as you hold it. If you tend to have panic attacks often, maybe carry an item with you that you can take out when the anxiety symptoms hit. 

Hold Something Cold 

Whether it’s placing a piece of ice in the palm of your hand and feeling the sharpness of the cold and the wetness as it melts, or taking a sip of cool water and feeling the sensation of it in your mouth as it trickles down your throat, focusing on this sensory experience may help ground you and allow you to be present. 

Say Who You Are 

Remind yourself of who you are. Say your name. Your age. Where you are. What you’ve done today and what you’ll do tomorrow. 

Say it in a sentence. My name is ____. I am ____ years old. I am at _____. And so on. 

Ask Yourself Some Questions

When you start to feel panic spiraling, reorient by asking yourself some (or all) of these questions. Where am I? What day is it? What’s the date? What’s the month? What’s the year? What season is it?

Take a Shower or a Bath

Whether you like your shower hot or cold, the sensation of the water against your skin can help ground you. 

Are your muscles relaxing? Is the sound of the shower calming? Is the sloshing of the bath water soothing? 

Focus on your senses and the smells of the soaps, the sound of the water and the way it feels against your skin.

Listen to Some Music 

Keep a calming playlist on your phone, and play it whenever you feel anxiety mounting. 

Studies have shown that listening to music can decrease the body’s stress response. 

So, listen to the sounds of the instruments, the tones of voices and the lyrics, and try to ground yourself in the present moment. 

How To Make The Most of Grounding Techniques

While there isn’t a large amount of research about the science behind grounding methods, it certainly can’t hurt to try these techniques to help calm anxiety. 

To get the most out of them, practice when you’re not feeling stressed so it becomes second nature when tensions rise.

Also, keep your eyes open to stay aware of your surroundings, and check in with yourself periodically to see if your anxiety is lessening or increasing. 

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See a Professional if You Need More Help 

While grounding exercises may help in the moment, living with anxiety can be a long-term challenge. 

Don’t avoid the problem — it won't go away, and it may even worsen if you don’t get help. Hers’ online therapy offering can help assess your needs and provide you with solutions that are tailored to you. 

7 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. (n.d.). Grounding techniques self-help resource. Retrieved from https://www.sydney.edu.au/content/dam/students/documents/counselling-and-mental-health-support/grounding-techniques.pdf
  2. Coughlin, N. (2020, April 13). How Your Sense of Touch Can Reduce Anxiety. University Hospitals. Retrieved from https://www.uhhospitals.org/Healthy-at-UH/articles/2020/04/how-physical-touch-can-reduce-anxiety
  3. Counseling Center: Grounding Techniques. (n.d.). James Madison University. Retrieved from https://www.jmu.edu/counselingctr/self-help/anxiety/grounding-techniques.shtml
  4. The Effect of Music on the Human Stress Response. (2013, August 5). NCBI. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734071/
  5. Facts & Statistics. (2021, September 19). Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics
  6. Generalized anxiety disorder - Symptoms and causes. (2017, October 13). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20360803
  7. Grounding exercises | Mental health. (n.d.). Living Well. Retrieved from https://livingwell.org.au/well-being/mental-health/grounding-exercises/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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