We all get nervous and or worry about something. Speaking in public, familial changes, tests, financial challenges--these can all cause any individual to experience some level of stress. But for many individuals, it becomes so overwhelming that it begins to cause problems within their social, emotional, and academic development. This is when worry can become anxiety. Anxiety can come in many forms and can cause an array of symptoms such as lack of sleep, irritability, change in appetite, panic attacks, excessive worry or fear, and decreased self-confidence or assurance.
When typical worry or fear turns into excessive worry and begins to take over most aspects of your life, getting help is always a healthy and beneficial option. Therapists will help children, teens, and adults learn to process the anxiety as well as provide them with resources and tools to help them cope known as coping skills. One of the many coping skills that can be beneficial is using grounding techniques. Grounding techniques are incredibly helpful in bringing your awareness back to the present moment, helping you manage panic and stressful thoughts. These techniques can be anything from deep breathing to meditation.
But often times, techniques and coping skills can be hard to accomplish in short periods of time with limited resources. So what are some techniques you can use when panic or worry hits within a moment, and 5 minutes later you are giving a speech or taking a test? Here are 5 interesting and beneficial grounding skills you can use for just a few minutes, if that is all you have to spare:
1. Deep breathing: Time yourself if you need to! Take a break, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly. Focus on the breathe. How does it feel in your chest? How does it sound? Focus only on the breathing and the current moment.
2. Muscle relaxation: Start at your toes and squeeze has hard as you can for a few seconds and then slowly release. Then move up to the muscles in your legs and repeat. Focus on the feeling of release, and imagine releasing the thoughts of worry as your muscle loses its tension. Continue this process throughout the body, and again, time yourself. If you are taking a test or giving a presentation, allow yourself 1 minute to ground yourself.
3. The place of peace: Simply take a minute or two to think of a place where you feel most relaxed. Imagine yourself in this place. What is happening around you in this place? What are you doing in this place? If you have more time, it can be helpful to create a picture or take a picture of that place for you to have and observe when you need it.
4. Mindfulness drawing/doodling: If you are at your desk and all you have are a pen and paper, take a break. Again, time yourself. Give yourself a minute or two and simply create. You can doodle a symbol, a shape, experiment with colors, or simply draw. Focus on how the pen or pencil feels, how it feels on the paper or in your hand. Focus on the drawing or doodle. What shapes are forming? Is there a pattern? What colors are you noticing? After the time runs out, slowly refocus on the task at hand. You can do this in complete silence or even while listening to some relaxing music.
5. The mindful minute: Take one minute to stop what you are doing in that moment. Focus on the following:
5 things you see-Are there trees or animals outside? Is the sun out? Are there cars around you?
4 things you can touch-This can be anything from your fingertips to the grass or you clothes and the walls.
3 things you can hear-Are there birds chirping? Is there music playing?
2 things you can smell-What does the air smell like? What about your hair or your clothes? Anything in your present environment that you can smell.
1 thing you can taste- Are you chewing gum? Can you taste the coffee or tea you drank? What about your morning toothpaste?
During that minute, you will solely be focusing on the present moment and what your senses are experiencing. This allows you to drive out some of the worry and excessive thoughts as well as refocus your mind and body.
Each of these grounding techniques can be altered to benefit anyone from children and teens in the classroom to adults at work. Not only are these techniques helpful for coping with anxiety, but they are beneficial for those experiencing episodes of anger, limited impulse control, or lack of focus. Being able to “ground” yourself, is the ability to bring all of your awareness to the present moment. It allows you to take a mental break from the stress and fear you may be experiencing. Essentially, in times of intense panic and worry, you can aid your own growth and development by simply keeping yourself grounded in very short periods of time and on a moment's notice. With practice and support, these grounding techniques will become more natural and can be simple tools for you to cope in everyday life.