What are grounding techniques, and do they help? Grounding is a name given to exercises that can help to bring relief from high states of panic and anxiety or flashbacks of traumatic experiences. They can help orientate us back to the ‘here and now’, so that our minds are not stuck ruminating on past experiences or worrying about the future.
Grounding technique #1 – 54321
Grounding often uses the five senses to help orientate a person to the present moment. A great example of this is the 54321 grounding technique, which we use a lot in CBT sessions. It works by noticing objects around you that you can use to describe. Take a moment to give this a practice:
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Grounding technique #2 – calm box
Another useful strategy is to create a calm box. This is a box that contains lots of different things that trigger your different senses to help you to be in the present moment. For example, you could include:
Sight – photographs of enjoyable memories or of loved ones
Sound – reminders to listen to your favourite music or songs
Taste – teabags, hot chocolate sachets, chocolate or sweets.
Touch – a soft teddy, a reminder to pull out your favourite jumper or blanket.
Smell – fragrance spray, deodorant, aftershave or perfume
Grounding technique #3 – number games
Even though maths is not everyone’s favourite subject, playing simple number games can really help center you and distract you from stresses. You could try one of the following examples:
Reciting your times tables
Pick a number and think of 5 ways to make that number (15 = 5 + 10, 3 x 5, 750/50 etc)
Counting back from 100 in 3’s
Pick an odd number and keeping doubling it
These strategies work well for children, teens and adults. It’s usually a case of trying different things out and seeing what works best for you. You can read more about different types of grounding, particularly for flashbacks, on the Getselfhelp website here.
Seeking further support
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that anxiety will always reduce on its own, and ideally we’d be able to ride the wave of anxiety until it passes. However, this is often quite tricky for people, and it can be useful to use grounding strategies in the short term to handle panic attacks and flashbacks.
Therefore, we’d generally recommend seeking therapy if the panic attacks or flashbacks happen a lot. This is so you can learn about what is happening and how to reduce these for good, without the need for grounding.
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If you would like more information on panic attacks and why they occur, you can read our blog on this topic here. You can also follow us on our Instagram and Facebook for more mental health discussions.
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