So, you’re anxious. It happens. There are basically two things to do with anxiety. You can face it or avoid it. Avoiding it is often the sensible thing to do if it’s a thing you are not likely to encounter very often; like snakes, for instance. I’m afraid of snakes. If I got a job as a snake charmer, I would have to do something about it; otherwise, I just avoid them.
Now, if I did become a snake charmer, I would have to face my anxiety. I wouldn’t just go and grab the first snake I found and say, go ahead bite me, I dare you. No, that freaks me out just to write about it. A better method would be face my fear systematically, little by little, in circumstances in which I was likely to be successful. And, and this is most important, I would keep myself grounded.
When you are grounded, you are most alert, yet calm and in control. You can get grounded before you step into a difficult situation and it will help you keep your wits about you. If you’re already in a difficult situation, you can ground then, too. If you just left the hard situation and your nerves are still jangled, ground and you will begin to settle down. You can ground anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and no one has to know. Grounding puts healthy distance between you and negative feelings.
No, grounding is not the same as relaxing, being cool, or mellowing out. It’s not a form of meditation. It’s getting a grip on the obvious, that’s all. The general idea is to get out of your head, at least the part of your head that’s like a broken record. It’s a little like breaking a spell.
If you know how to ground, you don’t need that stiff drink, or that pill, or that cigarette, reefer, or that bag of dope. If you know how to ground, you can go anywhere, do anything, and deal with anyone, within reason.
Here’s a few general tips on grounding:
- If you get a chance, rate your anxiety on a 10 point scale, both before and after you ground.
- This is not the time to get in touch with your feelings. Keep your eyes open, turn on the lights, and look around you.
- No blowing off steam or venting. The idea is to step away from negative feelings, not work them up to a lather.
- Stay neutral. Don’t make judgments, good or bad. If the walls are green, don’t say they’re puke green, just say they’re green. Don’t say that snake is fearsome, it’s just a snake.
- Practice grounding as often as possible, even when you don’t need it, till it becomes automatic.
- Start grounding early, before things get really bad, but later is better than never.
- When a method of grounding works, it works in less than a minute. If the method you try at first doesn’t work that quickly, move on and try another method right away. Continue until it works.
How to Ground- Mental Methods
- Describe your environment in detail using neutral words. “The walls are blue, there are five red chairs, there’s fifteen photos on the wall….” Note objects, sounds, textures, colors, smells, shapes, numbers, and temperature.
- Play a categories game with yourself. Name all the vegetables you can think of, breeds of dogs, states that begin with the letter N, baseball teams, rock anthems, presidents, impressionist artists, etc.
- Describe an everyday activity in detail, like a dish you cook, your bedtime routine, how to run a bath, etc.
- Imagine skating away from your suffering, changing the channel to a better show, picking a new book off the shelf, building a fence between you and pain.
- Declare yourself. “My name is ____. The date is ____, it is not ____. I am located ____, not at ____, etc.
- Read something, saying every word to yourself. Read each word backwards, letter by letter.
- Count to ten. Say the alphabet forwards or backwards. Start at 100, subtract by 7, and continue.
- Repeat a favorite saying
- If a thought is giving you pain, repeat it over and over as fast as you can. For example: “I’m a terrible mother,” will become,”imaterriblemotherimaterriblemotherimaterriblemotherimaterriblemotherimaterriblemotherimaterriblemotherimaterriblemother…” Notice how the meaning disappears and only the sound is left? Try saying the sentence very slowly, like half speed. Create a song out of the sentence. Say it in a Donald Duck voice.
- Think of the pain as something external. If it were an animal, what would it be? What color, what sound would it make?
- Instead of having the thought, “I’m a terrible mother,” for example, change it to, “I’m having a thought that I’m a terrible mother.”
How to Ground- Physical Grounding
- Fill a bowl or pitcher with ice water and stick your hand in until it hurts.
- Clench your fists as tightly as you can and then release.
- Touch objects around you and notice their temperature, texture, and weight.
- Grind your heels into the floor, literally grounding them.
- Jump up and down; do pushups.
- Keep a grounding object in your pocket, a rock, a key fob, a special coin, and feel it.
- Keep a rubber band on your wrist and snap it. Pinch yourself.
- Notice something that you sense that you haven’t noticed. The sound of traffic outside, the feel of your toes in your socks, the feel of your elbows on the chair arms, etc.
- Walk half as fast as you usually do, noticing every footstep.
- Eat just a spoonful of something noticing the smell, the texture, the flavor.
- Focus on your breathing, notice every inhale and exhale. Repeat a meaningful word (Peace, Love, etc) or short prayer with every exhale.
- Sometimes all you need to do is get up and go to a different room.
How to Ground- Self Soothing
- Say something nice to yourself. “You can do this. You are good. You’ll get through it.”
- Think of your favorite things.
- Picture people you care about.
- Remember a safe place. Describe a place that is very soothing to you. (A path in the woods, a mountain, a beach, a room.) Describe everything about that place.
- Say affirmations. “Every day in every way, I can get better and better.”
- Plan a small treat for yourself: a dinner, a bath, a piece of candy.
- Plan something to look forward to.
- Hug yourself
Notice what works for you, create new methods. If you have any to share, please add them in the comments section.