Grounding techniques to reduce anxiety.
Be strong then, and enter into your own body
There you have a solid place for your feet
Think about it carefully
Don’t go off somewhere else
Kabir 15th Century Indian mystic poet and saint
14 years ago I suffered from a serious bout of anxiety. When it reached a peak I discovered grounding techniques helpful for calming me down. I found it particularly useful when I felt trapped, a common symptom of my anxiety. Triggers might be travelling in a car, sitting in a meeting or a social environment in which I didn’t feel entirely comfortable.
The premise is simple.
Grounding brings you into the present moment. It cuts through your projections of doom and illusions of fear to place you in the centre of truth.
Imagine the accumulation of catastrophising thoughts lifting you off the ground and carrying you high amidst a swirling atmosphere of anxiety. Grounding tethers weights to your limbs and plants you firmly on terra firma.
This technique has since served me well on stressful days, avoiding overwhelm and stopping that feeling of ‘unreality’ and loss of control that often accompanies an escalation of worrisome thoughts. These thoughts might not just be worry based. Cravings can also constitute intrusive thoughts and anchoring yourself provides the space for clarity and better decision making in the present moment.
Grounding as science
Grounding (or earthing), is a therapeutic practice that involves doing activities that electrically reconnect you to the earth. This practice relies on earthing science and grounding physics to explain how electrical charges from the earth can have positive effects on your body.
The science bit seems supportive of this….
Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease. The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/
The simplest way to ground yourself would be to make direct contact with the earth. Take off your shoes and step outside onto the grass, dirt or sand. You could also sit on the earth or lay down. The principle is to make contact with the ground and benefit from forming a circuit between yourself and the frequency of the earth.
In another sense grounding is simply rooting yourself to the present moment. A mind, body technique that uses visualisation as a thread to connect you to something stronger and more stable than you feel in the present moment. It can also engage sight, sound, touch, smell, taste in placing you in a present state of mind.
My favourite go to grounding and anchoring exercise.
If I am doing this as a daily practice during times of stress I will take time to remove my shoes and stand outside on the lawn. Otherwise it can be carried out sitting on a bus, at your desk, at a party with your shoes on as a really effective anchoring technique.
I take a deep breath in and with my out breath imagine the beginnings of roots emerging from the soles of my feet. With the next breath the roots touch the earth and pierce through the top of the soil. With each consecutive breath the roots travel deeper and deeper into the earth. I imagine the worms and bugs, the roots of the trees and layers of soil type. My roots travel further still into the earth to hold me in a peaceful and stable state of mind and body.
If you can see mountains around you then this exercise is even better but you don’t need them. It is about the solid foundational shape of the mountain, a triangle.
- Stand with your feet parallel and about five inches apart.
- Consciously spread your weight evenly between your feet.
- Balance your arms evenly at each side
- Spread your toes so that weight is distributed evenly at all points of the foot.
- As you spread weight from heel to tip of your toes your knees will lift and thighs engage.
- Relax and slide your shoulder blades towards your waist and gently tilt your pelvis upwards.
- Keep your chin parallel to the floor and lengthen your entire spine to the top of your crown.
- Breathe smooth and steady.
Other ideas for grounding yourself:
- If you are sitting in a chair take time to notice the pressure of your body on the seat. Notice how your limbs hang, the pressure of the floor, where you are holding tension in the body.
- Engage in active listening. What can you hear right now? What is the loudest noise? Work yourself away to the faintest whispers.
- Look around you and name three things you can hear, then two things you can see, and finally one sensation that you feel.
- Interrupt intrusive thoughts through sensation. Rubbing your legs or flicking an elastic band on your wrist. Clap your hands or rub them together and notice the heat, sensations and sting.
- Eat or drink something mindfully. Feel its texture and note its shape. How does it smell. The sensation and texture in your mouth. Chew slowly and describe the changing taste.
- Pick an object in your field of vision and trace the outline with your eyes as if you were drawing it on the page.
- Walk mindfully by slowing your pace and feeling the ground beneath your feet. Engage with the sights and sounds. Describe the colours and notice the sensation of the air on your skin.