Grounding Techniques for Managing Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Grounding techniques are some of the tactics that can come handy in managing anxiety attacks or panic attacks. These techniques can be performed by the person experiencing strong or extreme emotions or can be practiced under the supervision of a medical practitioner. These techniques have been found to relieve anxiety, panic attacks, urge for self-harm or self-mutilation, dissociation, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stressful episodes.

These techniques help a person get in touch with the present here and now experience. These techniques involve five senses which help him or her alleviate intense emotional states by using distraction and by bringing attention to the present environment.

Here are some grounding techniques that you can apply in situations where you experience intense emotional states or traumatic flashbacks. Some of these techniques use distraction, some use mental processes, and some use relaxation as a way to calm the senses:

Use five senses:

  • Find five things you can see
  • Find four things you can touch
  • Find three things you can hear
  • Find two things you can smell
  • Find one thing you can taste

The 4-7-8 x 4 technique (breathing exercise): It is simple yet powerful breathing technique developed by Dr Andrew Weil. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, during the whole process, place your tip of your tongue lightly behind the upper teeth.

  • Inhale through your nose at the count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for the count of 7.
  • Exhale through your mouth at the count of 8, while making an audible ‘whoooosh’ sound.

Repeat the whole cycle 4 times. The 4-7-8 x 4 technique has been found to be very effective in alleviating anxiety and other intense emotional states by calming the mind, as it helps quieten the extreme and troubling thoughts.

Savor: Another grounding technique involves savoring the food or drinks as a way to bring your attention to the present. Take small bites or sips of whatever you are eating or drinking. Focus your attention on the texture, taste, smell, and flavors. Try to involve all your five senses in this experience.

Categories: Start thinking about a particular category, it could be anything like, food, places, names, etc. and then start thinking about things or items that belong to the chosen category. This technique helps by using distraction as a method to bring your attention to something else.

Focus on here and now: You can bring your attention to the present environment by focusing on here and now. You can start from stating your name, adding your age, the place where you live, date and time etc. You can also state the present situation, like where you are sitting, with whom or who else are around you. You can add just about anything.

Visualize: You can use visualization technique, where you can visualize your emotions as a volume dial and create a mental image of lowering your emotions by lowering the dial. Just like a volume dial on a radio.

Look for your strengths: You can ask yourself questions that can actually help you recognize your strengths.  This will help you acknowledge that “You did it before, you can do it now.”

Sing: Sing your favorite song or poem. You can also chant a mantra. This technique will help you distract your mind from heightened emotional states.

Positive affirmations: You can use positive and compassionate affirmations to help soothe and calm your mind. You can say them out loud or in your head, whatever feels comfortable. You can also write them down as follows:

“You are doing great, you can do it.”

“You are getting calmed down.”

Plan: You can start planning an activity that you would definitely enjoy. Like, planning a vacation or planning a house party. Focus on each and every detail, like with whom you would like to go on a vacation, packing your luggage, making bookings, etc. Or whom you would like to invite for your house party, deciding the menu, party games, preparation, etc.

Remember! These grounding techniques cannot substitute professional treatment, but these can surely aid the healing process. So do consult your mental health professional.

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