Grounding Techniques To Use When You’re Feeling Stressed
Grounding is a simple, effective tool to use when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, disconnected, or dysregulated.
Dysregulation looks different for different people, and can also vary by situation. It can happen in your mind, body, and/or emotions. Some signs of dysregulation are:
- Strong bursts of emotion like anxiety, stress, panic, or fear that are overwhelming or distracting
- Racing thoughts, and/or speaking fast and having a hard time slowing down
- Feeling ‘buzzing’ or ‘hyped’ up physically — often in your head, torso, hands or feet, but can be experienced anywhere in the body
- Spacing or ‘zoning’ out; not feeling present in your body
Grounding techniques are simple exercises you can use to bring your mental, emotional, and/or physical experience back to the present.
Being more regulated mentally, physically, and emotionally creates a calmer, clearer, and more grounded presence. It supports more strategic and creative thinking, effectively responding to challenges or problems, managing emotions better, communicating more effectively (especially during conflict), and feeling more positive and engaged with your life. In other words, practicing becoming more grounded is a great way be a more effective leader, manager, and colleague.
Here are the top 10 grounding exercises that resonate most with my coaching clients. The next time you’re feeling dysregulated, try out one of these exercises. It should only take a few minutes, and can be done wherever you are, in most situations. It may take some trial and error to figure out which exercises work best for you.
- Breathe deeply. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, pause for a count of four. Repeat for a total of 4 breaths, or as needed.
- Stretch your body. Stand up and stretch your arms above your head, out to your sides, out in front of you. Lean forward, backward, and side to side. Add any simple upper and lower body stretches that help you bring your awareness back to your body.
- Connect with objects around you. Touch or pick up three things around you. Focus on each item’s appearance and feel. Tune into and name in your head its texture, color, temperature, weight, and other properties. Sit with each item for a moment and connect with it using your different senses.
- Create a positivity album. Build an album on your phone of photos and videos that make you smile, laugh, or feel happy or content. These can be anything — family members or friends, cat videos, positive memories, inspirational imagery, etc. They can be funny, heartwarming, or entertaining — anything that generates positive feelings in you.
- Use the 3–2–1 method. Choose three of your senses — sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. Sight, sound, and touch are often easiest for this exercise. List out 3–2–1 things you experience with each sense. For example: three things you see, two things you hear, one thing you can touch.
- Listen to a favorite song. Create a playlist of your favorite songs to turn to when you need a boost. They can be energizing or calming, happy or melancholy. Choose songs that generate the type of emotional experience you want to create to reconnect with your mind and body. As you listen to the song, tune into the different notes, voices, instruments, and/or components that come together to create the music.
- Take a walk. Take a short walk around the block, or even just around your building or the room you’re in to reconnect with your physical body. Notice what your legs and feet feel like as you take each step. Notice tightness and tension in your body, and focus on relaxing or loosening it.
- Practice a brief meditation exercise. Do a brief 3–5 minute meditation exercise. Apps like Calm, Headspace, Oak, and others provide brief guided meditation exercises that offer a grounding experience. Guided imagery, body scan, and loving kindness meditations are a few types of meditations.
- Do a gratitude exercise. List 5 things you’re grateful for or appreciate about your life, or yourself. They can be big or small — the cup of coffee or tea you’re drinking, the feeling of the sun shining on your face, acknowledging a recent win, an important person or relationship.
- Count backward. Counting is a great distraction tool for when you experience uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions. Count backward from 100 by 7 to shift your focus and attention away from the negative emotions. Switch up the numbers as needed — for example, start at 189 and count backward by 9.