Grounding techniques are ways of calming yourself down by creating a connection to the here and now. It literally means to “ground” and anchor yourself to the concreteness of the present.
Before we can talk about the value of grounding techniques, we need to understand anxiety and its role in our lives. According to marriage and family therapist Emily Maynard, LMFT, “Anxiety is an adaptive process in our nervous systems necessary for human survival. Your anxiety triggers are unique to you based on your upbringing, experiences, personality, and physicality, but often anxiety comes in a moment of risk or fear.” When anxiety becomes disordered, the frantic emotions can pull you towards upsetting flashbacks, dissociation, rumination, and distress.
Although the experience can’t be eliminated altogether, it can be managed. That’s where grounding techniques come in.
“Grounding techniques are exercises that help us stay in the present moment and are designed to return our bodies back to our baseline,” Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, Ph.D., a psychologist and media advisor for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation, tells mbg. By gently turning away from your worries and focusing your attention back to the present, grounding allows you to decrease the intensity of the emotion and reduce bodily stress.
Anxiety happens through a cascading physiological response. A grounding technique is a natural coping strategy that tells your brain you’re safe and OK. “Just as your body knows how to activate panic, it also knows how to return to a state of calm through your parasympathetic nervous system,” de la Rosa says.