Having anxiety is awful and it can feel all-consuming. It has been described in many ways – it's fear of the unknown, it's 'freaking out', it's overthinking the past, it's trying to predict the future. It's ... horrible.

But there are techniques you can learn to help you cope with anxious thoughts. Here we talk you through a technique called 'grounding' ...

Anxiety is often hard to explain to others and extremely frustrating. The unpredictability can be especially challenging. You may be totally fine one moment, minding your own business, when your brain suddenly attacks with an onslaught of anxious thoughts.

Grounding techniques can help to reduce the impact of those horrid anxious feelings in the moment. Instead of drowning in your anxious thoughts, it can help bring you back to reality. Grounding isn’t a way to erase unpleasant memories or traumatic experiences, but it can be a way to make them feel less intense in the moment and help to build resilience over time. 

Instead of trying to fight your mind’s natural tendency to fixate on something, grounding is giving it something better to focus on. The brain is only capable of focusing on so many thoughts at once. Using cognitive grounding forces the brain to redirect from the anxiety.

Let’s say your thoughts are racing, your heart is beating fast, and you don’t know how to calm down. Instead of listing all the things that can go wrong, start making a mental list of something really mundane. Start listing different types of biscuits. Make a mental list of every film you’ve ever seen. Name songs that start with the letter R. Concentrating on this task will distract you from the stressful thoughts for long enough that your body will begin to calm down. Before you know it, your anxiety will reduce.

If you find comfort in physical touch, tactile methods may be a good option. Tactile grounding involves your five senses. Touching a soft blanket, drinking a soothing cup of peppermint tea, splashing cold water on your face, petting your cuddly dog or running your fingers through your hair are ways you can use tactile grounding to feel calmer. This will distract your brain and get it out of the super-anxious loop it was in.

Visual grounding helps you to focus on the here and now. Start to note the things around you. Make a mental list of all the green things you can see. Describe the pictures on your wall to yourself in great detail. Count the tiles in the kitchen. By acknowledging these things around you, you pull yourself back to reality. That’s the whole point of grounding: it’s a way to stop your anxious brain in its tracks and help you feel more grounded in reality.

If you have an anxious child you might like to teach them one of the most popular and effective methods: the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Take an inventory of the five senses. Start by noting five things you can see. Next, find four things you can feel. Then, list three things you can hear. Note two things you can smell. Finally, find one thing you can taste, even if it’s just water.

By using the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, you stimulate all of your senses and pull yourself back to physical reality. (If you or your child have an impairment in any of the senses, simply adjust the list to better fit your circumstances.)

It can be really hard to navigate life with anxiety. Grounding is a great technique, but it’s not a cure. If anxiety is affecting your life you may want to consider seeking the help of a therapist. Together with a trained professional, you can better understand the root of your anxiety and work to come up with even more solutions to combat it. You don’t have to suffer in silence. You may have anxiety, but anxiety doesn’t have you.

Sourced from Bridge the Gap Child Mental Health C.I.C ‘You matter, you are loved, you are not alone …’ Bridge the Gap has a lot of free resources that can help parents explore strategies and anxiety with children.

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