Grounding techniques are often used in therapy to help individuals manage overwhelming emotions, anxiety, or dissociation. You can also use these techniques outside of therapy when feeling these intense emotions. The goal is to bring attention back to the present moment and create a sense of stability. Whether you are in your 50’s or need some tips for your little one, these techniques can be useful to any age!
One of my favorite techniques that I utilize with my clients is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique, it goes as follow:
Take a deep breath and
- Identify and name 5 things you see- a chair, a pen on your desk, anything in your surroundings
- Identify and name 4 things you can touch- your feet on the ground, your bottom on the chair, anything you feel
- Identify and name 3 things you can hear- cars as they pass, people talking outside your door, even the ventilation system in your house
- Identify and name 2 things you can smell- could be your perfume, smell of hand sanitizer or the smell of old wood of your desk
- Identify and name 1 thing you can taste- this could be your morning coffee breath, gum, or your sandwich from lunch
I encourage my clients if you can’t identify all of the senses, it’s alright to go to the next one. If you want to feel extra special, you can name a positive affirmation at the end. “I am loved”or “I got this” for encouragement. The best part of this technique is that you can practice anywhere. I encourage you to practice these skills when you are stable, so when you feel unregulated, it can come naturally and you don’t feel panic if you forget a step. Taking deep breaths is an important part which leads to the next grounding technique.
Deep Breaths: 4-7-8 Technique
Before starting, find a comfortable sitting position and sit tall. To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
- Breathing in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
- Holding the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhaling through the mouth, pursing the lips, and making a “whoosh” sound for 8 seconds
- You can repeat up to 4 times
The great thing about breathing is that it’s a portable coping skill, You can breathe everywhere and anywhere. Research shows that daily deep breathing exercises can lower resting blood pressure and reduce stress and anxiety.
Coloring or Drawing
- A simple repetitive activity, focus on the colors, the movement of your hand, and the texture of the material.
Coloring offers a therapeutic and creative outlet to relieve stress and anxiety. Thus creating a calm mind and allowing yourself a break.
Many therapists utilize different techniques for different people and depending on the reason for therapy. As a therapist, I explore and encourage my clients to try different techniques and to practice them to find the rhythm that works best for them. There are many grounding techniques in the therapy world, which ones will you try today?
Zaccaro A., Piarulli A., Laurino M., Garbella E., Menicucci D., Neri B., et al. (2018). How breath-control can change your life: A systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 12, 353. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353