What can we do when we’re going through stressful periods of life or constant anxiety and panic? Here are well-researched ways that help.
"Grounding oneself" is somewhat of a buzz phrase, but it is actually a concept first developed by Alexander Lowen, one of the first body psychotherapists. Body psychotherapy is based on the concept that people experience the world not only through their thoughts and emotions but also through their bodies (Engelhard, 2021).
For example, panic attacks can make a person feel detached from their surroundings or their state of being. The practice of grounding oneself addresses feeling present and being a part of the here and now. Grounding assumes that certain bodily activities can improve the individual’s functioning, emotion regulation, and emotional awareness. For example, one of the most popular methods of grounding is the 5-4-3-2-1 method (Good Therapy, 2022).
Tip 1: The 5-4-3-2-1 method
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The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding technique that helps to direct the person’s focus away from sources of stress. To use this method, the person should complete each of the following steps slowly and thoroughly:
- Look at 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a short while.
- Listen for 4 distinct sounds. Think about where they came from and what sets them apart.
- Touch 3 objects. Consider their texture, temperature, and their uses.
- Identify 2 different smells. This could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, or the laundry detergent on your clothes.
Name 1 thing you can taste. Notice whatever taste is in your mouth, or try tasting a piece of candy.
Tip 2: Challenge your negative thoughts.
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Thinking about how to challenge our negative thoughts can be challenging because thinking is a physical act. The organ we use for thinking is our brain and just like all other organs, and just like all other organs, it has its limitations. But, by thinking about the truth, you will realize that negative thoughts are largely inaccurate. For example, if you are feeling panicked because of thoughts regarding failure, the truth is that you must have done or achieved things that are contrary to those thoughts. At some point, you have successfully completed a task or solved a problem. By challenging negative thoughts with factual events, you have the opportunity to empower yourself against negative thoughts (LaMotte, 2019).
Tip 3: Visualization
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Panic is a fixation on something that stresses or worries you. So, you’ll want to distract yourself from the nervousness you're experiencing. So, visualize a different or peaceful scene. If you were to imagine being at peace right now what would that look like? Would it be on a beach? What do you think the sun would look like? What do you think the water would feel like? This is also a way to distract yourself. Because you're so focused on imagining details, visualization takes away a lot of energy from negative thoughts and fuels it into something more positive.
Tip 4: Expression
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Repressed emotions refer to emotions that you unconsciously avoid. These differ from suppressed emotions, which are feelings you purposely avoid because you don’t know exactly how to deal with them. With repressed emotions, you might regularly feel numb, blank, or anxious (Healthline, 2022).
And when there’s a lot of energy being produced, expression helps you release nervousness productive way instead of trying to push it down. Try to find healthy activities that give you a sense of catharsis like hiking, writing, or dancing. Pushing down anxiety can create more anxiety and detachment. Sometimes it takes professional help to address repressed emotions, but finding an activity that releases panic and anxiety can help set up the foundation for dealing with them although it may not remedy them.
Tip 5: Exercise
Feelings of panic produce adrenaline, and evidence suggests that developing a consistent routine for at least 20 minutes has the greatest benefit of reducing anxiety (Anderson, 2013). Too much adrenaline puts us in a constant state of survival which in turn, can affect our ability to be emotionally present and feel pleasure.
Exercise reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.