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Grounding Techniques for Panic Attacks
Grounding is a practice that helps people with anxiety pull away from flashbacks, unwanted memories, and negative emotions. These factors often contribute to panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, which can, of course, be distressing. Using an anxiety grounding exercise can help you detach from distressing thoughts and emotions and create a space where you can refocus on what’s happening in the present. As a mental treatment center in Florida, we understand how difficult it can be to manage anxiety symptoms. We’re sharing some of the best grounding techniques for panic attacks.
How to Ground Yourself During a Panic Attack
The purpose of using grounding techniques for anxiety attacks is to use the person’s five senses to bring the present into focus and help them step away from negative thoughts or flashbacks. Remember that while grounding isn’t a permanent solution, it provides a temporary way to gain control over your feelings and prevent your panic attack or situation from getting worse. There are three types of grounding: mental, physical, and soothing. Below is a list of grounding techniques for panic attacks that cover each category.
Mental Grounding Techniques
Mental grounding refers to focusing on your mind to relax during an anxiety or panic attack. Some practical mental grounding techniques you can try include:
- Describe the details of your environment. The point of this exercise is to use all your senses. You can point out details like: “The walls are white,” “there are three red chairs,” “this is a white table,” “it smells like a vanilla candle,” etc. You can describe colors, smells, sounds, and textures, plus you can do this anywhere.
- Name things in different categories. This may seem odd, but you can think of it as a game where you try to think of different kinds of dogs, rock musicians, animals, or famous people. Pick a category and name things that fall into that category.
- Describe a normal activity in detail. Let’s say you’re doing laundry. Describe what you’re doing in detail: “First, I separate colors from darks, then I let the machine fill, then I pour in the detergent….”
- Imagine something. While this may seem vague, try focusing on a pleasant mental image. Imagine yourself on a beach or a mountain, or anywhere you consider to be calming or joyful.
- Think of something funny. This can help to jolt yourself out of the moment. If you have a smartphone and happen to come across funny videos every once in a while, save those videos so you can watch them in moments of panic or anxiety.
- Count. You can also count to 10 followed by counting backward or say the alphabet very slowly. You can even try to say the alphabet backward.
Physical Grounding Techniques
The physical effects of anxiety can take a toll over time. Luckily these physical grounding techniques can help:
- Run cool or warm water over your hands and face.
- Grab onto a chair or pillow as tightly as you can. Try to imagine transferring whatever you’re feeling to the object in your hands.
- Touch different objects around you. These may include items like a pen, a jacket, a chair, the walls, or a table. Focus on the textures of these objects, whether they’re warm or cold, their weight, and so on.
- Focus on your body. Focus on wiggling your fingers, the weight of your body on a chair, or your breathing.
- If you’ve ever heard of shaking out your nerves, this technique is similar. Stretch by extending your arms and legs, focusing on everything from the tips of your fingers to your toes. Gently roll your head around and straighten your back.
- Focus on your breathing. Breathing is one of the most common grounding techniques for anxiety attacks, and that’s because it works. If you’re experiencing anxiety, you may breathe rapidly or feel as if you’re struggling to breathe. Try focusing on inhaling and exhaling your breath. You can even repeat a pleasant word to yourself every time you exhale.
Soothing Grounding Techniques
Soothing grounding techniques focus on talking to yourself in a loving and kind way. We tend to be our worst critics, so this technique can be helpful if you’re experiencing anxiety:
- Say kind things to yourself. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend or a child. For instance, you can say, “You’re a good person going through something difficult,” or “You’re strong, and you can get through this.”
- Think of your favorite things. This can include your favorite color, favorite food, favorite drink, favorite movie, and so on. This technique is similar to imagining something joyful or relaxing.
- Picture your loved ones or look at pictures. Similar to thinking of your favorite things, you can also think of or look at pictures of your loved ones. A great tip is to print your favorite photos and keep an album of your favorite pictures to look back on.
- Remember an inspiring quote. Whether it’s a quote from a good book or a lyric from your favorite song, a good grounding technique is thinking of an inspiring quote.
- Treat yourself. Once a week, you treat yourself to a nice dinner. Daily, you can take the time out of your day to focus on self-care and do things like taking a bubble bath, journal, read, or meditate.
While there are plenty of grounding techniques for you to test, you can also create your own. Everyone is different and copes with stress and anxiety differently. For instance, if taking a short walk helps you calm down, then do that. Do what works for you. However, keep in mind that while these techniques can help you calm down during a panic attack, they are not long-term solutions. If you believe you have an anxiety disorder, seek out anxiety treatment for a formal diagnosis and therapy.
If you have a mental disorder or believe a loved one is showing signs of mental illness, we can help. Banyan Mental Health offers different kinds of mental health treatment for all sorts of disorders. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, we’re here for you. Call our inpatient mental health rehab today at 888-280-4763 to find out how to get started.
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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.