The previous article told a bit of a story about how anxiety can lay a heavy weight onto a relationship. But sometimes you simply can’t avoid anxiety, you will find no judgment here. But we’ve counseled many who fall underneath the anxiety when it comes. When that happens he or she often takes the frustration and fear they feel against the ones they love. Frustration, fear, or weariness presents as anger that is sometimes violently directed towards their most cherished loves. And sometimes an anxious person makes serious decisions that affects everyone, such as put hundreds of dollars on credit cards at the mall, binge eat, or drown in drunkenness.
But there is hope. As we said in the previous article, take heart! You can lessen your anxiety, even if in the moment. When you learn control, you will also gain resilience, patience, and strength. When you practice healthier, and better ways to alleviate anxiety, you’ll spend less, drink less, and eat better. When you fight anxiety you give yourself a chance to be a problem fighter, a problem solver, and a solution finder. So get up, chin up, and let’s find ways you can practice something healthy and fight anxiety!
Is it easy? Practice is rarely, easy. But you don’t have to do it all at once. A coach never has his/her team work on every skill during each practice, and you won’t have to either. Choose a practice point, and go. We’ll teach you some of the finer points of grounding right now. Furthermore, you don’t need to do it alone, however. In fact, you and your spouse or partner can practice virtually all of the following grounding strategies together. That’s why they’re our favorites!
Today we’ll teach you how to practice grounding. Grounding helps you regain a sense of your space, and then a sense of control of your space. When you can assert control over your space, you can go about the necessary tasks of the day in that space. Grounding can lead to productivity, hope, and true stillness.
What will follow are different grounding tools or techniques that can eventually lead to long-term freedom from anxiety!
A point of note – grounding works, and helps especially in the moment. Grounding strategies can be a vital piece of moving beyond anxiety. But true freedom from anxiety can often be overwhelming work, and that’s ok. Therefore do not hesitate to ask for help as you go. Asking for help is a sign of courage, believe that. Grounding helps, but working through your anxiety with your spouse can make you stronger than ever. You can choose relationship counseling at Real Connections Counseling, or with another counselor who can help you find your best relationship, but also to find your personal strength.
Think about that for a moment. Strength. What can you imagine true strength looks like in you? Really think. What might life be like if you had freedom from anxiety? What would you do more of? What would you be able to do that you can’t do now? This is your turn to dream, just a little. Allow yourself a single moment of freedom to consider … freedom. Would you go somewhere? Would you call someone? Would you write a book? Climb a mountain? Freedom.
Reach into a pleasurable place in your mind. … there is one spot there that will allow you good things, go to that place. Is it a seat in the forest of your mind? Is it seaside? Do you hear ocean waves in that spot of your mind? Or are there birds? Soft winds of the prairie? Whatever it is, there is one place that will allow your dreams, like walking on water. What you would do, say, or where would you go if you could be free? The effort you make with grounding can produce the fruit of what you just imagined. The tools are good in themselves, but gain insight into who you are in the process. And again, come in and get help working through that if you need to, but you got this. You got this.
Now, the following grounding tools are quite simple, and are our favorites of the bunch!
Our favorite one requires a brief explanation – It’s simply called:
The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique.
Each of the numbers corresponds to one of your senses. The grounding technique gives your brain five different tasks to do, and in the effort takes you out of your anxious moment, and into a space that you have observed, and have control of. The grounding technique goes like this:
Step 1: Stop where you are. This will be a valuable first moment of success!
Step 2: Begin the process:
5 things you can see (e.g. the door of your room)
4 things you can touch (e.g. your shoes)
3 things you can hear (e.g. the wind, rustling of papers)
2 things you can smell (e.g. your pillow, or the rain outside)
1 thing you can taste (e.g. the back of your hand, piece of candy)
Then have a seat, take a deep breath, and just take note of your space one more time. Deep, long breath one more time, exhale and assess how you feel. You can do the technique more than once if you would like, or need to do so. But once you have moved through the anxious moments, feel free to go about your day : ).
Try it once. Look around you, and move from 5 to 1 then take a deep, slow, breath in, and slowly exhale. Feel the rush of the ocean on the rocks off shore; Feel the ripple of the lake against the bank. Or feel the deep wind over prairie grass.
Ok, now that you’ve had some experience, let’s move on 19 more of our strategies and practice points. These grounding ideas and strategies can make or break your day. These strategies are all intended to give you a sense of control of your space, because you know what? Where you stand or sit right now is a space you control. Take some time to look them over, and practice a few!
Treat anxiety with grounding skills
If you want to stop feeling “spacey,” or you feel yourself slipping into the spiral of anxiety, try some of these helpful anxiety management techniques:
- Bring up today’s newspaper on the web, notice the date. Read something fun!
- Breathe slowly and steadily from your core. Imagine letting fear and worry go, evaporating along with each breath.
- Trace your hands against the physical outline of your body. Experience your own presence in the world.
- If you are feeling ‘stuck’, change how you’re positioned. Wiggle your fingers, tap your feet. Pay attention to the movement: You are in control of what your body is doing, right here and now.
- Eat or drink something. Is it hot, or cold? Sweet, or sour? Write down your experience with the food.
- Meditate, if that’s OK for you. Otherwise use distractions like television or music to help settle down.
- Use your voice. Say your name or pick up a book and read the first paragraph you find out loud.
- Look at yourself in the mirror. Smile, even if that’s the last thing you feel like! How does that feel? What can you see? (If negative thoughts come to mind, write them down to look at later but let them go for now. You’re anxious enough as it is.)
- Write out what’s going on. Keep writing until you start to notice it makes a difference, lets some of the things you’re anxious about out.
- Take a shower/bath. Notice the sensations of the water.
- Write somebody you care about an email.
- Imagine yourself in a familiar, comfortable place. Feel the safety. Know it.
- Take a look outside. Count the number of trees and street signs.
- Exercise. Jump up and down on the spot. Try some gentle yoga, or ride a bike.
- Hold onto something comforting. Maybe a blanket or an old stuffed toy.
- Laugh. Even if that’s hard. Just the act of laughing about something, anything can break that spinning out of control feeling.
- When you’re not too stressed, make a list of the things that provoke your anxiety. Take it to your therapist and ask them to help you find ways to desensitize you to some of those things. Then those triggers won’t be quite so powerful, and your anxiety coping skills will work better.
- If you get PTSD flashbacks, when you’re feeling OK, make a list of the furniture in your home and what room it’s in. Give the list to a friend you can call to help you focus on what’s now and safe.
- List 5 really positive things in your life. Put the list where you’ll see it and remember that there’s more to the world than just panic and fear.
Once you’ve found which techniques help, make a list to put on your wall, or carry in your pocket. Have them ready to go!
In the end, here’s a small task you can think of right now, as you are reading this. Go ahead, do this.
Think about the last week. Was there a day you didn’t have so much anxiety? Remember how it felt to be less anxious than you are right now. What was different? What was happening that made it different? What were you doing that might’ve caused the difference? Write your answers right now.
Based on your answers and thoughts, what do you think can change right now? Anything?
If the answer is no, that’s ok. You can continue to work through learning how to ground. Truly practice. Don’t simply say, “I tried” and walk away. You can also seek counseling. Our most significant hope is to build the relational health of our community, your family, and your love life. All of them can be vital pieces of a good life!
Go to it. You got this.
~ Rick & Monique Elgersma