This week we wanted to share some grounding techniques that we have learned through our wellness journeys. Grounding is essentially reconnecting you to your 5 senses in the heat of the moment, whether that be anxious thoughts, stress, etc. Personally, it helps us return to a place of reason when we are in the heat of anxiety. These tools work as calming exercises, are natural and free and can be used as relaxation techniques anywhere and anytime. Disclaimer, not much research has been done on grounding techniques and the benefits themselves. However, these tools have helped us in the past and so we wanted to share to provide food for thought and potential new tools you can use in your wellness plans. Fair warning, in our experience, just the motion of the grounding technique doesn’t help much. What helps is the thought process and focusing on the exercise and thinking about what the body feels through the 5 senses, yes this does take practice! To help ease you through it, we will share our thought process as we go through each exercise. Remember, Tomodotchi is about our personal experiences and things that have worked for us. We aren’t medical experts, just normal people who deal with anxiety. Without further ado, here are our top 5 grounding techniques.
1. Squeezing your hand into a fist
This one is one of our favorites to do because it’s quick, easy and subtle. You can do this under a desk or in your pocket. You start by squeezing your hand into a fist as hard as you can. Focus and describe in your mind what your hands feel. Do your fingers get numb? Can you feel the blood swell? Does your forearm start to burn from the lactic acid? If you’re visual, you can imagine what’s happening in your body to make this work.
Once you can no longer keep the fist, or after sometime, let the fist go. Again, think about the feeling of relief and think about how your hand feels. Do your fingers feel numb? Is your hand red? Do you feel your hand pulsing?
Now, if you’re lucky, you’ve forgotten what was bothering you in the first place because of how concentrated you were! However, if you’re like us, then your mind likely goes right back to the trigger. So, the goal of these techniques, for us personally, is to use them to get out of the immediate dark train of thought. Then in the post exercise clarity, use the time to refocus on something that will help calm us more. We like to call a friend or family member, step outside and take a walk, call or email our therapist / psychiatrist things that keep us busy for an extended period of time. In this way, we use grounding techniques as a part of our overall wellness plan to help manage our anxiety.
2. 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 Grounding Method
It’s very likely that you have heard of this method, as it’s one of the most popular ones out there. Again, this one can be done subtly and the goal is to really allow your mind to focus on each one of these tasks.
5 – List 5 things you can see around you. We like to be specific as it helps us focus on the task more, but just listing anything is great. For example, right now we see an empty green bottle, a black tiny fan, etc.
4 – What are 4 things you can feel? We currently feel the cold textured desk, a rough mouse pad, etc. For us, it helps to actual touch and focus and say what we feel with our fingers, really get out your adjectives here!
3 – What 3 things can you hear around you? We can hear the sound of paper shuffling, the dogs’ nails clacking on the floor, etc. Again, it helps us to think about what is making the noise and picturing the image in our mind.
2 – What are 2 things you smell? For us, we smell coffee that has a bit of a cocoa note, we also smell the laundry detergent on our jacket, it has a floral scent? (not sure how else to describe it!) If you can’t smell things off the bat, lift your shirt to your nose or smell your hand, anything you have close by.
1 – What is 1 thing you can taste? Can you taste the remnants of your toothpaste? Do you have tea or coffee? Describe the taste to yourself.
Again, use these shifts in your mindset to refocus away from the anxious thoughts and use it to get yourself down a new better path of thinking.
3. Take a cold shower
While there isn’t much science to prove the efficacy of this technique, for us anecdotally, we have found that it helps! Also, if you can’t take a cold shower, you can always wash your face or neck with cold water. Another thing that could work is a cold water bottle and pressing it to your face.
The cold works for us for a couple of reasons. The first is that when we get into a really bad bout of anxiety and intrusive thoughts, we notice that our body and face get especially hot. It physically feels like the blood is rushing to these areas and we can feel our face starts to swell.
Cold water helps us to reduce, or at least makes us feel, like the swelling is going down. Further, the cold water can snap us out of our darker thoughts as all we can focus on is being cold. As with all grounding techniques, the ability to shock our senses and make the new variable the only thing we can focus on, helps us shift our thoughts and allows us a fighting chance at shifting our thoughts.
4. Play a thinking game - our choice is Shiritori!
For those of you who don’t know, we here at Tomodotchi are heavily influenced by our Japanese roots. So, one of our calming techniques is a Japanese game called Shiritori. Essentially, you say any word you want to start off. Then you need to say another word that begins with the last letter of the most recently used word. So, for example, if you say bird, the next word could be drip, then peanut and so on. While this game is intended to play with more than one person, you can play this in your mind solo. For us, this shifts our focus onto the game and it distracts us from the negative thoughts long enough to either calm down or use that break to redirect our energy.
The game is not as important here so much as the ability for the game to make you think and focus on something else. The more the game is able to take your thinking power, the less power your brain has to focus on the anxiety or intrusive thoughts. If you prefer apps, some of our favorites for this are solitaire and sudoku (hard mode!).
5. Listen to music
If you are more of an auditory person, the last technique is to listen to music. It can be your favorite song, or you can just hit shuffle on your phone! (Is shuffle still a thing?) Personally, we like pieces that are very intricate, like classical or jazz. The focus here is not to just simply listen to the music and sing along. We try to really listen to the different elements of the song. We ask questions and find answers; what are the drums doing, what background instruments can you hear, are there backup vocals, etc.? Really focus in on the song and try to hear something new. Let yourself get lost in the music and in the moment try to visualize the notes going by in your mind. Let go of the thoughts that are bothering you and set your mind to what you can hear. One word of warning, it can be tempting to listen to music for the mood you are in. However, personally, when we are sad or angry, listening to sad or angry music has a way of bringing us further down the rabbit hole. Adjust based on what you know of yourself to give yourself the best chance of success
Bringing it home
We hope some of these more natural techniques were new or helpful to you. At the very least, we hope hearing our thought process behind the techniques gives you some new food for thought. As mentioned, grounding techniques are only one piece in our overall mental wellness plan. Let us know if you have tried any of these or if you have any other grounding techniques you like to use! We can only get better by sharing our experiences together.
If you are looking for some other similar content, check out our articles on the 5 lessons that helped improve our wellbeing or our 5 habits and strategies that improved our mental health. We also have 3 mindset changes that helped increase our inner strength. At Tomodotchi, we share our own stories and journey through our battle with anxiety in hopes that they can give you new ideas and tips. If you want to join our family of Tomodotchi’s, check out our Facebook group. We support one another as peers, we have virtual meet ups and we’re even starting a book club! We’d love to have you! Finally, if you’re particularly anxious right now, you can see our open letter to remind you how amazing you truly are.
There are many grounding techniques out there. The purpose in our opinion is to get you out of your immediate anxious thoughts using one or all of your 5 senses. Use the post exercise clarity to shift your thoughts or to forget the anxious thoughts all together. With practice these we use these to help calm our minds and bring us back to the rational.
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As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 2 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!