Grounding 101

June 28, 2021

Have you ever gotten so hooked by a thought you couldn’t hear the person talking to you? Or so focused on your panic you missed the point of a meeting? Thoughts and physical sensations can sometimes feel so overpowering that we lose touch of our surroundings and the task at hand. What to do about it? In this article, we talk about Grounding, a simple set of techniques to bring you back to the here and now when your mind and body are pulling you away.


What is Grounding?

Grounding is a temporary way to gain control and detach from emotional pain. Emotion pain looks different for everyone. For some, that’s racing or self-critical thoughts. For others, it may be chronic physical pain, anxiety, or irritability. Grounding will not solve the underlying problem causing the pain, but it buys you time to get through the situation without making it worse.


When to use Grounding?

Grounding can be done anytime and anywhere. Giving a speech in front of 500 people? Talking to another mom at your son’s soccer game? Asking your boss about vacation time? No problem. With most techniques, no one will even know you are grounding. Grounding techniques can be entirely covert, making them transportable and accessible in most situations. A secret superpower!


Types of Grounding

Physical Grounding

These techniques use the 5 senses or physical body. Examples include:

  • Using temperature (ice packs, splashing cold water on the face)
  • Movement (running on the spot, stretching)
  • Naming five things in the room you can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
  • Box breathing


Mental Grounding

These are techniques that are so mentally compelling or challenging they distract your mind. Examples include:

  • Saying the alphabet backwards
  • Playing a categories game by yourself or with others (name all countries that start with “B”)
  • Counting (e.g., to 400 by 4’s)
  • Describe an everyday event in great detail


Soothing Grounding

Think of how you might soothe a child, pet, or friend. Examples include:

  • Imaging a favorite place, real or imaginary (e.g., a vacation spot, family home)
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Use coping statements
  • Think of lyrics to songs or poems that soothe you

Tips: PRACTICE! There is no right or wrong way to ground. What works for you may not work for others. What works one day, may not be as effective the other. Be open! The key is to practice these techniques when you don’t need to ground. That way, they are more easily accessible to you when you need them.


By Naomi Ennis