Grounding: Calming the “Mind Tornado”
Have you ever felt like your thoughts were swirling so fast it felt like you were becoming caught up in a mind tornado? Have you ever gotten so into your thoughts that you lost track of what was happening around you, and zoned out? If you answered yes, you are certainly not alone! When we experience strong thoughts, feelings, or emotions it can lead to feeling stuck and disconnected from the world around us. This does not mean we are crazy – it’s our body’s natural response to feeling overwhelmed. Grounding involves engaging with our five senses to help return our attention back to the present moment when we feel we are getting caught up in thoughts. The grounding techniques below can help bring you back from feeling stuck and help you return your attention to your environment.
Notice five things you can see in your immediate surroundings, four things you can touch (e.g. your shirt on your skin, your back touching the chair), three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This technique forces you to return your attention to your surroundings, and is one of the most common and effective grounding strategies to use.
Noticing your Points of Contact
Pause and notice all of your points of contact. Notice your feet on the floor, and how your toes, arches of your feet, and heels feel on the ground. Notice your thighs on your chair, and how the chair feels as your legs rest on it. Press your back against the chair if it is not there already, and notice how this feels. Notice where your hands are making contact, whether they are resting on your legs, the arms of a chair, or on a table or desk.
Listening to a Song
Choose a soothing song, and listen with your full attention. Notice the different layers of the music, including beats, instruments, and singing voices. Notice the speed of the song, and whether it is fast or slow. Notice if the song has loud or quiet parts. Notice how the song makes you feel.
Although these techniques do not “fix” the difficult thoughts, feelings, or emotions you may be experiencing, they are helpful in directing your attention to your senses and your environment. It may also be helpful to create a visual reminder for you to practice grounding, such as a sticky note on your desk. These strategies are best practiced daily, even if you do not feel like you are currently in a panic state. The more you practice, the more effective these strategies will be when you do need them.