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How to Ground Yourself When You’re Overwhelmed

By Lifestance Health on June 17, 2021

By Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

When we feel overwhelmed, we may inadvertently disconnect ourselves from our body which can lead us to be absent in some aspects of our own lives. Experiencing trauma can be the trigger to disconnecting from our bodies and it can be a defense mechanism we use to protect us from perceived harmful situations or feelings. Being present in the moment enables us to lead a deeper and fuller life as well as to be more present in our relationships with others.

So how can we become more in touch with the present moment? We can learn ways to ground ourselves. “Grounding” is a term to describe any technique that is used to bring a person back in contact with the present moment.

Here are some grounding techniques you may find helpful:

Use Your Five Senses

When you are feeling overwhelmed, you can neutralize your emotions by grounding yourself using your five senses. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. You simply identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. When we check in with our senses, it automatically connects us back to the present and can also help center us.

Deliberate Breathing

Our breath can be used as the foundation to help us embrace the present moment. Bringing your attention to your breath is an easy method to ground yourself. There are several breathing techniques you can use and it’s important you find one that works for you. You may want to take slow, deep inhales with long exhales, or you can practice rhythmic breathing which is breathing two short inhales in and one out in a rhythmic fashion. Another popular breathing method is what’s called ocean breathing which is imagining that you are breathing in ocean waves and exhaling them out just like the tide.

Let Nature Ground You

Going outside and getting some fresh air can be one of the best ways to help ground yourself especially if it is a chilly day outside. The change in temperature is a great way to snap yourself back into the present moment or simply just hold an ice cube or take a cold shower. Another way to allow nature to ground you is to plant your bare feet firmly on the ground. This is quite literally you grounding yourself to the earth or pick up a rock and feel the weight of it in your hand.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one’s attention into the present moment without judgment. We often float through our busy days mindlessly doing our daily tasks, but you can do these everyday undertakings in a very mindful way. For example, when you take a shower, focus your attention on the warm water on your skin. Inhale the scent of the soap you use and listen to the patter of the water. This will lead you to the present moment as you take the time to enjoy the sensations of your shower. You can use mindfulness in other aspects of your life such as mindfully eating, walking, or listening to music. Use all of your sensations to engage with the activity and will ground yourself to the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can keep us more consistently grounded.

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