What are Grounding Exercises?

Grounding exercises are a simple and soothing approach that helps you keep your mind and body connected in times of stress or anxiety. When overwhelmed, it can be easy for you to feel scatterbrained and have trouble focusing. So to help deal with stress, it can be good to utilize a set of tools at any place and any time to help calm your thoughts and bring you back to a place of peace.

The grounding exercises help one grow stronger in Sensory Awareness and Cognitive Awareness. Here are some relaxation and mindfulness techniques to cope with anxiety and stress.

Hand Tracing

grounding exercises, tracing your hand and listing senses

  • Trace your hand on a piece of paper
  • Label each finger as one of the five senses (Sight, Smell, Hearing, Touch, Taste)
    • For each finger, identify something safe that represents the particular sense on the label
  • EX: If your index finger represents smell, it could be represented by lavender
  • Once you have completed the drawing and writing in the above steps, place the paper someplace where you can look at it and get it locked in your memory
  • Whenever you feel stressed and have anxiety kicking in, slow your breathing and take deep breaths. Then hold your hand in front of your face where you can see it clearly. And from there, start to look at each individual finger and do the sensory exercise based on memory for each one. Such as the index finger and the smell of lavender

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are a powerful coping tool to soothe anxiety, reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality, control food cravings, and manage emotional reactions. The “4-7-8” breathing technique is a mindful breathing practice to calm your racing mind. Here are the steps:

  • Get into a comfortable position
  • Inhale through your nose over a count of 4
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7
  • Exhale through your mouth over a count of 8
  • Repeat these steps 4 times

* Not recommended for pregnant women

4-7-8 breathing technique vs Box breathing exercise

5-4-3-2-1 Coping Techniquegrounding exercises, woman smelling a flower

5: Acknowledge FIVE different things that you SEE around you. This can be something as small as an interesting shaped rock or as broad as beautiful sunset and state them.

4: Acknowledge FOUR different things within reach that you are able to TOUCH. This could be a pet cat, a hot cup of coffee, or your hair…list these four things out.

3: You can acknowledge THREE things you can HEAR in your external surroundings. Whether it be a fan, a clock, or birds chirping…and list these three things out.

2: Once you have done the above exercises, list TWO things close by that you can SMELL. This could be some nice lotion on your hand, perfume on your wrist, a flower, a hot cup of coffee or tea, and list these two things.

1: Lastly, you can acknowledge ONE thing that you can TASTE, such as some fresh coffee, perhaps some fresh berries, or mixed nuts. Let yourself focus on tasting it and savoring the flavor.

Attention to Details

  • Look around the room and really focus on big and small details that you may not normally appreciate
  • Lean back into your chair and feel the comfort of the backrest as it supports your weight
  • Place your feet flat on the floor nice and firmly
  • Grab ahold of an object such as a soft pillow, a pen, a stuffed animal, blanket.
  • Enjoy the cool sensation of an iced drink in your hand, a cool wet towel on your face or back of your neck, or perhaps stepping out for a bit on a cool day.
  • Listen to calm/soothing music as opposed to something up-tempo.
  • Listen to the sounds of your environment, whether it be a couple of people having an enjoyable conversation, people walking through the mall, or perhaps a nearby fountain.

Cognitive Awareness Drills

Focus on Facts to Orient Yourselfgrounding exercises, clock, time

  • Where am I right now?
  • What day of the week is it?
  • What is the date today?
  • What month is it?
  • What year?
  • How old am I currently?
  • What is the weather like out?
  • What season is it?

Why Do These Exercises?

These activities may seem very simple and even silly in a certain light. But they can, in fact, help you to return to a sense of control and peace when used correctly. This skill and tool are very healthy to have as they can alter the entire state of mind that you are in at moments that could otherwise be intense and stressful. Stress has negative effects on your overall health, while the positive results of these exercises, in fact, support good health.

Let’s say you are about to undergo gastric sleeve surgery in Tijuana, Mexico, and you start feeling nervous. You are in your hotel room and can’t get to sleep as anxious thoughts race through your head. Perhaps a good move could be to have a favorite stuffed animal you scented with your favorite perfume.

Or perhaps your significant other is there and so you can hold them and take in the smell of their detergent or shampoo. Perhaps have some calm meditation music and a good book with pages you can feel and smell as you read through it to help get your mind onto new things.

This is a trick that works in so many instances, such as:

grounding exercises, woman at the dentist

  • Looking up at a clock and paying deep attention to the sound of its second hand as it jumps from one line to the next while getting a shot. Suddenly that shot seems like nothing as you take your mind off the anxiety of that needle going into your arm.
  • Focusing on how it feels as you rub your toes together or pinch yourself while getting a filling done at the dentist. When you suddenly pay attention to sensations across your whole body, the pain of the procedure suddenly seems a lot less intense, and your anxiety dies down.

With how stressful traveling to another country to undergo surgery can be, we wanted to share these helpful exercises with you. And we hope that it proves to aid in your having an enjoyable experience as you take a step into a new lifestyle.

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