You may have heard different things about the concept of grounding. Lately, it has become more common to talk about in the mental health space. Some people really believe in it, others say it doesn’t work for them. But what is grounding? And how can it help you?
(Not that kind of grounding!)
Grounding refers to various techniques to pull you into the present moment. This can help people with anxiety or trauma overcome challenging emotions. It can also help people with depression engage more with their day-to-day experiences. And for Autistic people and those with ADHD, grounding can help to reign in their focus and reduce overwhelm. Clearly, grounding can help neurodivergent people in many ways!
What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are different kinds of grounding that serve different purposes. If you’ve tried grounding and it hasn’t worked for you, try looking at what purpose you're trying to achieve. Then, specifically look into what method of grounding might work best for that purpose. For example, one method suggests drawing your focus inwards toward your body. But this will only make things worse if you’re combating a panic attack! Here are a few examples of different grounding methods and when they’re useful:
Internalizing grounding methods
Includes body scans, breathing exercises, meditation, and mantras.
Internalizing techniques can help you if you’re overwhelmed. The objective here is to pull your attention away from your environment or swirling thoughts. Then, you ground yourself by engaging in a repetitive, quiet activity that can calm your central nervous system.
4-7-8 breathing technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil and goes like this: while sitting or lying down, breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, then exhale through your mouth while making a ‘whooshing’ sound for 8 seconds. Try this only a few times to start, working up to a full minute as you get more practiced at it.
An example of a mantra is repeating to yourself, “I am having a challenging moment right now. Difficult times are a part of life. I will show myself kindness in this moment and give myself the care I need."
Externalizing grounding methods
Includes singing, counting objects or colors in a room, observing an interesting item, and engaging your senses.
Externalizing grounding methods take you away from focusing on your body and put your attention onto your environment or other stimuli. Techniques like these can also help you calm down if your internal environment is too chaotic, such as when you’re having a panic attack, racing thoughts, or worrying excessively.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique
One popular method is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, where you ground yourself in your environment by listing 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. You can do this while introducing anything you need to, like touching a stim toy, or chewing a piece of candy.
Another method is to cut a lemon into thirds and then take a bite of it, doing your best to focus on how the lemon tastes, smells, and feels.
What grounding technique will be best depends on the individual and the specific challenge they’re facing. If you or a loved one struggles with managing overwhelm, anxiety, depression, or more, don’t hesitate to reach out to Autism Personal Coach today. Our Coaches can help you find grounding methods that work best for you, and adapt them to any individual emotional or sensory needs. Sometimes emotions can feel impossible to get through, but there are ways to empower yourself to feel better, and our coaches want to help!