How to Calm Anxiety, Panic, and Dissociation with Grounding Techniques

Anxiety and panic can be scary when unexpected, the same goes for dissociative symptoms like daydreaming, feeling floaty, or “checking out.” Often we are told to take deep breaths and just come back to the present moment when experiencing something like this, but there are other techniques besides breathing that can create a sense of calm and connect you back to your root. Here’s a few grounding exercises:
  1. Scrunching your toes. This technique can be done anytime, anyplace, with shoes on or shoes off. Sometimes during panic or dissociation it’s hard to come back to the body quickly or even figure out where to reconnect ourselves. By scrunching your toes, you are activating some muscles which can bring awareness back to your body in the present moment.
  2. Essential oils. A great idea for grounding is using essential oils by smelling them or diffusing them in your space. Doing this “shocks” your senses to help you come back when you dissociate. Oils can also be calming for anxiety and panic attacks as well; dabbing some on your wrist or chest can keep you grounded throughout the day. Oils that may help with anxiety include lavender, cedarwood, clary sage, and frankincense. Oils for grounding from dissociation are peppermint, citrus oils, rosemary, and cinnamon.
  3. Walking barefoot. Sometimes the thing our spirit is craving when we dissociate is to feel the earth close. Walking barefoot can help connect you back to the earth from skin to ground contact. As you walk and focus on the feeling of the grass, sand, or dirt, take deep breaths through your belly; this helps with getting a boost of oxygen to your brain that could even increase your energy for a short period of time.
  4. Meditation. Meditation is a great grounding tool. Try the following technique when you feel panicked or anxious:
    1. Get into a comfortable position (preferably standing or sitting), and make sure your surroundings are quiet, calm, and cleared of negative energies.
    2. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself, placing one hand on your heart and the other hand on your stomach. As you breathe, pay attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen; this is the rhythm of your breath.
    3. Start to visualize a rod of light that enters from the top of your head and flows into your body through your spine, down your tailbone and into your feet until you feel the light rod connecting your body to the ground below you. This visualization can be stronger if you imagine the light a color that helps you feel calm such as purple, blue, or pale yellow.
    4. Stick with the visualization and breathing until you notice yourself feeling more relaxed.
    5. Meditate any time you feel anxious. Be sure to also meditate when you’re not anxious in order to practice tolerating distress!
  5. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. If you’ve engaged in therapy before, you’ve likely been referred to this grounding technique for anxiety and dissociation:
    1. Look around you and name five things you can see.
    2. Find near you four things you can touch.
    3. Listen for three things you can hear. (Breathe deep while listening).
    4. Acknowledge two things you can smell around you.
    5. Notice one thing you can taste (Inside of your mouth, such as gum, coffee or tea).
    6. Tip: Use deep breathing throughout to enhance the effects of this exercise!
It’s easy to feel disconnected and anxious with everything happening in the world around us. Sometimes just the intimacies and nuances of our personal lives can become stressful to the point of inducing anxiety. Grounding can be whatever you want it to be, as long as it connects you back to your body slowly and gently. Using these techniques alone may not cure your anxiety or dissociation, but they may play a big part in helping you reconnect with yourself and rebalancing your body and mind. Happy Healing! -By Rachael Mielitz, LLPC