15 Grounding Exercises to Manage Stress From Anxiety or Trauma

In my experience, grounding exercises can be a good way to stabilize strong emotions due to stress from anxiety or trauma. Grounding works by redirecting your attention away from what is causing stress and back to something more pleasurable and relaxing. There are many ways to practice grounding, but the general idea is to connect back to the present moment by settling into your body through the five senses.

Try one of the following grounding exercises, or a combination, in order to manage stress, improve focus and stay in the present moment.

1. Sip a hot or cold beverage and focus on the feeling of the temperature on your lips, throat, and stomach.

2. Breath in slowly, counting to four, then hold for four and release slowly, counting to eight. Repeat as many times as necessary.

3. Tense and release each muscle group in your body, one by one. Pay attention to the sensations that linger in your body afterwards.

4. Look around the space where you are right now and find every object that is blue, every object that is yellow, every object that is silver, green, red and so on.

5. Close your eyes and imagine a very, very faraway place. Imagine every detail of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and physical sensations of traveling there in your mind.

6. Turn your favorite music on loud and dance to the beat. Or turn your favorite music on softly and pay close attention to the sounds of each beat, instrument or vocalist.

7. Open your kitchen cabinet and smell each spice one by one. Pay attention to any thoughts or memories that are conjured with each scent.

8. Hug yourself tightly and rock yourself side to side gently and slowly, as if you were cradling a small child.

9. Use your index finger as you would a pen and softly trace the letters of a calming word, such as “peaceful,” “safe” or “relax” into the palm of your opposite hand.

10. Close your eyes and slowly scan neutral sensations throughout your body. Feel your feet grounded on the floor, feel the support of your seat below and behind you, feel the texture of your clothing on your skin, the temperature of the air around your face, the weight of your tongue in your mouth, the very tip of your head and the crevices between your toes.

11. Think of a category such as fruit, capital cities, words that start with “M” or animals, and think of examples from that category until you can’t come up with any more.

12. Watch videos of kittens, puppies or other baby animals on the Internet and pay attention to the sensations that arise in your body. Feel the expressions on your face when you do.

13. Pick up any object from nature — a leaf, twig, rock or flower — and examine every detail of it. Notice it’s smell, texture, color and contours until you have it memorized in all of your senses.

14. Make a list of three things that have gone well today. Even tiny examples count.

15. Start again until you find peace. When you feel grounded, know that you can come back to these exercises at any time.

To find more information from Anna Lindberg Cedar, visit Anna Lindberg Cedar Counseling and Consulting.

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