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Grounding Skills

As we continue living week by week with the evolving changes, if you find yourself experiencing periods of heightened fear and anxiety, you are not alone. These feelings can be particularly difficult to manage when the future remains uncertain.

Grounding techniques are a helpful set of strategies that can assist in coping with the more distressing signs of panic, stress, and trauma. Grounding skills are designed to help you detach from emotional pain by shifting attention to the present moment. This differs from relaxation techniques in that you try to actively guide your awareness to the present world around you rather than calming your body and mind.

Most grounding skills can be done anywhere or anytime without anyone noticing. Since the goal of grounding is to connect with the now, it is important that when doing these exercises to keep your eyes open, and aware of your surroundings – for example, look around the room and keep the lights on. It is important to be mindful to not talk or write about negative feelings during these exercises because the goal is to distract from emotional pain and not reflect on it. A tip for this is to try and stay as neutral as possible by avoiding judgments of “good” or “bad”, so as not to arouse strong feelings.

There are three main types of grounding we will discuss: Physical, Mental and Soothing. Below are a few examples of each.


  • 5-4-3-2-1: Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense up and then relax each major muscle group in your body, starting with your feet and moving up from there.
  • Massage: Rub or massage a soothing object like a smooth stone or a soft piece of fabric.
  • Hold Something Cold: Focus on the sensation in your hand from holding something cold like ice or an ice pack.


  • Categories: Play categories with yourself by listing as many things you can think of in a certain category that is relevant to you. Examples include TV shows, sports teams, cities, songs, animals or car models.
  • Describe Your Environment in Detail: Describe as much as you can about objects, sounds textures, shapes, smells or the temperature around you.
  • Imagery: Use an image to help move away from strong emotions. For example, imagine packing your feelings up in a box, taping it up and putting it on a shelf or visualizing a forest between you and your negative feelings.
  • Humor: Laughing can shift perspective and reduce stress, so listen to a funny podcast, watch your favorite comedy or call a friend who always makes you laugh.


  • Look at pictures of loved ones.
  • Spend some time cuddling with your pet.
  • Listen to music.

If more help is needed to control one’s anxiety, please visit ECHN’s behavioral health page. The behavioral health department has individual therapy sessions or group therapy sessions, and can now see patients virtually.