Here is an excerpt from my book on Coping Skills. Grounding is one of the easiest coping skills to use. In as little as 30 seconds you can completely change the way you are thinking. Grounding is like Control-Alt-Delete for your mind. Give it a try!
Use In Response To: Anger, Anxiety, or Urges.
Basic Idea: Pay more attention to the information coming from your five senses so as to distract yourself from unwanted thoughts and negative emotions.
Description: A person who is upset will often be focused on their thoughts and emotions. It is as if our focus can either be tuned out toward the external world or inward to the internal world. When we experience anxiety, anger, or negative self-talk, our focus is locked onto the inner world, and to the extent that we are focused on those things, we are less focused on the real world around us.
Grounding is a way to bring your attention back to reality, so called because it “grounds” you to where you really are. If we can bring our focus to the world around us, we will be less affected by the negative thoughts and emotions occurring in our minds. One way to accomplish Grounding is with a game called the “5-4-3-2-1 Game.” Here is how it works:
- Notice five things that you can see from where you are at the moment. You can pick any five things, or you can use criteria such as looking for the five most interesting things, the five most colorful things, or the five things that you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t paying very close attention to the world. Notice that while you are scanning for these things, you are far less likely to be distracted by other thoughts.
- Notice four things that you hear. This might not come easily, but that is the point. If you can’t hear four things immediately you might need to be patient or strain a bit to notice them.
- Notice three things that you feel with your skin. The obvious choices are to touch the chair you’re sitting in, the surface of a table, or the fabric of your clothing. Feel free to be creative. For example, what does the inside of your sock feel like to your foot? How does the back of your shirt feel against your neck? Notice that these sensations were there all along, but you weren’t paying attention to them.
- Smell two nearby objects (you might need to bring the objects to your nose).
- Taste a little bit of food or drink; for example, take a sip of water or bite into an apple. Alternatively, if there is nothing immediately available to taste, take one deep breath. Breathe out and notice the relief you feel.
To learn more easy to use Coping Skills, check out the Invisible Toolbox.