8 Grounding Techniques For When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed
Remembering to ground yourself in low moments is like a muscle you must exercise until it becomes second nature.
Maybe you’re lying awake at night, wondering why that pain point from your past keeps popping up like a movie reel. You hear a song from that embarrassing moment at your high school dance and it’s like you never left that stage. Feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, regret and countless others could plague us to spiral or disassociate.
Thankfully, you can control how you feel by grounding yourself back in the present moment. Never worry about these unwelcome mental visitors again when you learn to champion them.
What Does It Mean To Ground Yourself?
Grounding is a technique that quiets the negativity and toxicity in your mind that distracts you from living your life. You can learn how to react to overwhelming feelings rationally by acknowledging what’s in front of you. This strategy allows you to process difficult-to-untangle emotions for long-term healing.
Remembering to ground yourself in low moments is like a muscle you must exercise until it becomes second nature. You can:
- Stop your emotions from controlling you.
- Permit yourself to feel emotions without being consumed.
- Regain agency to make choices more freely.
- Prevent spirals that lead to depressive thoughts, self-loathing or anxiety.
- Enjoy life’s positive experiences more fully.
Grounding techniques manifest in a variety of ways. There are physical, soothing and mental methods that can quiet even the most frantic minds — with time. You can explore them to figure out which works best for your personality and emotional well-being.
1. Mental: Express Gratitude For The Negativity
Negative feelings can serve you by acting as safety warnings or opportunities for self-discovery. Waves of anxiety let you know you’re in a situation that has previously caused you stress. A pang of jealousy notifies you of your feelings for others. Most of these feelings start from past experiences or future fears, so force them to meet you in the present.
It will feel counterintuitive, but take a step back to thank your mind for providing these negative emotions because they ultimately reveal growth. Some like to express their thanks out loud. For example, you could say, “Thank you, depression, for being here to let me know my job and relationship are putting me in a rut. You have served your purpose and can leave now because you’ve shown me I need to do something about it before this worsens.” Then, imagine that feeling walking out a door or waving goodbye to you with an honest smile.
2. Physical: Perform A Body Scan
Body scanning is all about noticing the parts of your body you tend to ignore. It’s usually a meditative practice, but body scanning can be a more interactive experience involving touch and sight. Acknowledging every body part with intention and awareness grounds the mind back into reality. Combine this activity with conscious breathwork or cycling mantras for extra grounding power.
You can use a guided body scan audio or perform one on your own. Pick a starting point, like the top of your head or the palm of your hand, and circle the body, recognizing how each part feels. Notice temperature, how it feels when you wiggle that body part and if there’s pain or pulsation. Go around the entire body without judgment, and thank your body for helping you stay present.
3. Soothing: Surround Yourself With Calm
Think of the most comforting feelings in your life and surround yourself with them. The familiar tactile sensations can force your mind to focus on the present, primarily when these items or experiences are associated with positivity. Here are some of the most popular suggestions to amp up that chill feeling:
- Take a hot bath.
- Wrap yourself in your childhood blanket.
- Cuddle with your animal or loved one.
- Wear your favorite fluffy sweater or soft shirt.
4. Mental: Talk About Yourself In The First Person
Getting sucked into negative energy can sometimes pull you out of reality and make you forget who you are — especially the good parts. Instead of defaulting to dwelling on past versions of yourself, remind yourself of who you are with the hard facts.
Speaking out loud or narrating in your head, here are some ways to recenter back to your present self when your mind aggressively tries to pull you to another time:
- My name is …
- I am … years old.
- My pet’s name is …
- I love learning about …
- I live in … and enjoy it here because …
- My best friend is … and we do … together.
The more specific and personal, the better. It acts to separate yourself from the version of you that your mind is trying to convince you that you are — which is probably a false, villainized alternative.
5. Physical And Mental: Keep A Tangible Or Verbal Anchor
Grounding yourself is a habit, and building any practice takes time and will. That’s why grounding objects or verbal anchors are ideal resources to remind you of your mindset work. Always keep a neutral object in your wallet, pocket or purse. Or, have a go-to phrase you say like “This is a moment” or “This too shall pass.”
Some examples of grounding objects include:
- Stone or crystal
- Yarn or piece of soft fabric
- Paper with a mantra
- Charm or memento
- Lotion or oil
- Ring or jewelry
Any time you start feeling overcome by negativity, pull out that object or say that quote that acts like a rope to pull you back into your practical mind.
6. Physical: Narrate Your Life in Senses
One of the best grounding techniques is to recognize your environment literally. If sensory triggers easily move you, narrating your scenery can help prevent sensory overload.
Talking it out allows you to regain control over your settings. You can point out the ground’s color or buildings’ texture.
Some choose the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to notice a quantity of an item for each sense in no particular order. For example, you can name:
- Five things you can touch
- Four things you can see
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
7. Soothing: List Your Faves
Your favorite things are your favorites for a reason. They make you feel appreciative or reliably release serotonin. Listing or interacting with your favorite foods, music, locations, books, media, people or objects can remind you of times of contentment.
You don’t even have to go out of your way to find and experience these things — all you have to do is recall why they’re your favorites and conjure how they make you feel. It’s a grounding reminder of all the beautiful aspects of life despite experiencing depressive episodes or feeling overwhelmed.
8. Soothing: Leverage Anticipatory Excitement
Pessimistic thoughts can make you forget what is worth feeling euphoric over. There’s plenty to look forward to, especially if you take the time to schedule moments in your life, whether that’s a weeklong cruise vacation or an afternoon picnic with a friend.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed by life, look at your calendar and see what you can get excited about, even if it’s just the weekend to relax. Don’t fret about planning a bunch of fun activities right now. Feel simple delight in what’s to come to make you feel reinvigorated about life. It grounds you by making an intangible concept — time — tangible and experiential.
Becoming Triumphant Over Your Emotions
Grounding yourself is the perfect way to refresh a mindset infiltrated by negative emotions or memories. It’s not productive to try and shut these moments down, but instead, you can healthily interact with them and return to the present moment to get the most out of life.
Everyone is capable of shifting their energy — it just takes practice. Using mental, physical and soothing grounding techniques will change your cognitive abilities over time for unparalleled emotional resilience for healing and optimism for life.
Mia Barnes is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for holistic healing and healthy living. Mia is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the online publication, Body+Mind magazine.