What are grounding techniques? Grounding is a practice commonly used to support our mental health. The intention of the practice is to ground the individual in the present, rather than being overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions rooted in the past or future. Whether it be anxious thoughts, traumatic experiences, or other overwhelming stressors, each of us have a window of tolerance as to how many influencing elements we may withstand at once.

The practice of grounding utilizes techniques where we increase our ability to take a step back from what has activated us, sense and connect with our physical bodies, connect to the present, and ultimately, calm our nervous systems that have been overwhelmed by the triggering circumstance or emotion.

By practicing grounding, we remind our nervous systems that, despite being emotionally activated and unable to control our environments, we have control over our responses and the methods with which we care for ourselves. These practices allow ourselves the space to do just that so that we may calm and re-engage with the circumstances of life.Here are some grounding practices to try:

  1. 4-Square Breathing•Breathe in for 4 seconds through nose
    • Hold breath for 4 seconds
    • Breathe out for 4 seconds through pursed lips
    • Hold breath for 4 seconds
    Repeat until you feel calm
  2. 3 Deep Belly Breathes
    • Get into a comfortable position
    • Place one hand on your chest, the other on your belly
    • Breathe in deeply through your nose, you should feel your belly filling with each breath
    • Push a long deep breath out your mouth trying, to push all the air out
    • You should feel your belly going back in
    Repeat until you feel calm
  3. 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise
    • Look around you and name & identify
    • 5 things you see
    • 4 things you feel (physically, not emotionally)
    • 3 things you hear
    • 2 things you smell
    • 1 thing you taste
    Repeat until you feel calm
  4. Distraction Grounding
    • Describe in detail something nearby
    • Count to 100 by fours
    • Name all of the purple things around you
    • Name items by category
      • Types of sea animals
      • Types of dog breeds
      • Office Supplies, etc.

Just like practicing an instrument or strengthening a muscle, the more we practice grounding exercises, the more likely we are to use them when we are truly in need of them. When we practice these tools in a calm and regulated state, we will be more likely to use them when we are upset or escalated.

Tips: When we breathe, we want to fill our lungs and breathe deeply, utilizing our diaphragm.
The more we engage our senses in an effort to ground the more effective the practice will be.
Think sensory: sight/ visual, tactile/touch, hearing/audio, scents/smell

*My name is Kara Gately and I am a social worker working in a rural health clinic at Plumas District Hospital as a mental health professional providing psychotherapy and addiction treatment services. My passions include social justice, mental health, and promoting fair treatment and well-being for all. Please join the exploration and education in each publication as we explore topics related to mental health and health education.

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