mental health

A Grounding Exercise for Anxiety

Last night was rough.

Even in my avoidance of social media and the news, the election detonated my anxiety, causing a painful eruption of back-to-back panic attacks. When the mind enters a tailspin, sometimes the silence that we seek can be our worst enemy. Our brains simply fill the empty space with thoughts and feelings of fear, catastrophizing otherwise innocuous events. So, how do you get back to center?

Thankfully, I reached out for help via The Crisis Hotline and my counselor walked me through a simple grounding exercise that took me out of my head and brought me back to the present through the use of my breathing, my senses and a little mental redirection. It was so good that I want to share it here in hopes that should you find yourself in the darker corners of your mind, you too can get out and get back.

So, here are the five steps:

  1. Take three deep breaths and answer: What are five things you can SEE?
  2. Take another three breaths and answer: What are four things you can FEEL?
  3. Three more breaths and answer: What are three things you can HEAR?
  4. Take another three breaths: What are two things that you enjoy the SMELL of?
  5. After these final three breaths, answer: What is one thing that makes you THE MOST PROUD OF YOURSELF?

After writing this out, this seems so simplistic, and that’s exactly the point. The key to fighting anxiety is to get out of the complicated web of chaotic thought and into a clearer space while reclaiming control. I cannot say that I will never have another anxiety attack, but now I can say that I have another tool in my arsenal to manage them effectively.

A final word: I don’t share my experience with anxiety and panic attacks for sympathy. I share because I know that we’re all doing the best we can, and to show you that there is no shame in admitting that you need a little extra help to get from point A to B. Anxiety and panic do not make you weak, but they don’t have to hold you hostage either. It’s not about being “strong,” but it’s about being resourceful. Ask for help. We all need it.

To contact the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741741, or click here for more information.

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