Five Senses Grounding for Anxiety

When anxiety kicks in, it can feel overwhelming. Our thoughts are racing. Our breathing speeds up. Our heart rate goes up. Our most basic instincts are telling us to fight, flee, or freeze. There are times when this is really important - if, for example, we are confronted with a real threat to our safety, we need that response to launch us into action to save our lives. The challenge comes when we have that same reaction to things that aren’t a threat to our survival.

When we struggle with anxiety, we are often faced with a lower level of fight/flight/freeze on a more regular basis. There are many ways to handle this anxiety. One of my favorites, especially in public, is Five Senses Grounding. Grounding techniques help us reconnect to the present moment. When we are connected to the present moment, it slows the anxiety response and allows us to more clearly see our situation and come up with a plan of action.

Five senses grounding is relatively simple. Take a few deep breaths (in through your nose and out through your mouth), then focus on:

  • 5 things you can see - Look around you and see what’s there. Identify five things. If you are really anxious and need to make it a bit harder, choose five things that are the same color.

  • 4 things you can feel - Feel your feet on the ground, your clothing on your skin, something within your reach that you can touch, and maybe keep something in your pocket.

  • 3 things you can hear - Listen for the sounds we typically ignore: the hum of traffic, the air coming through the ducts into the room, people talking, or the sounds of birds or insects outside.

  • 2 things you can smell - Notice the smell of the space you are in. You can keep a small bottle of essential oils with you or a small package of seasonings.

  • 1 thing you can taste - It’s good to keep a piece of chocolate or hard candy on you or this one!

Next time you feel your anxiety kick in, try practicing this grounding technique and see how it goes!