Portrait of young blonde woman with eyes closed against metal background and copy space

It gets in the way at the best of times:  Before an important meeting, or before we give an important speech, or when we’re on a first date.  Anxiety rises up, takes over and leaves us feeling jittery, flush or nautious. 

Anxiety can also come up in relation to a person, place or thing that reminds us of a time when we were harmed, traumatized, either by a fellow human or catastrophic life event.  We get triggered into what feels like an altered state of reality, where anxiety thrives.  Our heart starts to race, its hard to think straight.  It feels down right overwhelming.

Sometimes getting a prescription for medicine from our doctor is the way to go to help ease the symptoms of anxiety.  It’s awesome to have this pharmaceutical option.  It can be just what we need. But we don’t always need it.  Sometimes we can deal with the anxiety on our own.

We can deal with the anxiety on our own through the practice of ‘grounding’, were we find our way out of the experience of anxiety and back into a balanced, homeostatic state.  We can use elements from the ground itself to help us get there, or we can travel through the body to regulate our buzzing nervous system.

You’re probably familiar with these ways of getting grounded already.  That’s okay.  A refresher never hurts.  Here are three of my favorites:

A rock.   A humble rock that would fit comfortably in the palm of the hand is an efficient way of taking the mind off the anxiety and re-focusing it somewhere else.  This time the mind’s focus goes to the texture or temperature of the rock itself.  The trick is to pay attention to the sensory experience of the rock in the hand, and stay with it until the anxiety slips away.

Feet against the earth.  Either standing up or sitting down, turning our attention to the feet planted against the earth.  Feeling the balls of the feet and heals against the earth below.  It can be the actual earth on a grassy lawn or backyard garden, or it can be against the floor of a bedroom or office.  The idea is to feel the feet planted against the surface below as a way of feeling grounded again.

The breath.  Particularly on the flow of the exhalation, to notice the movement of the breath in the body.  It can be standing up in a grocery store line or it can be seated in the lotus position in meditation, the position of the body isn’t as important to this exercise as the practice of paying attention to the movement of the breath in the body.  Allowing the exhalation to be long, slow and smooth, and to extend for as long as is comfortable.  This practice is particularly effective to calm a racing nervous system.  We can breathe in this way until it feels like the intensity of the anxiety has diminished.

It’s a great alternative to drug therapy to be able to regulate our nervous system in non-pharmaceutical ways, not to mention so very convenient.

The next time you’re feeling anxious, try one of these grounding practices and see what an impact these simple practices can have on you.