The 54321 Grounding Technique: Simple Exercises for Anxiety

Hi, my sweeties and happy Saturday! ☀️ I planned on publishing this post later this month, but with the current horrendous events in Ukraine I decided to post it earlier. In fact, I meant to post these simple grounding exercises and techniques for anxiety last Thursday, but life happened. 🤷🏻‍♀️

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I haven’t been shy in sharing that I suffer with anxiety, low mood and frequently struggle to stay motivated. In fact, I have already shared a post about how to take care of your mental health and one about the positive side of Covid-19.

The thing is, the past 2 years (damn, has it been two years since Covid already?) my anxiety has become so much more prominent. I never used to have panic attacks, but that gem came into my life the past year and thank fuck I have my dog to help me get through them. Simple grounding exercises are extremely helpful, too, for anxiety, especially when you feel “off”. I find they help you get out of you head and calm down.

Sadly, my anxiety has started stopping me from doing things. It has started stopping me from booking trips, from applying to jobs and accepting job offers, from meeting new people. I’m really showing all my cards here, but it has reached the point where I feel it is debilitating. And I’ve done some CBT (didn’t help at all, perhaps because I believe I have undiagnosed ADHD) and lately, some psychotherapy (which helped to an extent, I still have anxiety, but I noticed a definite change in myself as to the way I react to people and situations).

If any of you out there suffer with anxiety, you’re probably on the same boat as me with the current war between Ukraine and Russia. Apart from the fact it’s fucking heart-breaking seeing this genocide happening, and it’s sad that both innocent Ukrainian and Russian people are dying in vain, there is the anxiety of is this a World War 3 in the making? It gives me chills down my spine to think about Hitler and the atrocities he did; the thought of Putin being a new Hilter gives a whole new meaning to the word anxiety.

So, I found I need to use these grounding techniques and simple mindfulness exercises more often than I used to. And, I would really like to share them with you. I made them in picture format, too, so please feel free to share them on social media so they can help as many people as possible.

1. What are grounding exercises?

But let’s start from the beginning, what exactly are grounding exercises? I’m sure some of you might have also wondered “what is the main purpose of grounding?”. Well, grounding exercises are techniques and strategies that can help you manage strong emotions (or traumatic memories in the case of PTSD). They can help us step away from negative thoughts and bring us into contact with the here and now. They’re useful in decreasing the intensity of emotions and distracting us with the use of our five senses.

This, actually, reminds me of somatic therapy, which focuses on being in touch with your body and on how emotions can manifest as bodily functions – a good (and personal) example of that are tension headaches and migraines. My therapist uses somatic therapy techniques a lot and I really love them; it wasn’t until I started working with him that I realised how useful they are and how much of an insight you can gain of your inner (often hidden) emotions. If you don’t know what somatic therapy is, I would highly recommend you look into it.

I see you asking, so, how can I practice grounding myself? Well, I’d love to tell you. Just keep reading. 🙂

2. What is the 54321 grounding technique?

This is my favourite grounding technique and the first one I ever used. I found it through a mental well-being app (I want to say it was Calm?) and I used it on a day when I had an educational day at work and I found it really overwhelming for some reason.

So, at lunch break, I went and sat in my car, and started counting out loud 5 things I could see, 4 things I could touch, 3 things I could hear, 2 things I could smell and 1 thing I could taste (my lunch! 😆). And, indeed, it really helped me calm down and got me out of my head.

54321 grounding technique anxiety the marizé

3. Breathing exercises

Focusing on your breathing, by consciously inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth, is an effective strategy for returning to the present. One of my favourite breathing exercises is the 478 breathing. This breathing technique involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds.

478 breathing technique the marizé

You can enhance the focus of this breathing exercise by placing your hands on your abdomen and watching them move up and down with the breath.

4. Other calming techniques

Some other calming and grounding exercises I recently found out are the following three techniques. They kind of involve playing “games” with yourself, which in turn helps “earth” you. By using your senses to gain awareness of your surroundings, you essentially reduce the intensity of your anxious feelings..

The first one involves playing a categories game with yourself. Think of categories of things – for instance dogs, states or cities- that begin with a chosen letter. Don’t switch to a new letter until you’ve identified at least 5 objects that start with that letter.

categories game grounding exercise the marizé

The second and third techniques are about finding all the items around you that are green or square (up to preference really, you can find round and/or pink items if you fancy 🙃) and counting by 7s. I really like both of these, because they really get my brain working and distract me from what it is that’s causing me anxiety.

grounding calming techniques the marizé

5. How long should you ground yourself each day?

I wanted to add this little section at the end, because many times (especially with all this toxic positivity on social media nowadays) there is a pressure to always meditate or ground your self or be constantly happy and fart rainbows 24/7. But, the truth is, you can ground yourself using these or other techniques as frequent as you like and for however long you deem necessary. For me, it’s whenever my anxiety gets a hold of me or when my mind drifts off to dark places.

I would love to hear in the comments how often you ground yourself and whether you found these calming exercises helpful. Do you know of or use any other grounding techniques? Please do share them in the comments!

M. x 💋

Further reading: 6 different types of grounding exercises for intense emotions, Invest in yourself for your best life