By Tanya Kowalenko, Educator and Event Planner for C.M.H.A. H.K.P.R.
In our last blog post, I explained the how anxiety works in the body and that while it is sometimes a necessary and helpful response to threatening situations, it often occurs when there is no threat in the present moment. In that post, I provided the first of a series of grounding techniques to help you to return to the present moment as it is now, not as you fear it to be, and actively calm your stress response when it is not needed. There are a few important points in there, so I encourage you to go back and read it before moving on. And now onto the second tool…
Tool #2: Drop Into Your Senses
Your senses include vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. You can engage any of these senses to help ground yourself in the present moment.
Here are some ideas you can try out.
Sit with your pet (if you have one) and focus on the feeling of their fur on your hands as you pet them. Notice how that feels. You could also do this with a fuzzy pillow or blanket.
Feel the skin on your forearms or your face. Can you feel the skin on your hands as well as the body part that you are touching? Or you could put your hand on your chest and notice the sensations you feel…perhaps there’s heat, movement as you breathe in and out, the feel of you heart beating.
Bring your attention to what you hear around you, right now. Notice how you don’t need to try to hear. Let the sounds come to you without attaching to any particular one. Let them come and go.
Put on some music and focus on listening to the sound.
Look around you and notice what you see. What colours are you aware of? What shapes? Try naming what you see to yourself or out loud.
Focus on one particular object, and describe it in detail, paying attention to it as if for the first time. Just notice what you see without attaching any judgement to it.
Have a small piece of chocolate or other food and bring your full attention to the taste, the texture, the feel of it in your mouth. Slow it down. What do you notice?
Get a cup of tea or coffee, whichever you prefer. Hold the mug near your face, letting the steam rise up and really tuning into the smell. Have you ever truly taken in the smell of your favourite cup of tea/coffee?
Take a walk or find a comfortable spot to sit outside in nature. Breathe deeply and focus on what you smell. Or go up close to a tree or flower and see what that smells like.
This practice can be particularly helpful if you are experiencing a high level of anxiety. Focus keenly on your present environment, again using your senses. Notice…
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste.
While focusing on the senses can be supportive for some, for others it may not be. You know yourself best. If any of these exercises increases your anxiety level, let it go and try another one, or do something you know works for you. Depending on the severity of your anxiety or trauma history, you may need more support before being able to engage with these tools. If anxiety is impairing your everyday functioning, I encourage you to give us a call and get some professional support.
Stay tuned for the next 2 blog posts in this series of Grounding Techniques for Anxiety.