The purpose of developing grounding techniques is to help us sustain attention. It builds on our ability to return to the present moment.
Let me try an explain this with the help of an illustration.
Priyas’ husband usually reached home around 9pm. As the clock ticked 9.30, she began to get worried and called him up. The phone rang but he did not answer the call.
‘I wonder what must be keeping him so busy’, she thought to herself and dialed another time after 10 minutes, this time again the phone rang and he did not answer.
“What if he has been in a terrible accident and can’t get to his phone.”
“He gets so tired, what if he dozed off like the other day while we were on that long drive. He got up just in time to save us from an impending accident.”
“He really shouldn’t drive after a long day at work, may be take a cab or office shuttle. I should really be stern with him regarding this”
“The 2 km stretch just outside his office is very dark and lonely, what if some antisocial people have got to him. There are many such instances in the news these days”
“He must have gone out with his friends and doesn’t want to lie to me so is not taking the call. His friend Vivek is in town for two weeks”
“Should I call some colleague and check, I don’t want to sound like a paranoid wife though”
“If he is getting late, he usually informs, this silence means something untoward has happened.”
“Our life is too good to be true, I knew something bad was destined.”
She felt restless and slightly out of breath, she started pacing in the house.
The doorbell rang and her husband entered. He could instantly see the worry on her face turn to relief.
“I had a late meeting and left the phone on silent without realizing. I started driving and couldn’t call and inform you that I was running late”
Her mind had raced to all the negative possibilities, with loose evidence from the past further fueling her speculation. She realized that it was all a product of overthinking yet it was difficult for her to break free from the train of thoughts in that moment and think objectively. If she had some tools to keep herself grounded in the present moment and think rationally. This would probably help her by not hitting the panic button each time such an incident happened.
Here is a description of a grounding technique which uses all five sense to root us back in the present moment.
1 Close your eyes and try to listen
To all the sounds that u can hear
far away and close by
2 Notice if you have any after taste in your mouth
Move your tongue around and notice any flavor.
3 Notice if you can smell anything around you.
On your body or in the room.
4 Feel the sensation of clothes on your body,
The sensation of your hair if it touches your skin
Notice the sensation of you breath leaving your nostril on your upper lip.
5 Open your eyes now
Look around the room and try to notice something you hadn’t seen earlier
(either a crack on the wall, insect in the room, different colour on the walls, texture of a piece of furniture, etc)
6 Close your eyes again.
Notice the normal rhythm of your breath.
Movement of your chest and abdomen with each breath.
7 Try to stay with your breath
If you get distracted by a sound or thought, gently invite your mind to be with your breath.
Rub your hands together.
Place them on your face
And slowly open your eyes
Another simple way of doing this is
5 objects that you can see around you
4 things that u can touch
3 things that you can hear
2 things that you can smell
1 thing that you can taste right now
It can also be useful for anticipatory anxiety or Panic symptoms
-Dr Nahid Dave