Grounding has many applications, from energy work to dealing with emotional states like anxiety or panic attacks. There are many different ways to ground, and some of my preferred ways are ones which are accessible immediately without any special spaces or equipment. Going outside and touching a tree or putting your bare feet on the ground is a great way to practice “earthing”, a specific type of grounding. However, it also requires access to the outdoors in a fairly natural space, rather than the more concrete and steel urbanized spaces. Finding an accessible tree may be difficult, and when you’re in a state where grounding is necessary, having the presence of mind to go outside and find an available tree or patch of grass may be too much.

Therefore, as much as I enjoy my time outdoors, I like to have more immediate ways on hand to ground. For this, I prefer textures, such as a soft, cuddly stuffed animal or a favorite blanket. I often keep a stuffed animal on my desk that I can hold in my lap or hug if the day gets to be too much, and I tend to keep a favorite blanket (fleece) where I spend a lot of my time. I can pull the blanket over my legs, the weight and texture just right to help provide a calming atmosphere.

Grounding with your senses doesn’t require anything extra and can be done silently if you’re in public or in an area where your outward expressions of grounding wouldn’t be welcome. Name five things you can see, four things you hear, three things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

How does this work?

Imagine you’re in a busy supermarket. You see the aisle signs, perhaps a display of oranges, the shopping carts, the tile floor, and a shelf full of boxes. I hear the squeak of a cart wheel, the PA system, the whir of the heating/cooling system, and conversation from other shoppers. I touch the cart, maybe my purse or my clothing, and I touch a price sign or a box when I put it in my cart. I smell food cooking in the deli, and if I’m in the produce section maybe I smell the fragrance of what’s in season. I saw oranges, so I imagine the juicy taste of one, or perhaps I taste the metallic taste in my mouth that happens when I get overwhelmed.

You don’t even need to remember the order of the items. Stopping with five things you can see can be enough to make you pause in your thoughts and reorient to your surroundings.

Why is this practical grounding important? When we ground, we pull ourselves away from our thoughts, because let’s be honest, they are often the reason why we need to ground in the first place. Grounding pulls our attention to the here and now, gets us out of our minds and into our bodies. We become mindful of where we’re at, and to me grounding is a very important part of a mindfulness practice.

Having practical grounding methods in your tool kit to use when needed can be an important strategy to managing overwhelming thoughts and situations. There are places where we can’t lay down or stop and practice breathing exercises or yoga. Instead, using our senses to focus ourselves into our body can interrupt the patterns which create overwhelm.

Even so there may be times when it’s all too much so going outside to the car or to a bench may remove some of the sensory distractions so the grounding methods can work. And there’s nothing wrong with that.