Alison Hunter Therapy
Counselling, Psychotherapy, Coaching in Glasgow Southside & Online

How to ground yourself

Many of us know how frightening it can be to feel panicky and anxious. When you’re feeling dizzy or nauseous and your mind’s racing for no apparent reason, it’s really hard to know what to do. People will often look for therapy at this point in a bid to feel calm again. It’s the body’s way of telling us we need help.

There will often be underlying reasons causing the anxiety and I work with clients to understand what these are. But firstly, it’s most important to learn to calm yourself. To do this, I teach clients grounding techniques.

Grounding helps refocus your attention – to your body or your surroundings- rather than feeling trapped by anxious thoughts in your brain. It helps you stay in the present instead of worrying about what may happen in the future or going over past events.

Below are some of the grounding techniques that have helped me and my clients. You will probably find only one or two work well for you. That’s fine though as all you need is one technique that works!

Grounding to the floor

Sit down in a comfortable chair, one where your feet reach the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly for the count of three, then out slowly. Bring your mind’s focus to your body. How does your body feel sitting in that chair? Can you feel the contact between your body and the chair’s surface? If the chair has arms, touch it, is the material smooth or textured? Press your arms down the length of the chair arm, notice how your hands hang off the end. If your chair doesn’t have arms, touch the material on the seat, how does that feel?

Next push your feet into the ground and feel the resistance from the floor. Then start tapping your feet gently one-at-a-time. This literally grounds you to the floor and helps distract the mind from the racing thoughts as you concentrate instead on your feet making contact with the ground.

5,4,3,2,1 Technique

Using all your 5 senses can be really helpful in bringing you back to the present moment. Start by sitting comfortably and take a couple of deep breaths, holding the in breath for a count of 3 and then the out breath for a count of 3 as well. In through your nose (count to 3), out through your mouth (to the count of 3).

Now open your eyes and look around you. Name out loud:

5 – things you can see - look within the room and out of the window.
4 – things you can feel - your hands in your lap, the texture of the material on your chair or perhaps something in front of you.
3 – things you can hear - traffic noise or birds outside, when you are quiet and actually listening things in your room constantly make a noise but often we don’t hear them.
2 – things you can smell
1 – thing you can taste - it might be a good idea to keep a piece of chocolate handy in case you are doing this grounding exercise. You can always leave your chair for this one and when you taste whatever it is that you have chosen, take a small bite and let it swill around your mouth for a couple of seconds, really savouring the flavour.

Take a deep breath to end.

Narrating actions to yourself

Another way to keep us in the present is narrating actions to yourself. To do this, every time you go to do something, simply say to yourself in your head ‘now I am doing…’ followed by whatever action you are next going to take. You will find yourself constantly saying ‘now I am doing…’ yet this is a chance to reset the automatic negative thgouths and instead replace them with present actions. You can become so caught up in what you are doing that the thinking becomes less important.

Abdominal breathing

Abdominal breathing (also called belly or diaphragmatic breathing) breathing is a well-known way to take deeper, more calming breaths into your body. It creates full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial swap of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Here's how to do it:

- Lie on your back on a flat surface (or in bed) with your knees bent. You can use a pillow under your head and your knees for support, if that's more comfortable.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly, just below your rib cage
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air in deeply, towards your lower belly. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the one on your belly should rise.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward as you exhale through pursed lips. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

You can also practice this sitting in a chair, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head, and neck relaxed. Practice for five to 10 minutes, several times a day if possible.

Doing something physical

When you’re full of adrenaline or pent-up energy, it can feel impossible to concentrate enough to start focusing on your breathing or surroundings. In situations like this, do something physical to use that energy before moving to a more calming technique. Physical activities which can help focus and distract us include:

-Out stretching your arms and leaning into a nearby wall, pushing against it. Feel the resistance of the wall.
-Put on some music and dance around the room, shaking your head, arms and feet.
-Do some gardening or cleaning – repetitive tasks that don’t require a lot of thinking but get your body moving.

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more about any of these techniques and how I can help you.

My Location

My counselling, psychotherapy and coaching practice in based in the Southside of Glasgow. It is within easy reach of Shawlands, Pollokshields, Giffnock, Newton Mearns and the city centre.

I work with clients both face-to-face and online. Please contact me to discuss what may work best for you.


Counselling and psychotherapy are talking therapies that can help just about everyone, regardless of age, race and gender.
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“I approached the counselling process with a certain level of trepidation and anxiety. However Alison was able to be supportive and reassuring, creating a safe environment. The sessions were undertaken at a pace I felt comfortable with and it was clear Alison was able to respond to my individual situation which was multifaceted. I found the process helpful and beneficial.I would be more than comfortable approaching Alison in the future should the need arise.” Anonymous, Glasgow