Ways to combat stress and anxiety are getting more and more attention these days, with meditation, therapy and mindfulness recommended as the top coping strategies by many mental health experts. But of course, these require time, organization, and sometimes, money. There is, however, one simple trick to alleviate anxiety that can be done anywhere and which doesn't require anything but yourself and your own mind: A technique called "grounding." Grounding simply encourages focusing on whatever surface your body is in contact with in order to help calm yourself, offering an easy yet effective way to keep your anxiety at bay — no matter where you are.
Grounding can be added to the growing conversation around mental health, which, although still up against a lot of unnecessary stigma, isn't quite as taboo as it once was. In fact, Millennials appear to be leading the conversation on mental health: According to a 2015 study conducted by journalism students at American University, nearly three out of four respondents said that Millennials are “much more open to addressing mental health topics than older people." What's more, 80 percent of young people noted that mental health resources are far better now than they were in previous generations.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how we can continue to de-stigmatize mental illness issues with this latest coping technique.
Rochdale Wellness recently published an excerpt of Hilaria Baldwin's book The Living Clearly Method, which was published in December of 2016, which was us through the principles of grounding. The goal of the technique is to help you physically and mentally connect with whatever surface your body is touching in the moment whenever you feel anxious or stressed. This is supposed to help you feel supported and remind you of the physical elements around you that can keep you safe even if your thoughts are spiraling out of control. Baldwin recommends trying it in any position: "Wherever you are this very moment — on the subway, in bed, leaning on a counter or against a wall — is the perfect place to practice grounding," she writes. "Feel your body wherever it is making contact with the surface that's holding it up."
Are you in bed? "Feel the bed holding you firmly and completely," Baldwin says. "You are safe and held." Sitting down? Feel your sit bones on whatever you're perched upon. Standing up? Go for layers: Your feet, your socks, your shoes, the ground. "Imagine the depth of the Earth that is supporting you," she writes. By carefully taking note of what you’re feeling physically, you can divert attention away from whatever thoughts are making you nervous or stressed out.
Clearly the main benefit of this technique is that it can be carried out anywhere; what's more, if you're really pressed for time, you can spend as little time as you want doing it with no additional resources required. Grounding also isn't too dissimilar from mindfulness, which is a form of meditation based on the act of acknowledging and accepting one's feelings and bodily sensation which can also be done pretty much anywhere and at any time.
On the flip side, though, grounding may not work for those who suffer from extremely overwhelming or stressful thoughts; simply telling people to think "differently" when they're feeling low fails to address the root of the problem — and, indeed, can actually be one of the least helpful things you can say to someone with depression or other mental health concerns. In fact, The Guardian interviewed several people who agreed that mindfulness and similar techniques actually made their mental health situation worse. Some reported feeling disassociated from themselves during sessions, while others panicked more and found their minds reverting back to traumatic situations.
What's clear is that there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with your mental health. Science-backed strategies for reducing everyday stress can certainly be a good place to start, but there's no real replacement for seeing a health care professional if you feel you need to. Need some help finding a therapist? These tips might come in handy. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself — you deserve it.