BreatheUni: More on Coping – Insights on Grounding

Lauren T., MSc Health Psychology Student and volunteer


So we’ve talked a bit about coping – what it is, how it can help, yeah? Now how about let me tell you a bit more on a specific type of coping that myself and quite a few of my friends rely on – grounding.

Grounding essentially focuses on distracting you from your current and perhaps overwhelming emotions or anxieties. In distracting yourself, you’re creating a safe space for your mind to rest, a place where you can relax and recharge, and you got it, cope. While practising grounding isn’t meant to necessarily solve all your problems, like I said, it’s meant to help you cope with your current situation.

I’ll tell you, as a mental health nerd, I hear the term grounding pretty much everywhere. I used to mainly hear it from mental health or psychology settings like uni, or work, or even my own therapy. But what’s kinda cool is how it’s become so common place to talk about grounding and how different people make it work for them.I’ve worked as a crisis counsellor for nearly a year now, and I’ve been in sticky situations where service users have been at ultimate highs from anxiety, rock bottom lows from depression, and truthfully anything and everything in between. Sometimes when you’re in that moment of absolute WTF, you can lose grip of reality and reason, so it’s crucial that you ground yourself within a present, safe space. And you can (hopefully) do that with some grounding exercises.

There are three types of grounding:
(1) mental – focusing your mind
(2) physical – focusing your senses
(3) soothing – talking to yourself in a very kind way

You may find it important to focus on one type or maybe you’ll like to incorporate all kinds. The choice is yours! Do what gives you that peace and calm you’re so deserving of. Personally, when in a *moment* I look for mental grounding exercises, because it’s like my mind loses it. Reality? Rationality? Who are they? But I’ve found that grounding exercises work differently for everyone, you gotta do what’s best for you.

Let me kindly share the holy grail of grounding exercises (which is probably the most popular, that I know of, and a super easy way to get started with grounding) – the 54321 technique. This exercise asks you to purposefully and intentionally take note of the details of your surroundings, physically focusing on your senses, to help ground you in the present moment. Honestly, this exercise also helps with mental grounding, too!

5 – five things you can see
• think of the things around you, the things you see; try for small details to help you focus your energy more

4 – four things you can feel
• notice the sensation of the things you’re consciously or unconsciously touching; what clothes are you wearing? what’s beneath your feet?

3 – three things you can hear
• pay special attention to the white noises that may typically go unnoticed; the clock ticking, the wind outside, your breath

2 – two things you can smell

• take note of the smells around you; are you burning a candle? maybe spray your favourite perfume

1 – one thing you can taste
• pop a sweet or some gum into your mouth; allow yourself to focus on all the flavours

54321 is a physical grounding exercise focused on grounding your senses allowing you to connect with your surroundings. Give it a go! Be sure to tell us about your experiences with grounding and coping exercises on our Instagram @breathe_uni!