2 Simple Grounding Techniques To Overcome Panic Attacks

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2 Simple Grounding Techniques To Overcome Panic Attacks
Health And Wellness

Your heart is racing, your breath has spun out of control, and you feel weak. And no, you didn’t just complete a marathon.

You were sitting there, engaging in no physical activity whatsoever, and something stressed you out. You’re on the verge of — or already in the throes of — a panic attack.

Remembering how to manage what's happening and what grounding techniques to use can feel a million miles away.

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You might be triggered by any type of stressor. Someone told you sad news. You thought about that looming final exam. Or you still haven’t gathered myriad documents you need to finish a huge deadline in just a few days.

While many people don’t exhibit or react to stress by having a panic attack, countless people do. And in any case, you do. The question is, how can you recover from a panic attack in the easiest, quickest way?

Here are 2 simple techniques you can use to overcome panic attacks.

1. Use a physical grounding technique.

You might think of a grounding technique like your "yogic mountain."

You stand straight with your bare feet rooted on the mat, pull your arms to your sides, facing hands forward with fingers stretched open, suck your belly in, and draw your tailbone down, drop your shoulders, and square your hips.

Then stare straight ahead, staunch in your mountain.

Yes, having your feet literally grounded and your body confidently posed does help, and you can try that if you need physical grounding during a panic attack.

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2. Use an emotional grounding technique.

You can also ground yourself emotionally rather than physically. This helps you focus on the moment and draws your attention inward, instead of stressing about something outside of yourself.

This technique creates your own personal safe space, right here, right now.

My go-to grounding technique for panic attacks is the "5-4-3-2-1 Method."

It’s structured and easier than managing your breath, which you might struggle with when you're in the middle of a panic attack or when your breathing feels like it’s taken on its own fast-paced life, dragging you away with it.

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The 5-4-3-2-1 Method goes like this:

5: Name five objects or sights you see around you.

4: Name four tangible things you feel (the clothing against your skin, the hair on your forehead, the floor you’re standing on).

3: Name three sounds you hear.

2: Name two scents you smell.

1: Name one thing you taste.

Now, let’s make it even simpler.

What if you can’t remember all of these counts, and in which order? Which one was five, and which one was two?

When you're in the middle of a panic attack and can't remember all the steps, try this instead: Choose two of these items above. Pick two that speak to you most, make you feel the calmest, and focus you best.

Practice them in your daily life when you’re in normal mode — not panic mode — so they’ll be at your lips, ready to count when you feel panicked.

This grounding technique helps align your thoughts and awareness back to the reality of your physical space, rather than your limitless, anxiety-ridden imagination.

It secures you into the present, as opposed to the past or future, where anxiety is based. Being mindfully present causes your brain’s physiological response — your “calm” hormones — to reactivate.

Once you’ve engaged your brain in structured calm and deep breathing, other de-escalating techniques are more effective. In other words, now you can breathe again.

So, call this your "two-out-of-five method." Choose your favorite two grounding “counts” now, and repeat them a few times daily.

This way, if you do have a panic attack in the near future, you’ll immediately be able to ground yourself. In fact, knowing you have a coping technique ready to go might even stave off impending anxiety.

RELATED: How To Stop Panic Attacks Using The EFT Tapping Technique

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Dr. Alicia Clark is a psychologist specializing in anxiety and relationships. For more help managing anxiety, check out her book, Hack Your Anxiety and register for a free mini-ecourse by signing up for book bonuses here.

This article was originally published at Alicia Clark PsyD. Reprinted with permission from the author.