Grounding techniques to calm yourself

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Relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, mindfulness and “divided attention” techniques may help to reduce anxiety when in a challenging situation. Attention-based techniques share the idea that we may only have so much “working capacity” for thought. So focusing on colours, textures, objects, the feel of your feet on the ground may mean there is limited headspace to think about anxiety.

Accept your anxiety
It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best thing we can do is accept how we feel and allow it to be. Fighting the anxiety just makes it worse.

Breathing Techniques
www.itsjustafeeling.co.uk – Calm anxiety by learning to breathe from your Diaphragm
www.verywellmind.com – more on breathing techniques for anxiety

Focus of attention
Try to concentrate fully and completely on the social (or public) task in hand. Be “mindful” and “present”. Your focus should be on the situation not your anxiety. Get involved, fully commit to the situation itself e.g really listen to what others are saying, ask questions to show your interest. The more you focus on the situation and people – rather than your anxiety – the more your anxiety should diminish.

Divided Attention techniques
• Savour food and drink. Notice how food and drink smell and the flavours on your tongue.
• Touch something with an interesting texture
• Smell – what smells do you notice? Sniff something with a strong smell
• Listen to your surroundings – take a moment to notice the sounds around you, the sound of a nearby ticking clock, traffic or birdsong.
• The alphabet game – name something for every letter of the alphabet within any category of subject. This could be animals, people’s names, foods etc.
• Draw an imaginary four sided box in your head – repeatedly imagine each line joining up the four corners in order
• Focus on different parts of your body. Feel the weight of your clothing on your shoulders, notice your chest moving while you breath, the feel of your back on the chair, the weight and feel of your feet on the floor.
• Sight -look around -try and five 5 things that spark your interest
• 3-2-1 method. Use your senses to list things you notice around you. 3 things you see, 2 things you hear, one thing you smell

Affirmations
When anxious is so easy to get distracted and lost in the thoughts and feelings. Try comforting and calming yourself with affirmations. Find affirmations that work for you, gently repeat them and believe them e.g.
I am a good person and trying to do my best
I have a right to express myself and say “no”, “I don’t know”, “I don’t understand or even “I don’t care”
I have the right to my own values, opinions, beliefs and emotions
I accept myself, problems and all, the more I accept myself the stronger I become
I will gently wait and listen, when it seems my turn to speak I will gently say what I can
Hear your inner voice internally saying ‘I am calm, I will be ok’. Repeat it slowly and clearly three times.

Improve your posture and eye contact
Again, it might seem counter-intuitive, but sitting or standing more upright send signals to your brain that you are equal and strong and an equal part of the situation (social or otherwise). Yes we sometimes feel like we want to hide but maintaining good body language and eye contact will send a signal to our brain and remind ourselves of our self-worth. If eye contact feels hard – look at the middle of someones face, they won’t know for sure whether you are looking in their eyes.

Take a Mindful break
Take a short walk or a toilet break. Moving helps dispel adrenaline and cortisol – the fear hormones. Try and be “mindful”, concentrate on your steps, notice their rhythm, how it feels to put your foot on the ground and lift it again. Rejoin the situation with a renewed focus on fully engaging with the people you are with (not the anxiety).

Where you can – and if/where approriate – tell the people you are with
Coping with intense social anxiety thoughts, feelings, symptoms is really hard. It is even harder if you have to hide your feelings and pretend everything is ok when it really is not. Where you can – and where appropriate – tell the people you are with. Even just telling one person may take the pressure off. None of us should have to hide how we feel – if someone with other health issues were suffering disabling thoughts and feelings they would probably let others know. Social anxiety is really common – it is no shame to say you feel nervous with people sometimes.

Remember you are not alone
Although it may seem like you’re the only one who gets socially anxious but in reality there are millions of us in the UK alone. That means if you’re in some type of gathering, chances are there will be other people around you who are uncomfortable. Look around, you may not be the only one that is quiet or nervous or withdrawn. Even if you feel alone, not far from you, at work or in your street, is one of the man people that have social anxiety to some degree. 12% lifetime prevalence equates to 8 million people in the UK and even using the “3% stricter clinical criteria” (referred to in NICE guidance) there will be over 2 million people with social anxiety in the UK this year.

Please see MIND’s pages on:
MIND on Anxiety
MIND on Anxiety and panic attacks

Please also see:
https://www.healthline.com/health/grounding-techniques
Aboutsocialanxiety.com – How to stop zoning out when people talk
https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/living-the-questions/201302/3-tricks-stop-anxiety-now
https://socialanxietyalliance.org.uk/social-anxiety-and-the-fight-or-flight-response