Grounding Techniques to Deal with Panic Attacks

DISCLOSURE: I am not a therapist or trained medical professional. If your want to use this technique, you can consult with your expert therapist or doctor.

Most average people can address an impending panic attack with tools and knowledge to reduce the likelihood of slipping into a state of panic, flashback or dissociation. I want to introduce you to a “grounding technique.”
The idea behind a grounding technique: As the name implies, “grounding” is a way to “ground” you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and environment.

General Instructions:
You want to use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight).

To begin, sit or stand with both feet firmly on the ground. Say to yourself: “I have everything I need to get through this feeling.” Repeat this phrase a few times.

Take 3 deep breaths at the beginning and end of this exercise. Remember, if you are lightheaded or hyperventilating, breathe in and out into a paper bag 10 times.

Then start the 5’s…

* 5 Sounds:
Listen for 5 discrete sounds that are different and identify them. For instance: a fan, a dog barking in the distance, the refrigerator humming, your own breathing and crickets chirping. And as a result, your attention will be directed to that noise, bringing you into the present moment.

* 5 Sensations:
Touch 5 discretely different surfaces – look for warm, cold, rough, smooth – forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.

* 5 Smells:
Smell 5 discretely different odors – fruity, floral, green, spicy, herbal – forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.

* 5 Tastes:
Taste 5 descrete tastes – sweet, sour, salty, cold, hot – tastes can force you to stay in the present moment.

* 5 Sights:
Take an inventory of 5 things around you. Connect with the present moment by verbally listing 5 things around you. You could identify 5 colors you see. Count 5 pieces of furniture around you. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.

(Personal note: I used to wake up in the middle of the night with panic. I had two plastic pill sorter trays by the bed. One had tastes in it: salt, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and vanilla powder. One had cotton balls in with different scents in each compartment. This way I could use the 5’s right at my bedside. I would sit up in bed, swing my feet over and place them firmly on the ground, open my bedside drawer and pull out my trays and then start my routine.)

That is a start – this system, given to me by my best friend, who is an EMDR therapist, absolutely worked for me.

Kim Go 2011

Kim Go

Kim Go

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I am an artist in the expressive, installation and performance arts. I write because of our shared cultural beliefs about loss offer far too few tools to people working with grief. When I was very young, I thought little about impermanence. Then, my personal encounters with impermanence grew to include such challenges as: my father's death in early childhood, a near-death experience in adolescence, divorce, fertility challenges, death of a soul mate and spouse and subsequent loss of access to stepchildren, mugging and assault, pet loss, job loss, suicide of two close friends, and geographic resettlement. Perhaps we have something in common... perhaps not. I have learned that the specificity of the loss does not matter as much as the condition of the heart to be open to others who are learning to be present and alive regardless of the impermanence in their story.

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