How to Use Grounding Methods to Calm Anxiety in ADHD

ADHD is often accompanied by Anxiety. One way to overcome anxiety in everyday life is to use grounding methods. Read more...

(+ useful references)

shallow focus photo of orange fruit
Photo by Vika Wendish / Unsplash

Life is hard at times.
When we overthink, anxiety that comes along doesn't make it easier.
This is particularly true for people with Attention Deficit Disorder(ADHD) and those with a Highly Sensitive trait (HSP).
How does it feel like?
Imagine juggling while riding a unicycle, on a thin bridge, above the rapid river…Impressive, but unnecessarily challenging.

What is Grounding.
Psychologists use Grounding methods to help us proactively draw our attention away from overthinking - to feeling present and safe.
So when negative emotions (worry, anger, fear, irritation) take over, we can cope with them by applying one or more easy-to-use Grounding techniques and refocus.

How to use Grounding to overcome anxiety.
(Please note: the provided list is only a fraction of all Grounding methods.
I chose to highlight them because they are specific - presumably easier to recall when needed. Feel free to look up more using the references).

It starts with a conscious effort: when you notice the wave of feelings coming,
give yourself a moment to stop.
Then, do one or more of the following:

Reorientation self-talk.

  • Think to yourself: my name is _________. I am safe right now. I am _____ years old. I am currently at _____________. The date is _____________. If I need help, I am with ________/can call _________. Everything is going to be alright.
  • Remind yourself: there are things that I do well/am great at. The most recent example is_________. I am capable. I will manage, it will be fine.
  • Notice the location, weather, or buildings around you.
    How do the surroundings look like, what shapes or colors can you spot.

Engage with your senses.

  • Use cold or hot water to dip your hands, or put a towel on your face.
  • Explore the textures of physical objects around you, touch and label them.
    If possible, keep a small object with you. A smooth wooden toy, stone, or fidget to inspect or play with when you get triggered. If you have none of these things at hand, use objects around you, a ring, zipper…even a cup will do.
  • Notice what you smell, hear, or taste at the moment. Come up with several samples first: “The 4 things I can currently hear are_,_,_,_”.
    Then describe them in great detail.
  • Smell peppermint oil, perfume, or a scented candle. OR
    Chew a piece of ginger, lemon, or cinnamon.
  • Vocalize the words: sing, tell yourself a joke, or come up with pieces of speech.

Think the harmful fantasies away.

  • Bad stuff happened to all of us. When it comes to flashbacks, try to think away from it. Redirect your emotions: “This experience doesn’t last till now. It is no longer here. I am safe now.”
  • Turn around the negative scenarios in your mind, so they look ridiculous.
    Make it funny in your imagination, and the worry will be lifted.
  • If you got heavy spiraling thoughts, list 5 things that bring you energy.
    Don’t list upsetting things until you feel better. It also applies to reading, and thinking about other’s people traumas - don’t do it when there's a chance they will upset you more.

Movement, body refocus (My personal favorite :))
You probably know there is a link between our facial expressions and emotions.
It works both ways: if you start smiling without a reason - you will soon feel a bit happier, as well as an obvious vice versa. The same applies to our body.
So the goal here is to destress our body -> emotions -> thoughts.

  • Breathe deeply and count it to a definite number, say 5.
  • Jump, do squats, or yoga. Pay attention to physical sensations while doing it.
    Neck and leg stretching can bring particular relief.
  • Exercise your eyes closed. Left-right, roll around and combine it with singing. (this I learned from people who work with Hypnosis)
    Like a short round of singing “Happy birthday to you…” while simultaneously exercising your eyes...Sounds weird, but works wonders to relax facial muscles and reassess the thoughts that were grooming around just a minute before.
  • Stand up, close your eyes, and touch the opposite knee with your hand.
    You want to bring your leg 90 degrees up. Do it 10 times, changing the legs and hands, then open your eyes. It is a good exercise to rebalance, and turn off the "autopilot mode".

What can you expect after those mental exercises?
From personal experience - it feels like a reload. Less tensed, less stimulated, control. I like how those small routines change my perception of self, what I am capable of.

Take good care🌸

Reference books:
1. "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle - if you are looking to feel more present.
2. "The Anxiety and Phobia Book" by E. Bourne Ph.D. - to manage worry.
3. "Thinking Fast and Slow" by P. Shankman - to feel ok about living with ADHD.
4. "Feeling Good" by David D. Burns, M.D. - to guide your mood and thoughts.

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