Grounding: Why It’s a Good Thing for Anxiety in Teens
Having a child that struggles with anxiety is tough. You want to remove every obstacle in their way, but this time, the obstacle is their own mind. Now, instead of clearing the road for them, you have to teach them how to clear it themselves.
That’s where grounding comes in. Grounding techniques have been helping people with intense anxiety and PTSD for years. These practices can be cognitive or sensory, so you can move forward with a stronger mind or find ways to distract it momentarily.
Here are some great grounding techniques to try the next time your teen gets overwhelmed with anxiety.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique for Anxiety in Teenagers
Ask your teen to identify…
- Five things they can touch.
- Four things they can see.
- Three things they can smell.
- Two things they can hear.
- One thing they can taste.
This will help them reacquaint their senses to the moment and return to the present. To hit the point home, have your child focus on something with lots of details they can take in. Turn on a TV show with casual conversation or play a lyric-heavy song.
Find the Rainbow in the Room
Ask your teen to look around and find items that follow each color in the rainbow—red, then orange, green, blue, indigo, and violet. To make the activity longer, have them find a certain number of each color.
The point is for them to notice more of their environment than they did before, helping them escape the tunnel vision that comes with anxiety.
Textures and Temperatures Technique
Anxiety sends our mind straight into fight-or-flight mode, even when there is no real threat at hand. Give your brain something to react to by playing around with “shocking” textures and temperatures.
Ask leading questions like, “What does that blanket feel like? Now feel this one. Which one do you like better? Why?” Help them work through the process of clearly describing what they’re touching.
For a greater “shock” effect, have them hold a couple ice cubes or a handful of snow from outside. Seeking out different temperatures helps our brain shift our focus from panic to the new, urgent information: something cold is in your hand.
Obviously be safe and careful when using this technique—the goal is to distract and redirect your anxious energy, not harm yourself.
Sometimes when it comes to grounding, all we need is a little perspective. If your teen is anxious about school or relationships, try separating them from the problem completely. Step out into nature and take a walk through the woods, or sit by a lakeshore and listen to the small crash of waves and running water.
Feeling small in a big world can be grounding because it also helps us see our problems as small and manageable in the grand scheme of things. Watching the push and pull of water at the shore reminds us that no matter what we do, the world keeps doing its thing. It helps take the pressure off the decisions we make so that we can feel more confident making them.
Self-Soothing Activities for Anxiety in Teens
Choose something that will help your teen feel clean. Tell them that the point is to cleanse themself of their anxiety, so they should be intentional during each step of the process.
If they’re holding tension in their head and shoulders, let them rinse it away in a hot shower. If their arms or legs are tense, let them take it out by folding or re-organizing their room. Both activities feel cleansing, take time to focus, and end with a gift to the self: a clean body or neat room.
While grounding techniques are a great place to start, anxiety is a mental illness that won’t go away on its own. To better your teen’s chances of improvement, pair them up with a therapist. Contact our office to get started today.