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Five Grounding Techniques for Managing Social Anxiety

If you experience social anxiety, you likely know how debilitating fear and worry can be. Often, the anxiety can feel like it is taking over and it can be hard to move through the moment or even make it through the day. When this happens, while it can feel overwhelming, there are tools that you can turn to in order to get some relief.

Here are 5 simple practices you can try when you feel your anxiety spike, and they are especially helpful while you're in a social situation. No one has to know you are doing them!

1. Use Your Breath

This one may seem obvious, but it's very powerful! The breath is actually one of the best tools we have for regulating anxiety, and it is always accessible. In any moment, regardless of whether you are completely alone or in a crowded room, you can always turn to your breath.

There is a lot of research now on the power of deep, slow breathing for calming the nervous system and there are all sorts of breathing practices recommended. The key is to find something that works for you. To give you some ideas, here are a couple methods you can try:

Box Breathing: Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for count of 4.

4-2-6: Breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 2, exhale for a count of 6.

The key with using breathing techniques is to breathe deeply (into the diaphragm is best!) and extend your exhales. Regardless of whether you are using box breathing, 4-2-6, or something entirely different, have a goal of making your exhales longer than your inhales as this soothes the nervous system and moves the body out of a sympathetic (fight/fight) state and into a parasympathetic (rest/digest) state.

2. 54321 Technique

In this technique, you are using your 5 senses to anchor into the present moment - which can be very helpful for slowing racing thoughts and calming the body. To do this, simply notice the following:

5 things that you can see

4 thing that you can hear

3 things that you can touch

2 things that you can smell

1 thing that you can taste

Don't get hung up on remembering which number corresponds to which sense, just be present and notice what you can about your environment and the moment.

Also, if you can't smell or taste anything, you can instead choose to notice what in your environment has a smell (ex. a candle, a cup of coffee) and what your mouth feels like (is it dry? Can you feel your tongue touching your teeth?).

3. Hold A Grounding Object

Carrying a grounding object can be very helpful when you feel anxious. This can simply be a stone that you have picked up from somewhere in nature, or even a small crystal. Many people like to have worry stones, which are flat, round crystals that you can hold and rub your fingers over, but fidget toys also work well (ex. a stress ball or a spinner).

Another option is using a piece of jewelry to ground you. If you are going into a social situation you are nervous about, wearing something like a ring, bracelet, or necklace that you can hold/play with (or that will simply bring you comfort) is a great option!

4. Recite A Mantra or Positive Affirmation

When you feel highly anxious, one way to soothe is to turn to yourself with kindness and offer some reassurance - or simply state a positive affirmation. Here are a few to try out:

I am safe

I am okay

I can do this

I feel anxious but this is not dangerous. I can handle this and it will pass soon. While some of these examples might fit, it's fine if they don't. I encourage you to make up your own affirmations and phrases that are soothing to you. What works best for you may be entirely different than what works for someone else, and that's okay.

If it's hard to think of any examples of positive self statements, I encourage you to reflect on what you might want (or need) to hear from a support person in your life when you are having a hard time. Perhaps something they already tell you that has an impact. Another option is to consider what you would say to someone you love if they asked you for support. A best friend, partner, or young child are often good places to start.

5. Root

A very simple practice that can be incredibly supportive for anxiety is that of rooting into the earth. All you need to do is drop your attention into your feet and the ground below you.

If you are standing or sitting, notice the feel of your feet flat on the floor, and you might even want to push into the ground a bit. Notice all the sensations in your feet that you can. Breathe and keep rooting. If you are walking, notice each footstep. Really feel what it is like to press each foot down onto the ground, one after the other.

The practice of rooting/grounding in this way enables you to draw your attention away from anxious thoughts or uncomfortable body sensations and connect with an anchor (in this case, your feet), bringing you into the present moment.


These are 5 simple practices that you can turn to at any time to find some grounding and relief from anxiety. I encourage you to try these out in lower stress moments first to find out which ones are helpful for you. You may also want to practice them throughout your day so that when anxiety rises and you need them, you can turn to these tools without much thought. While social anxiety can feel completely overwhelming, there are tools and practices that you can build into your day (and your life) that can help you take some of the power back from your fear. I hope that some of these will be useful for you, and that you will start to feel even a tiny bit more confident that you can manage and get through anxiety when it arises.

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