Using Grounding Coping Skills to Manage Your Mental Health Symptoms


Grounding is a technique used by many people with anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders to direct attention away from triggering stressors. Grounding helps people lessen the effects of stressors in the moment by encouraging them to practice purposeful focus on cues separate from the triggers they encounter. In doing so, people are able to distract themselves from the unpleasant experience they are having and find a sense of inner calm. There are two main types of grounding exercises – physical and mental.

Physical Grounding Techniques

Physical grounding exercises help distract people from the unpleasant experiences they are having by getting them to focus on a non-threatening physical experience. Examples of physical grounding exercises include holding an ice cube, smelling an intense aroma like mint or lavender, chewing on a lemon or lime wedge, or touching something with a well defined texture. From these examples, you can see how physical grounding techniques use a person’s five senses to help distract them from triggering stressors.

Mental Grounding Techniques

Whereas physical grounding exercises require a person to interact with their environment by using at least one of their five senses, mental grounding exercises are all done in the mind. There are many mental grounding exercises out there, so we will just focus on a few easy and effective examples, like the rainbow exercise. During this grounding exercise, a person identifies objects in their environment that match each color of the rainbow. For example, “I see a red ball, I see an orange cone, I see a yellow bird” and so on. Another example of a mental grounding exercise is the alphabet game. In this exercise, a person goes through each letter of the alphabet and identifies an animal for each letter. For example, “A is for Antelope, B is for Bat” and so on.

Grounding exercises are a simple and effective way to cope with the symptoms of anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. However, they only help a person deal with the symptoms of these disorders, not the underlying causes. It is important to pair grounding exercises with therapy and self reflection in order to fully recover from these issues.

If you are living with a mental health condition and feel you need help managing it, The Light Program can help. Our caring therapists will work with you to identify the underlying causes of your condition and develop effective coping mechanisms. Find a location near you and start improving your life today.