Urgent Support

Grounding Techniques

Vikash: Bro, I feel like I'm not in the right place, nothing is going right here. I keep getting flashbacks of my JEE days. Life was so sorted then. Here everything is so messed up. I am not able to balance anything: academics, friends, clubs...

Abhay: My mind is constantly running back to home and my school buddies. It feels like I am in two places at the same time and everything is fogged up. I wish there was a way to stay centred in the 'here and now'.


Most of us may recall instances when we found it challenging to overcome difficult emotions or troubled by thoughts or memories that were distressing. Grounding techniques are tools, which we can use especially at such times to distract ourselves from whatever is causing us pain and feel more settled. Grounding techniques help us to move away from difficult thoughts and emotions and be more anchored to the present moment. These techniques help us bring our mind to the here and now, from the difficult memories, thoughts or emotions of the past. Practising these can help one feel safer and more in control. These are especially beneficial when:

  • Your anxiety is increasing
  • You feel excessively numb/ low
  • You’re having the urge to self-harm
  • You’re feeling disconnected from everything around you
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed by emotions
Different people find different grounding techniques useful. To find what works best for you, try these at different times and check-in with yourself to see what helped you the most. Build your own set that you can rely upon.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique

This technique encourages you to break your attention from whatever’s disturbing you and connect to your present physical surroundings by making use of your physical senses. As part of it, you are encouraged to simply notice (without adding value or judgment):

  • 5 things that you can see around you
  • 4 things you can touch around you
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste
Listen to Podcast
Other techniques
  • Use your breath to feel more grounded. Take deep breaths and fully focus on each breath.
  • Drink a glass of cool water.
  • If possible, get a cup of tea/coffee, any beverage you prefer and take small mindful sips. Also, notice how the cup feels in your hand, the smell of the beverage, its taste, texture, etc.
  • Splash some water on your face and notice how that feels on your skin.
  • Bring your attention to how your clothes feel against your skin, how your feet feel against the ground, how the furniture you’re sitting/lying on feels against your body.
  • Stretch a little. Take a small walk, stamp your feet a little more and observe how your feet feel against the ground, the air and other things around you.
  • If you like animals, spend some time with them.
  • Rub your hands together and pay attention to how that feels.
  • Listen to music that helps you feel calmer.
  • Dance/move around. Any movement can help.
  • Prepare some grounding statements from before and repeat this to yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You could also write these down making it easier to refer to them (examples: I am safe; This feeling will pass; I will get through this).
  • To feel more reoriented to the time and space that you’re in, you could ask yourself questions about the date, day, place where you’re at, the weather, your age, etc.
  • Count backwards from 20/ any number
  • Try to recall the lyrics of your favourite poem/song
You could also have a standard object that helps comfort you and use that as a grounding object (a small rock, piece of cloth, jewellery, shells). These could also be pictures or reminders of your loved ones, words from a movie, song, quote, or prayer that help you.

Seek Help

  • Remember that this moment will pass. But if it’s all getting too much and you’re confused about what is happening to you, talking to a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre could give relief and provide guidance about what you can do.