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Sensory Strategy and Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

Recently, a lot of you have asked for us to be more open about my husband’s struggle with depression and anxiety and how we cope together as a couple to manage it. I’m currently partnering with Chesapeake Bay Candle to share their Heritage Collection and I thought this would be the perfect time to share a couple of the sensory strategies and grounding techniques for anxiety we use to calm his anxiety attacks. In case you’re not familiar with grounding techniques for anxiety…

Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a person to the here-and-now and in reality. Grounding skills can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state.

Birds eye view of a candle and succulents

I first heard about sensory strategy and grounding techniques for anxiety from a former co-worker. She used the techniques with her son, but they aren’t just for children. The purpose of these grounding techniques is to redirect your mental focus and regain control of your emotional state. There are a lot of grounding techniques for anxiety you can try, but these work for us. The next time you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, try one of these grounding techniques. Make a note of which ones work best for you so you can quickly implement them when anxiety attacks occur.

Grounding Techniques for Anxiety

If you have any questions about how we use these techniques or our personal experiences, drop a comment below or send an email.

Meditate or Listen to Music

Completing a meditation or listening to music is a great way to use sensory strategy for anxiety. Some of our favorite meditations are available on YouTube. It’s convenient to be able to create a meditation playlist which is accessible from our phones. If you’re at home, pop in your earbuds and sit quietly to complete a meditation and walk through the calming process. When you’re in public, try to locate a quiet bench, public park, or another seating area. If that’s not available, use your car. We’ve done meditations in our car dozens of times and since some of them take only 2 – 3 minutes it’s easily done.

If you’re listening to music, I recommend using your earbuds and listening to classical music. The key is to focus on the music.

  • What instruments can you hear?
  • Can you isolate an instrument and focus on only the sounds from that device?
  • Can you match the melody with your fingertips? Try drumming it out on your wrist or forearm.
  • Are you able to picture the music?
  • What color do you associate with the sounds?
  • How is it moving?

Creating a visual scene to accompany the sounds redirects your mind and helps break away from the anxiety cycle.

Use Aromatherapy

While a lot of people recommend using essential oils for aromatherapy, we prefer using candles made with essential oils. The flickering of the flame is as important as the scent and it triggers the sensory needs that help us break out of the trap of anxiety. Our favorite go-to candles come from Chesapeake Bay Candle. They have a long burn-time (20 – 80 hours, depending on the product) and have rich scents that are perfect for mindful focus. Since Brandon loves the beach and finds being oceanside very calming, we enjoy the Heritage Collection.

The Heritage Collection embraces the natural, rustic charm of the Bay and provides soothing, energizing, and refreshing scents. This collection celebrates Maryland’s idyllic shoreline with authentic fragrances inspired by local botanicals and fruit. All fragrances are beautifully balanced and rounded with natural essential oils.

Candles and earbuds

While you’re burning the candles, watch the flame.

  • Is it short and close to the candle or is it leaping high and flickering around?
  • Is it yellow? Orange? White? Blue?
  • Move your hand slowly over the flame (at least 1 – 2 inches so you’re not burned) and feel the warmth of the flame. Slowly move your hand farther away then closer again and feel the change in temperature on your skin.
  • Close your eyes and focus on the scent of the candle. Try to make out the different smells that make up this unique scent. If you’re burning multiple candles, can you separate them and identify them using only your sense of smell?

The Heritage Collection we are currently burning includes Blood Orange, Wild Lemongrass, White Gardenia, and Milk + Honey. The Milk + Honey is my favorite for aromatherapy because it has such a rich, smooth scent. Brandon prefers the Blood Orange and Lemongrass. 

Try the 5 Senses Grounding Technique

Another quick and easy grounding technique for anxiety is the 5 senses technique. It’s quick, easy, and almost always works for us. All you do is use the world around you to identify items using your primary 5 senses and count backwards from 5. The 5 senses grounding technique works like this…

Ask the person having the anxiety attack to identify:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can smell
  • 3 things you can touch
  • 2 things you can taste
  • 1 thing you can hear

You don’t necessarily have to put the 5 senses in that order so mix it up depending on your location. If we are in a coffee shop or at a restaurant, sometimes we’ll start with 5 things you can taste. If we are somewhere noisy, we may do 5 things you can hear. The purpose of the 5 senses grounding technique is to force your mind to shift away from whatever is making it anxious and concentrate on a new task. It’s one of the simples techniques to implement and nearly always works for us, at least long enough to get ourselves to a quieter and more controlled environment. 

This post is sponsored by Chesapeake Bay Candle but my candle obsession is my own. Shop Chesapeake Bay Candle.

Have you ever tried any grounding techniques for anxiety? Tweet me @ashleyfromhp or leave your thoughts below.