Grounding exercises help to switch off the Fight-Flight-Freeze response and activate our body’s relaxation response called the Rest and Digest response. They reduce mental and physical anxiety.


1. Abdominal breathing:

Take a couple of deep breaths while sitting on a chair with your hands behind your head.
This helps your diaphragm and ribs expand.

Square breathing: breathe in 4 counts – hold breath 4 counts – breathe out 4 counts – hold breath 4 counts. Repeat the cycle a couple of times.

4-7-8 breathing: breathe in 4 counts – hold breath 7 counts – breathe out 8 counts. Repeat cycle a couple of times.

Breath counting: without changing your breath, count “one” to yourself as you exhale. The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “ten.”

Yawning: intentional yawning stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and triggers the relaxation response.

2. Guided Imagery

This involves creating a detailed mental image of an attractive and peaceful setting or environment. The practice of guided imagery is extremely portable, as it relies on nothing more than one's imagination and concentration abilities which people always have at their disposal (provided they aren't exhausted). Like most techniques requiring mental concentration, it is usually most successful when practiced without interruption in a setting free from distractions, but these are not essential. There is no single correct way to use visual imagery for stress relief. Here are some guidelines:

  • Find a private calm space and make yourself comfortable
  • Close your eyes.
    Take a few slow, deep breaths to centre your attention and calm yourself.
  • Imagine yourself in a beautiful location, where everything is as you would ideally have it.
    Some people visualize a beach, a mountain, a forest, or a being in a favourite room sitting on a favourite chair.
  • Imagine yourself becoming calm and relaxed. Alternatively, imagine yourself smiling, feeling happy and having a good time.
  • Focus on the different sensory attributes present in your scene so as to make it more vivid in your mind. For instance, if you are imagining the beach, spend some time imagining the warmth of the sun on your skin, the smell of the ocean, seaweed and salt spray, and the sound of the waves, wind and seagulls. The more you can invoke your senses, the more vivid the entire image will become.
  • Remain within your scene, touring its various sensory aspects for five to ten minutes or until you feel relaxed.
  • While relaxed, assure yourself that you can return to this place whenever you want or need to relax.
  • Open your eyes again and rejoin your world.

3. Decide on and store a happy memory

Whenever you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed go back to a chosen memory in as much detail as possible. Think about what happened, how it smelled, what you were wearing, what the weather was like. Take yourself back there, and immerse yourself in it for a moment. And now take 3 deep breaths, slowly in and out.

4. Self-Soothe with Six Senses

Hearing: Listen to your favourite music and play it over and over.

Smell: Put on your favourite lotion.

Taste: Eat some of your favourite foods, drink your favourite non-alcoholic beverage, eat one thing mindfully; don’t overdo it!

Touch: Take a long bath or shower, put a cold cloth on your head, change into your most comfortable clothes.

Movement: Stretch, rock yourself gently, dance.

Vision: Take a walk around the hospital/facility, look at a photo album, notice colours in the sunset/sunrise.

5. Improve the Moment with:

Imagery: Imagine scenes of a calming, safe place. Imagine things going well; imagine coping well.

Meaning: Find or create some purpose, meaning, or value in the pain.

Prayer/ Meditation: Open your heart to a supreme being or greater wisdom. Ask for strength to bear the pain in this moment.

Relaxation: Try to relax your muscles by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group starting with the forehead and working down. Download a relaxing video or audio; stretch; take a bath.

Emotional distancing: change the interpretation of an emotional event by increasing your psychological distance from it. The most immediate and basic strategy is self-talk. Self-talk, silently talking to yourself in the third person, is a relatively effortless form of self-control.
When you are feeling anxious talk to yourself kindly as you might to someone else in distress, offering yourself simple, direct encouragement.

6. When emotional arousal is very high:

Temperature: Reduce the temperature of your face with cold water to calm down fast.

Intense Exercise: Engage in intense aerobic exercise for a short while (10-15 minutes).
Expend your body’s stored-up physical energy by running, walking fast, jumping jacks or dancing!

Paced Breathing: Slow down your breath so that you are breathing in for about 4 seconds and out for 5-8 seconds. Do this for 1-2 minutes to bring down your arousal.