Grounding techniques for panic attacks when recovering from narcissistic abuse

By Laura Jemetta

5 minute read

Generalised anxiety, panic attacks, even PTSD or C-PTSD are common responses to narcissistic abuse. Whether you are still suffering from narcissistic abuse, or have set yourself free, you just might need some tools to handle anxiety when it hits. In this article you will find some grounding techniques that have helped me in my recovery journey.

 What are Grounding Techniques?

Grounding techniques are ways to bring you back into the present moment and can be useful when you are experiencing general anxiety or a panic attack. If you’re like me, you possibly experience rushing or spiralling thoughts during periods of high anxiety, and grounding techniques can be a great way to get you out of your head and back into the present and physical moment.

This is so important when recovering from narcissistic abuse to give you the head space you need to heal.

grounding techniques recovering from narcissistic abuse

Many grounding exercises focus on the senses as a way to ground yourself, but there is no right or wrong way to practice grounding techniques.

As with everything, you should always make sure to choose the grounding technique appropriate for you and your particular circumstances.

Below are some suggested grounding techniques for panic attacks when recovering from narcissistic abuse:

Focus on your Breath

The first thing I usually do when experiencing high anxiety, is focus on my breath. During periods of anxiety, your breath tends to be shallow and short, increasing your anxiety.

If you can focus on making your breath steady, deep and measured, this should calm you down as well as give you something physical to focus on in the present moment.

You could try breathing in ten times; or focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.

As long as it deepens and steadies your breath, this technique should slow your body and mind down.

Hold Something Physical

You can also try holding onto something physical to ground yourself. Take something in your hand and focus on that. Only that.

It could be an eraser, a medallion, or a coin you have in your wallet. It could be something specific that you reach for every time you need it, or whatever you have on hand at the time.

Whatever it is, hold onto it, focus on it, and think about it. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What does it sound like if you tap it against a surface?

Focus only on the object in your hand and be in the present moment.

Repeat a Mantra

Do you have a helpful mantra? When experiencing an anxiety attack, I sometimes find it helpful to repeat my mantra to myself. You could repeat over and over again to yourself: ‘I am safe’, or ‘This feeling will pass’, or ‘Thoughts are just thoughts’, or ‘I’ve got this’.

If you can, saying a helpful mantra out loud to yourself can help to ground you in the present. Repeating your mantra internally also works.

The 5,4,3,2,1 Exercise

This exercise is designed to bring your thoughts onto something other than the anxiety you are feeling. The exercise involves you naming the following things:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can feel
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 good thing about yourself

grounding technique using senses

You can do this exercise in your head wherever you are, or you might like to take out a pen and paper and write them down.

Do Something Physical

This will help to ground yourself in the space you are in, and there are any number of things you could do. You could go to the bathroom and run your hands under the water. Focus on the feeling of the cool water trickling over your hands.

You could rub moisturiser into your hands and arms, feeling the soothing sensation of lotion on your skin.

You could even make a cup of tea, taking special care to notice the sound of the boiling water as you fill the cup, and focusing on stirring in the right amount of sugar or milk.

The options are nearly endless; just choose something that involves your body, which will help to get you out of your head and into the present moment.

These have worked for me in slowing down my thoughts, breath and a racing heart allowing me to centre myself.

The more I practised these, the more I built confidence in knowing I could beat anxiety when it surfaced which ultimately helped me to leave the narcissist in my life behind. Do try these techniques, who knows just how much they might free you too.

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