Using an Object to Reduce Feelings of Anxiety, Stress and Overwhelm
Updated: Feb 25, 2022
We’ve all been there before. Whether it is getting lost in unwanted memories of the past or dreading and worrying about something in the future, feeling like everything is just too overwhelming to handle or feeling hopeless about a situation, there are times when stress and anxiety can get the best of us.
If your brain senses a threat (real or not) it may activate your stress response system to deal with it. This is how we survive. However, unless there is something you can do right now to fix the situation, there is no point in letting these thoughts get to you.
This is when it is important to have tools to stop thinking about the past or future and to focus on grounding your attention onto the present moment, which can be calming and can help you cope with difficult emotions.
I’ve discussed breathing techniques for stress and anxiety in a previous post and now I would like to talk about another technique to feel calm: a grounding technique that uses your senses to connect with an object in your vicinity. I believe that the use of one object to focus on is powerful because it can give you a new perspective on objects, noticing many details that you wouldn’t usually notice. It is impressive how quickly our skills improve in this with practice. On a side note, a high level of attention to detail like this is a helpful skill to use when reflecting and identifying feelings when journaling or in therapy.
The goal of this technique is to ground yourself into the present moment by focusing on your object and describe it in great detail. You can do this with any tangible object. Use as many of your senses as possible to examine it and focus on it asking yourself these questions:
Sight: What colour is your object? Do you see any patterns on it? What is the shape of it? Can you see through it? Is it shiny or dull? If you’ve seen it before, is there anything new or different that you notice when you take a closer look?
Touch: How heavy is your object? What temperature does it feel like? What is the texture that you feel? Does it feel soft, smooth or rough on your skin?
Sound: What can you hear when you use your object? What does it sound like when you move parts of it? When you scratch it? When you tap the object on a hard surface, does it make a solid sound or a hollow sound?
Smell: Can you describe the smell? Does it smell familiar or new? Is the smell strong or mild?
Taste (if appropriate): What flavor do you experience? Sour, sweet, savory, or bland? Is it a strong bold taste or a mild taste? Can you identify the different elements that make up the taste?
Below are three videos where I demonstrate how you might use different objects to ground yourself into the present moment, which can help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm. I originally intended for these to be shorter videos but then I got caught up in identifying all the details!
1. My first object is a tissue paper. Light, white, soft, with a muffled sound, and a faint clean smell.
2. My second object is a glass of orange mango juice. Bright colour, cold, with different sounds from the ice and glass, a mild orange smell and taste of this with a hint of other fruit juices.
3. My third object is a pen. Silver and black in colour with some designs and contraptions inside, smooth with a very pointy tip and a snap sound when I take off the cap, and no smell.
I hope that this post was helpful to you! Please remember to practice your favourite grounding or relaxation technique everyday, so that it can fall into place more naturally when you really need it. Last but not least I am sending a special thanks to Genny Heroux at roomtobreathe.ca for teaching me this technique!
Wishing you the very best,
Jennifer N Schultz
At Clear Living Connection, I provide counselling and therapy services for residents of West St. Paul, Winnipeg and surrounding areas. Connect with me and book a 20 minute free consultation to explore ways to experience more authentic joy in your life.