New Year, Same You, and Helpful Grounding Techniques from our Kitchener Therapists

The start of a new year typically brings with it a feeling of newness. As we count down to the 1st of January, it’s almost as if we are struck with the opportunity to start again, to take from the previous 12 months and implement all that we have learned into the upcoming year. A common tradition is to set a number of goals and objectives we would like to achieve, such as relationship goals, personal goals or professional goals. 

It’s all very helpful to keep us on track and help us grow.

But, while we like the idea of wiping the slate clean and moving into a new year with a blank canvas, the fact is, that is simply not how it works. We still bring all of our unprocessed and even our already worked through “stuff” into the new year. It does not dissipate with the consistency of time.

If we look at trauma, for example, our bodies both remember and store trauma. It can be any kind of trauma: emotional, physical, experiential and so on. Either way, past traumatic events have been found to have a significant impact on our brain, which in turn produces negative behaviours that we have developed to help us cope. COCA Kitchener therapists are experienced with trauma counselling services and work with the body to heal the heightened nervous system. 

Somatic ways to help cope with trauma

Increasing body awareness, and making use of techniques like breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques are excellent tools when it comes to working with trauma patients. Our body’s responses during somatic therapy, such as crying, shaking, or shivering, are considered to be a discharge of energy that has been trapped in our bodies. Common techniques in somatic therapy that have been used to release this trapped energy are called grounding techniques.

What are Grounding Techniques?

Grounding techniques are coping strategies that help to separate you from the distress of your current emotional state or situation. They essentially help you to reconnect to the present and bring you out of your state of panic, stress, or PTSD flashback to name a few.

One such example is the 54321 technique. This is a simple yet highly effective grounding technique used to help with anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. Our therapists in Kitchener Waterloo have outlined the simple 5-step process for you below. 

Start by taking long, deep, slow breaths to bring about a sense of calm. Once you have found your breath, go through the following exercises:

  • 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. 
  • 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. 
  • 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. 
  • 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. 
  • 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

This technique is one of many options you could use if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Other physical grounding techniques include:

  • Breathing exercises
    Try what’s called “Boxed Breathing” – breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and so on until you feel grounded.
  • Stretching
    Perform light stretches while you focus on your breath, paying close attention to the physical sensations that arise.
  • Exercise
    Whether simple jumping jacks or a long run on a favorite trail, feeling the sensations of exercise on your body can bring you back from a place of panic.
  • Mindfulness
    Engage your senses by simply focusing your awareness on the present moment and your bodily sensations.
  • Senses
    Focus on a particular sensation like holding an ice cube and noticing what it feels like or smelling an essential oil.

If you do struggle with stress and anxiety, consider reading our 7 tips to help simmer down the negative impact of anxiety

When to Practice Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are not only effective when you are already in a stressed, anxious or overwhelmed state. These techniques are also incredibly beneficial to practice when you’re calm and composed.

If you do frequently practice these techniques when you are in a calm state, you are essentially helping to regulate your body more periodically. In turn, this helps you feel more prepared to take on challenges that may arise in the future. Likewise, when one is in a stressed state it is helpful to use these techniques to self-regulate and come back to the present.

If stress and anxiety is something that you struggle with regularly, and you continue to have trouble refocusing or coping with these feelings, please consider our Kitchener counselling services. Contact COCA Psychotherapy counselling services in Kitchener here to book an appointment or give us a call on 226-336-5787 for a free consultation over the phone.


Smith, S. 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety. Behavioral Health Partners Blog. 2018.

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