5 Grounding Techniques for Adolescents With Anxiety Disorder

by Polaris Teen Center | Apr 3, 2017 | Anxiety, Resources, Treatment

helpful tips for anxiety

Tips for Overcoming An Anxiety Attack: PTSD Grounding Exercises

Raising a teen with an anxiety disorder can feel like a constant struggle. As a parent, you may be facing some extraordinarily difficult moments and may be unsure of how to effectively approach this complex, widely varying mental disease. Anxiety disorders also include panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, typically causing a person to feel disoriented from reality.

These attacks are triggered when an individual has a mental flashback of a traumatic event or encounters a similar experience that triggers a past trauma. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help immediately. By employing timely countermeasures and adopting new grounding exercises for PTSD, you can help your child stay grounded in the event of a panic attack.

Grounding techniques typically fall within two major categories of awareness: sensory and cognitive. Said techniques will help reorient your teen to the present. This allows them to manage any intense anxiety or overwhelming feelings in a calming, productive way. Next time your loved one is faced with an untimely anxiety attack, take a few minutes and try to implement a few of these grounding techniques for anxiety to help them regain mental focus.

Examples of Sensory Awareness Grounding Exercises

One of the most popular grounding methods is known as the 5 senses grounding technique. This technique is done by first tracing your hand on a piece of paper. After tracing is complete, start by labeling each finger, using the names of the five senses.

Take each labeled finger and associate a symbol related to the sensory feature. For instance, you may use the index finger to represent the sense of touch. In this case, you could use the symbol of a furry puppy or kitten to label touch. After labeling each finger appropriately, place the picture in an obvious location, such as the door of your refrigerator.

This ensures your child will easily be able to see and associate the image, making it easier for them to memorize. Whenever anxiety is triggered, instruct your child to take slow, deep breaths. Then, ask him or her to put their hand in front of their face and stare at it, looking at each finger and remembering the symbols associated with the exercise from memory.

The 54321 Game

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is another effective coping strategy for managing a panic attack. This grounding technique for teens may sound trivial but can be an effective method to ground your teen in the present moment.

Begin by asking your teen about objects in the immediate surrounding area:

  • Name five things you can touch in this room. Touch can be done with your hands or even feet.
  • Name four things you can see.
  • Name three things you can smell.
  • Name two things you can hear.
  • Name one good food you like to eat.

The answers provided will give you an idea of the current state of mind and level of anxiety.

Cognitive Awareness Exercises & Grounding Techniques:

In the final sensory exercise, you could ask your child to maintain sight and focus on their surroundings and note details. Ask them to hold something and have them focus on your voice or listen to a neutral conversation (even the TV works). Another effective technique that many caregivers often use simply involves letting the patient listen to music and having them focus on the lyrics to a song.

Cognitive awareness techniques involve mental cognition and are typically structured in the form of questions. To get started, ask your child a series of questions related to the immediate surroundings. This will help to re-orient your child in the current place and time. For instance, you could ask:

  • What day is today?
  • What season is it?
  • What is the date?
  • How old are you?
  • What month is it?
  • Where are you?
  • What year is it?

Other grounding exercises can be done in isolation rather than in groups of related tasks. Examples of these exercises can be found below:

  • Ask the teen to stomp their feet firmly into the ground. This will remind him or her of where they are.
  • Let them put a rubber band on their wrist and allow them to pluck the rubber band and feel the small pain or sting on their skin.
  • If they are sitting, ask them to stand. If they are standing, ask them to sit. The patient should focus on the change in movement. This will remind them that they are in control.
  • Tell them to visualize a big red STOP sign. It symbolizes an effort to stop the traumatic memory.
  • Ask your teen to list items they see or feel in the house. What room are they describing?
  • Allow them to go for a walk outside and ask them to take note of the things they see, such as houses. How many are there?
  • Give them their favorite video game to play or let them watch their favorite TV show.
  • Let them engage in physical exercise, such as bike riding.

With these exercises, you will have some basic tools in the event your loved one suffers from an anxiety attack. Above all, it is critical to seek the proper treatment and medical care if your child is experiencing severe anxiety attacks.

If you or your loved one suffers from an anxiety disorder, please contact our residential treatment team at Polaris Teen Center. We specialize in helping troubled youth and adolescents effectively manage their anxiety, to live happy, fulfilled, productive lives.

To speak with an admissions specialist or to learn more, contact us.


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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).