8 Simple Grounding Strategies for When Overwhelm Starts to Take Over

Overwhelm can be a downward spiral – you start to feel stressed, you focus on how stressed you are, your stress levels start to stress you out, which means you get stressed more easily with the next challenge. Before you know it, it is all too much and overwhelm takes over. Use these simple grounding strategies at the first signs of overwhelm to avoid the downward spiral.

simple grounding strategies:

1.  Connect with your breath

If you are familiar with yoga, mindfulness, mediation and other self-care practices, you will already be familiar with the impact of the breath on our mental, emotional, and physical state. Take a moment to think of a time that you felt stressed, anxious, or fearful. What was happening with your breath? Was is deep or shallow? Was it slow or fast?

Shallow fast breathing keeps the mind and body in a state of stress response. We are poised for attack, ready to fight for our lives. Whilst this is a useful state when we need to respond quickly with drastic action, this is not a useful state to maintain. Take two minutes to consciously change your breathing – take deep, slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Notice the impact on your mental and physical state.

10 Grounding Strategies for Dealing with Overwhelm
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2.  Mental download

If you are having trouble thinking clearly, suspend judgement for 5 minutes and download everything on to paper. It does not have to be neat, and it does not have to be pretty.

Once it is out of your head and on to paper, take a 5 minute break. Make yourself a cup of tea, take a walk, talk to a friend.

Then come back and look at the situation in front of you, and see if you can start to develop some clarity.

3.  Move your body

If you are struggling to think clearly, experiencing a mental block, or simply overwhelmed, move your body. If you are sitting, stand up. If you are standing, walk. If you are walking, run. Move your body in any way you like – do yoga, bike, dance…

As a mentor of mine used to say “When the bum is numb, the brain is the same!”, so move your body and the brain will follow.

4.  Catharsis

Catharsis is defined as the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions (from the oxford dictionary)

If you are stuck in your head, or unable to move past a mental block or overwhelming emotion, share it with a trusted neutral party. The process of sharing the experience and state can provide us with a perspective beyond our own. Have you ever shared a “problem” that felt huge and all-consuming at the time, but after sharing suddenly seemed much smaller and less significant?

Engaging in catharsis can provide mental and emotional relief that leaves us more resourced to approach the situation with a clarity and purpose. However, be mindful that you do not move beyond catharsis into a less useful territory – ranting, angry offloading, and dwelling on an issue without beginning the process of focusing on solutions will never lead you to a helpful place!

10 Grounding Strategies for Dealing with Overwhelm
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5.  Get outside

There are a multitude of science backed benefits of spending time in nature including stress relief, improved concentration and mental health, and clearer and more creative thinking. There are even more surprising benefits such as improving short-term memory.

A short walk, lunch in the park, or scheduling a task outside rather than inside can be a simple strategy that generates big results.

6.  The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique

When things are really feeling overwhelming and you are struggling to cope, this technique can help to ground you, resulting in a calmer state.

Close your eyes for a moment and take 5 deep breaths. Open your eyes and name:

  • 5 things that you can see
  • 4 things that you can touch
  • 3 things that you can hear (external, not internal)
  • 2 things that you can smell
  • 1 thing that you can taste

7.  Challenge your negative self-talk

Take 5 minutes to notice your thoughts. When you notice negative self-talk take a moment to challenge it. Ask:

  • It this really true?
  • What would I say if someone else was in this situation?
  • How well is this thought serving me?
  • What would be a more useful way to consider this?

8 Simple Grounding Strategies for Overwhelm
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8.  Perspective shift

If you are having difficulty gaining perspective on a problem spend 5 minutes on the following exercise.

Imagine you are talking someone that you admire and care for. They share with you a situation that they are in, or a challenge that they are facing. This situation or challenge just happens to be the same as the one you are currently facing.

  • What advice would you give them?
  • What would they do?
  • What learning can you take from this?


Grounding strategies can help to stop the downward spiral into overwhelm. Next, consider developing some effective habits to avoid overwhelm altogether.

Grab a copy of my FREE resources to get you started below.

Which of these grounding strategies could you implement? Share in the comments below. 

Need a quick reference guide?

8 Simple Grounding Strategies for Overwhelm
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