Chicago Therapists Spotlight Techniques for Anxiety Management

Written by: Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.

Date Posted: July 17, 2023 1:15 am

Chicago Therapists Spotlight Techniques for Anxiety Management

Chicago Therapists Spotlight Techniques for Anxiety Management

Key Takeaways

  • Conscious Grounding, also known as Grounding, is a simple and accessible technique that involves observing the surroundings, grounding the body, and practicing mindful breathing to reduce anxiety.
  • One grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 tool for reconnecting with the present moment and reducing anxiety, making it an option for those unable to access treatment.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique that has gained popularity, involving bringing awareness to chosen areas of the body.
  • Biofeedback Therapy is a novel approach that uses sensors and machines to monitor and modify physiological responses to stress and anxiety.
  • Chicago therapists offer a variety of effective anxiety management techniques, providing hope for relief from persistent symptoms. 

Technique 1: Conscious Grounding

Many of us live in our heads, frequently consumed by past regrets or future worries. Conscious Grounding offers an effective antidote to this pervasive mental entanglement. According to a 2018 study by the Meridian University-Bay Area Center, Conscious Grounding, also known as Grounding, has significantly reduced anxiety symptoms. After practicing this technique over six months, participants reported a noticeable decrease in anxiety levels and improved mental clarity.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place: The environment plays a crucial role. Opt for a quiet corner, preferably in nature. If you’re in a city, a park or balcony would work just as well.
  2. Observe your surroundings: Take in the sights, sounds, and smells around you. The rustling leaves, the cool breeze, or the smell of fresh grass can all anchor you to the present moment.
  3. Ground your body: Feel your feet firmly planted on the ground. Imagine roots extending from your feet deep into the earth. This visualization helps to solidify the grounding effect.
  4. Mindful breathing: Now, draw your attention to your breath. Follow its natural rhythm without trying to control it. With practice, this can help to quiet the mind and cultivate a sense of inner peace.

The beauty of Conscious Grounding lies in its simplicity and accessibility. No fancy equipment or unique skills are needed, just your mindful presence and a willingness to connect with the here and now.

Did you know that Conscious Grounding has existed for centuries? Ancient cultures, such as Native Americans and East Asians, recognized the healing power of connecting with the earth, a practice now validated by modern science.

Technique 2: The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) statistics revealed that Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects a staggering 6.8 million adults in the U.S., but a mere 43.2% receive treatment; the gravity of untreated anxiety cannot be overstated. One simple yet incredibly effective technique that can be employed is the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique. Being a tool one can use anywhere and anytime, it is a portable and effective skill. 

Here’s how this technique plays out:

  1. See: Identify five things around you. It could be anything from a painting on the wall to a tree swaying outside your window. This kickstarts the process of reconnecting with your surroundings.
  2. Feel: Touch four different things. Feel the texture of your shirt, the cool surface of your table, the softness of a pillow, or the wind on your face.
  3. Hear: Listen for three distinct sounds. It could be the clock ticking, the humming of an air conditioner, or birds chirping.
  4. Smell: Identify two different smells. It might be the fragrance of your coffee or the aroma of a flower.
  5. Taste: Finally, recognize one thing you can taste. It might be the lingering taste of your last meal or a sip of water.

This technique is a simple and effective lifeline, bringing you back to the present moment, and focusing the mind. It can be applied anywhere and anytime to reduce anxiety symptoms. 

Technique 3: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Technique 3: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), a technique that has steadily gained traction over the years, recently made a surprising cameo in the world of pop culture. In an episode of the popular TV series “Stranger Things” set in the heart of America, Eleven, the show’s protagonist, is seen using PMR to manage her stress and anxiety. 

This mainstream depiction not only underlines the relevance of PMR in today’s anxiety-ridden society but also fosters a broader acceptance of such methods.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process:

  1. Comfortable Position: Begin by finding a comfortable spot to sit or lie down. Loose clothing and a quiet environment can be beneficial.
  2. Tension and Relaxation: Start by focusing on a specific muscle group, like your feet. Tighten the muscles as much as possible and maintain this tension for about 5 seconds.
  3. Release: After holding the tension, abruptly let it go. Feel the muscles relax, and the tension melts away.
  4. Pause: Wait for about 15 seconds before moving to the next muscle group.
  5. Repeat: Continue the process with each muscle group in your body, working your way up from your feet to your head.

While PMR has been widely endorsed for its effectiveness in reducing physical manifestations of stress and anxiety, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Critics argue that the act of tensing muscles can actually induce anxiety in some individuals rather than alleviate it. This is especially relevant for people who may have certain physical conditions, like muscle spasms or chronic pain, where the tensing and relaxing of muscles can exacerbate their discomfort. 

Thus, while PMR holds great promise, it is a reminder that not every therapeutic technique is universally applicable or beneficial. Finding a method that aligns with one’s needs and circumstances is crucial.

Technique 4: Biofeedback Therapy

Biofeedback Therapy, a novel approach to anxiety management, is firmly planted in the mid-20th century. Initially perceived as a fringe science, it gradually gained acceptance in the medical community by the late 1960s due to the promising results demonstrated in stress-related disorders. Today, it is a widely recognized therapeutic technique used by therapists in Chicago and beyond to help individuals control their body’s physiological responses to stress and anxiety.

Here’s a glimpse into the process:

  1. Setup and Sensors: Biofeedback Therapy starts with placing electrical sensors on the skin. These sensors are connected to a machine that translates the body’s signals into visual or auditory forms.
  2. Monitoring Bodily Responses: The sensors pick up various physiological signals, such as heart rate, skin temperature, muscle tension, and brainwave patterns. The therapist can observe these in real-time, allowing an understanding of how your body responds to stress or anxiety.
  3. Training for Self-regulation: With the help of feedback provided by the machine, you are taught to control and modify these physiological responses. The aim is to cultivate healthier patterns over time, which can reduce anxiety.
  4. Homework: The technique requires regular practice outside therapy sessions for maximum benefit. Practicing at home or work ensures that you can handle stressful situations when they arise.

Biofeedback can be effective although it’s not a passive process; the patient must actively engage in it and practice regularly.



Anxiety can be difficult to live with, and it is important to try many techniques on your own and in therapy (if possible) to reduce the intensity and find ways of coping.  We’ve summarized a few techniques in this article that can be seen as options to consider in an anxiety management toolkit.  Please call SpringSource if you would like to learn more about ways to manage anxiety effectively.   

Like this article? Check out, Choosing the Right Therapy for Your Mental and Emotional Health: A Comprehensive Overview