Strategies provided by Macy Bretz, Foster Youth Engagement Intern

square bulletSupporting Another Person (Mini Crisis Support Guidance)

Establishing Safety

Focus on ensuring that the physical and emotional safety of the individual is addressed. Are they safe physically? Do you notice any anxiety signs? (for example continuous scratching causing skin to turn red and skin rubbing off, picking and biting their nails and the surrounding skin, biting and ripping skin off of their lips, or biting the inner portion of their cheek). This step will help you assess how the person is doing and how to move forward. Ensure you respect their personal space at all times.

Being Self-Aware

The person needs to know that you are trustworthy and have self-control. Trust issues are typical for those who have experienced trauma, they have a fear of opening up to others and giving them the chance to hurt them. It can be easy for us to forget that as much as we know we are entering the situation with the best intentions in mind, their activation tells them to protect themselves from us as much as others. Taking time to be aware of yourself, what is coming up for you will go a long way.

Taking Time

Emotional safety is also important. Take some time before jumping into a conversation about coping. You could talk about what's going through their mind, build trust, help them process their feelings and get that out. Sometimes the best way to meet their needs looks like just sitting with them and letting them know that you're there, that they aren’t alone and you will be ready to talk when they are ready to talk and process what's happening.


You could start the conversation with a calm voice by saying “Hey, I'm noticing that you may be having some anxiety right now. What are some things that have helped you in the past?” You may have to provide options (they can’t remember or haven’t found something particularly useful to them), it could be to draw, color, fidget with something, chew gum, suck on a piece of candy or simply drink water.

Building Trust

How do we go about building that trust? By making sure they have control of the situation and understand our intentions. Offer choices for the immediate situation you are both in (for example regarding the location, lightning or temperature of the place where you will be, whether to invite or call someone else) and reassuring them that they set up the pace of the time you will spend together. If you need to temporarily move to another location or use your phone, make sure to explain why prior to doing it. Be straightforward with them, let them know “I don't know exactly what you are going through but if you are willing to explain to me what's going through your mind or share with me what can be helpful to you now, I can try my best to support you.” They might be interested to hear about your experiences and what has helped you overcome difficult situations in the past. “Would it be helpful if I share some of the things that have helped me?” Giving choices and being open can be meaningful ways to connect and build trust.

Thanking Them

Whatever the outcome of the conversation or whether it actually happened, thank them for their time and for allowing you to be with them during a difficult time.

square bulletMental Grounding Techniques

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Notice FIVE things you see around you (could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings). FOUR things you can touch around you (could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet). THREE things you hear (could be any external sound but if you can hear your belly rumbling that counts too!). TWO things you can smell (could be a pencil, or the pillow in your bedroom or may you prefer to take a brief walk to find a scent outside of where you are). ONE thing you can taste (what does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?).


Notice THREE sounds you hear, THREE parts of your body — your fingers, shoulders, and then feet, THREE things you see.

Imagine Something

While this may seem vague, try focusing on a pleasant mental image. Imagine yourself on a beach or a mountain, or anywhere you consider to be calming or joyful.


You can also count to 10 followed by counting backward or say the alphabet very slowly. You can even try to say the alphabet backward.

Describe a Normal Activity in Detail

Let’s say you’re doing laundry. Describe what you’re doing in detail: “First, I separate colors from darks, then I let the machine fill, then I pour in the detergent….”

Name Things in Different Categories

This may seem odd, but you can think of it as a game where you try to think of different kinds of dogs, rock musicians, animals, or famous people. Pick a category and name things that fall into that category.

Think of Something Funny

This can help to jolt yourself out of the moment. If you have a smartphone and happen to come across funny videos every once in a while, save those videos so you can watch them in moments of panic or anxiety.

Describe the Details of Your Environment

The point of this exercise is to use all your senses. You can point out details like: “The walls are white,” “there are three red chairs,” “this is a white table,” “it smells like a vanilla candle,” etc. You can describe colors, smells, sounds, and textures, plus you can do this anywhere.

square bulletPhysical Grounding Techniques

Transfering Feelings

Grab onto a chair or pillow as tightly as you can. Try to imagine transferring whatever you’re feeling to the object in your hands.

Touching Objects

Touch different objects around you. These may include items like a pen, a jacket, a chair, the walls, or a table. Focus on the textures of these objects, whether they’re warm or cold, their weight, and so on

Stretching Out

If you’ve ever heard of shaking out your nerves, this technique is similar. Stretch by extending your arms and legs, focusing on everything from the tips of your fingers to your toes. Gently roll your head around and straighten your back.

Watering Your Skin

Run cool or warm water over your hands and face.

Focusing on Your Body

Focus on your body. Focus on wiggling your fingers, the weight of your body on a chair, or your breathing.


Focus on your breathing. Breathing is one of the most common grounding techniques for anxiety attacks, and that’s because it works. If you’re experiencing anxiety, you may breathe rapidly or feel as if you’re struggling to breathe, and even thinking about it can help you slow down and deepen each breath. Try focusing on inhaling and exhaling your breath. You can even repeat a pleasant word to yourself every time you exhale.

square bulletSoothing Grounding Techniques

Say Kind Things to Yourself

Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend or a child. For instance, you can say, “You’re a good person going through something difficult,” or “You’re strong, and you can get through this.”

Think of Your Favorite Things

This can include your favorite color, favorite food, favorite drink, favorite movie, and so on. This technique is similar to imagining something joyful or relaxing.

Picture Your Loved Ones or Look at Pictures

Similar to thinking of your favorite things, you can also think of or look at pictures of your loved ones. A great tip is to print your favorite photos and keep an album of your favorite pictures to look back on.

Remember an Inspiring Quote

Whether it’s a quote from a good book or a lyric from your favorite song, a good grounding technique is thinking of an inspiring quote.

Treat Yourself

Once a week, you treat yourself to a nice dinner. Daily, you can take the time out of your day to focus on self-care and do things like taking a bubble bath, journal, read, or meditate.

Co-regulate with Another Being

Go on a walk or sit together, pet a dog, go to a shop or event where people are present, take some deep breaths while standing on the grass, or care for a plant in your home. Notice and appreciate what it’s like to be with life.


Try a guided meditation.

square bulletMini-Strategies for Any Day

Movie or Playlist

Identify a clip, movie or song that always makes you feel better. You could even create a playlist that can be waiting for you for when you need it

Brisk Walk

If feeling tension in your body, have a brisk walk around the block or indoors. The emphasis is on the fast pace for a short period of time.

Make Art

Create some art and use any medium you have at hand. Think of it as a transference from your mind and feelings to what you are creating.

Set Reminders

Paint a fingernail a different color to remind you ______ (fill in the blank with your empowerment affirmation, i.e. “I GOT THIS!).

Sticky Notes

Write yourself a sticky note reminding you of a goal you are working towards or something positive about yourself. This note can be there to help you when things get hard.

Co-regulate with Another Being

Go on a walk or sit together, pet a dog, go to a shop or event where people are present, take some deep breaths while standing on the grass, or care for a plant in your home. Notice and appreciate what it’s like to be with life.


Maintain a gratitude journal or practice (name 3 things you were grateful for at the end of the day).

Appreciation Buddy

Start an appreciation practice with another person or being (name what you appreciate, and support each other in making it a habit).