Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Anxiety rocks can help you calm nerves immediately. Here's how they're used and how they can help you.
Did you ever play with rocks as a kid? Maybe you skipped pebbles on a lake or kept a pet rock? Adults can benefit from this natural treasure as well.
Grounding stones are a tool to practice mindfulness in a tangible way. Sometimes they’re called worry stones, anxiety stones, or healing rocks. They're often used to help with high anxiety, panic, or PTSD.
Here's a look at the background of these calming rocks, and some tips for using them to deal with anxiety, stress, and related challenges.
(Interested in using this tool for your clients, class, or event? Check out our grounding stone activity kit here.)
Steps to Use Your Anxiety Stone
How to Use Grounding Stones: Graphic
History of Rocks
Decorate Your Own Anxiety Stones
What are Grounding Stones?
The idea of using rocks for soothing anxiety and stress has been around for many decades, if not centuries. They work to stop anxiety by:
Helping you focus on your senses
Distracting you from worries about the past or future
Providing a tangible item to focus on
Reminding you to practice mindfulness
How Mindfulness Calms Anxiety Quickly
Grounding stones are a great way to practice awareness, the essential element of mindfulness practice. I first learned about awareness of the present moment in meditation class, and then later as a DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) therapist. Calming through sensory awareness is a staple in DBT, a popular therapy for a variety of mental health issues.
Mindfulness is proven to help with depression symptoms, pain management, and anxiety. MRI studies by Harvard researchers show that mindfulness activities calm the amygdala, which activates during times of stress or worry.
More recent research in Denmark has shown that daily practice of mindfulness, in this case use of the Headspace app, helped change brain focus. Those who used the app had an easier time forgetting their fears, compared to those who would continue to focus on them (who didn’t use the app).
As I began teaching mindfulness to my own clients, I would run into a specific problem. Many people were suffering from high anxiety and trauma and PTSD symptoms. When your mind is in a constant state of anxiety, rumination, or stress, it’s pretty hard to focus on much else.
In the DBT program we would often use lotions to notice physical sensations and smells. This was a great introduction to mindfulness, and helped those who had trouble concentrating to notice their physical sensations. We would look for colors, or even hold cubes of ice. All of these were helpful at times.
At some point, we started holding rocks to help with this sensory focusing. The idea of using, teaching, and decorating grounding stones was born. It became a staple of my practice.
You might have heard of kindness rocks, inspiration stones, or healing crystals. Any and all of these can be used as grounding stones.
I've recently put together a kit that outlies all of these steps, and also includes a poster, worksheet, and audio meditation. You can learn about it here.
Steps to Use Your Anxiety Stone
Here’s how I teach grounding with stones in my office (or these days via telehealth).
Choose a stone if one is available. It can be one like this, polished for this purpose, or a plain stone from your driveway. (If you can't find one, simply choose a nearby small object and modify the instructions for the alternative object.)
Close your eyes. Simply notice the stone in your hand. Be aware of the feeling, texture, and weight of the stone. Notice what your hand feels like holding it. Notice its temperature. Spend about one minute on this step.
Next, continue to hold the stone. Now, notice any sounds around you (not necessarily related to the stone). Often we tune out sounds. Bring back any sound inside the room, or outside the room. Just be aware of them.
Now, open your eyes and look at the stone. Look for any strange lines, imperfections, colors, textures, etc. We often see things but don’t look at details. Bring all of that into your awareness.
Finally, bring your attention back to the physical sensation of the stone. Notice the feelings in your palm and fingers.
Notice what it was like to bring your attention to the stone. Do you feel any different?