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How to Weather an Emotional Storm: The Practice of "Dropping Anchor"

When emotions are strong, it’s difficult to know what to do and it may feel like the emotional storm will never pass. Although there is no way to either avoid or get rid of the storm, it is possible to anchor ourselves so that you are not pushed around by it. The following is an ACT practice called dropping anchor that is effective, easy to do and does not take long.

The Dropping Anchor Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide

Before you start, find a comfortable place to sit or stand. Let's begin:

Step 1: Grounding Your Feet

- Take a moment to settle your feet flat on the ground; press down firmly and notice the contact with the ground

Step 2: Straightening the Spine

- Gently straighten your spine

- Notice any subtle changes in energy you might experience as you straighten your spine

Step 3: Relaxing the Shoulders

- Gently invite your shoulders to drop naturally

- Notice any subtle release of tension

Step 4: Observing Your Surroundings

- Begin by looking around your space. As you look around, be curious as if it is the first time you’ve looked around the space you’re in and notice and name the colours, shapes, and objects that surround you.

Step 5: Listening to Sounds

- Tune in to the sounds in your environment. Again, with curiosity as if those sounds were fresh and new to you, notice and name any sounds you hear.

Step 6: Checking In with Your Body

- Dropping anchor is not about distracting ourselves from the thoughts and feelings we are experiencing. By observing them, notice that there is part of you that observes the emotional storm and it’s somewhat distinct from the storm - similar to the fact that the sky is somewhat distinct from the storm passing through it.

- Turn your attention inward, noticing what’s happening inside

- Notice any physical sensations. Acknowledge areas of tension and moments of relaxation. Simply observe without judgement, without trying to change anything.

Step 7: Asking Yourself, "What Am I Doing Right Now?"

- Ask yourself what you are doing right now. Keep it simple, “I’m sitting”, “I’m standing”, “I’m reading”, etc. Let the simplicity of this answer bring you back to the simplicity of the present moment. Just be there fully for what you are doing right now.

Step 8: Move Your Body in a Way That Feels Good

- Although you can’t control the storm of emotions in your body at this moment, you can choose to move in a way that feels good to you. Take some time to move and notice that you still have power over what you do in this moment.


Dropping anchor involves 3 main aspects, see if you can identify which aspect is in each of the steps: A - acceptance and acknowledgement; C - contact with the present moment; E - engagement.

John Woychuk is a Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association; a Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional, ADHD-Certified Clinical Services Provider and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional. Please contact me for appointment inquiries.

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