“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.” – J.R. Rim
What are grounding techniques?
A grounding technique is a practice that can help pull you out of flashbacks, unwanted memories as well as negative or challenging emotions.
They are meant to distract from what you’re experiencing by helping you focus on the present moment and nothing else. There three main areas of grounding techniques including:
- Physical techniques
- Mental techniques
- Soothing techniques
Grounding techniques can be helpful for anyone but particularly if you are dealing with anxiety, PSTD/flashbacks, dissociation, and self-harm urges. Since these can often take you out of the present moment or make life not seem real.
These techniques bring you back to now, they also can create a space for the distressing feelings to live but not thrive. This is important because to get over or to help with a lot of these issues you have to face them, almost like exposure therapy.
They have to be practiced, when you are going through something it can be very difficult to remind yourself of these techniques if you haven’t previously done them. It is also a good way of figuring out which ones work best for you.
These grounding techniques involve your five senses.
1. Put your hands under water
The water can be either cold or hot, or you can go back and forth. Feel the water on your hands, focus on how it feels dripping off and how the different temperatures change how you feel.
If possible you can also do this in the shower.
2. Breathing exercises
If you have a specific breathing pattern that you know helps calm you down use that one but some solid options are also:
- Box breathing
- In through the nose out through the mouth
- Stomach breathing
While you are breathing feel your lungs and/or your diaphragm expanding and shrinking with each breath. Feel yourself sucking in the air and pushing it out.
3. Holding a piece of ice
This is similar to the first one, all you have to do is grab a piece of ice and hold it in your hand. Take note of how it feels, how long it takes to melt, how the feeling changes as it melts.
4. Move your body
It can be something as simple as stretching, doing a few jumping jacking or jogging on place. Focus on each moment and how your body feels while doing them. How your body feels on the floor, the sound your feet make when they hit the floor, what your pulse feels like while moving.
5. Listen to your surroundings or play music
What is around you? Are there birds chirping? The distant sounds of traffic? Listen to what people are saying, what language they are speaking, remind yourself of where you are.
If the sounds are the thing causing you distress throw in some headphones and play some music. Focus on every little part of the sounds, the faint bass in the background, the steady drumbeat, the vocals harmonizing.
6. Go on a walk
It can around the block for five minutes but short walks have magical power in them. Pick something to concentrate on, it can be your steps, your posture, the wind, the sounds, or anything else you’d like. Focus on it for the entire walk, if you are focusing on your steps you can count them or focus on how you are walking. Feel your feet each time they hit the ground and breathe in the fresh air.
7. Feel yourself in your body
You can do this sitting, standing, or laying down. Focus on how your body feels, ground yourself in your body. What feels still or lose, how each breathe travels through your body. Feel the weight of your own body and the presence that it has.
8. 5-4-3-2-1 method
This will engage all of your senses. Think about five things you see, four things you hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
While doing this, try your best to focus on things you might not pay attention to, and fully commit to completing all five things.
9. Focus on a scent
I personally like doing this with peppermint oil particularly because it is easy to travel with. Find a fragrance that you like, inhale in slowly and focus on both your breathing and the scent. Note the qualities of what you are smelling.
These grounding techniques include mental distraction to help redirect all of the negative and distressing thoughts back to the present moment.
10. Recite an anchoring phrase
An anchoring phrase is full of truths, it can be something like “I am [full name], I am [X] years old, I live in [city, state]. Today is [date]. It is [time].”
This is a more basic phrase but you can add to it as well. For instance, you could add “I’m on my break. I am hungry. I can see the fun coming through the clouds.”
You can say this once and continue to add to it until you feel grounded or you can repeat it.
11. Think in categories
Pick a category, such as “ice cream flavors,” “podcasts,” “soccer teams,” or anything else. Then take some time to list out, either mentally or physically, all of the different things that are in that category.
12. Envision yourself leaving the feelings
There are a handful of ways you can do this, but all in all, it is the same thing. Imagine yourself putting the emotions in a box, or walking away from the painful feelings. Imagine that your feelings are like the radio and you can just turn it off. Imagine in whatever way is helpful for you.
13. Notice & describe what is around you
Take some time and look around yourself, look at your surrounding,s and note everything that you see. Provide as much detail as possible and take note of how what is around you is making you feel as well.
14. Describe or do a common task
Think of an activity you do on a day-to-day basis. Go through each of the steps either mentally or if it makes sense go through them physically. Be intentional with each and every action that you have describe so a baby could understand how to accomplish the task.
These techniques are used to comfort yourself during a time of emotional distress. They can dampen the overwhelming negativity and boost all of the good feelings.
15. Practice self-kindness through genuine optimism
When I say self-kindness I am not talking about toxic positivity because that typically does more harm than good. I am talking about genuine optimism.
Remind yourself that you are doing your best, that you will make it through without discounting how hard the struggle is currently. Repeat it to yourself as many times as you need.
16. Picture someone or something you love
If you are picturing someone it can be either the voice or face or both. Imagine what it sounds like when they are talking with you. Remember and feel the comfort that it brings you. Focus on the good instead of the pain.
17. Touch something comforting
This can be whatever you want a blanket, shirt, smooth rock, mug, or anything that feels good to touch. Focus on how to feels and the sensation that body is having.
If you have something comfortable that you can wear put it on. Take some time to think about it on your how it feels when it drapes, or how the fabric feels on your skin.
18. Sit with your pet
Pets are a blessing from God if you can pet them. Feel how their fur, concentrate on their pulse or breathing. Allow yourself to be present with your pet without distractions.
If you are not with your pet in person, try to imagine the comfort that they bring you or the comfort that would be occurring if you were with them.
19. List your favorites & positive things
This can be in a specific category or a list of random things. Visualize each of them and take note of how they make you feel. Figure out what about them brings you happiness and comfort.
Grounding techniques are extremely important and they can help tremendously. Even if you personally do not suffer from something in which these techniques would be helpful I can almost guarantee that you know someone that does so it is just as important for you to know.