Grounding Techniques - Mental, Physical and Soothing.
What is grounding?
Grounding is a set of strategies to detach from the emotional pain inside, such as anger or sadness, and instead channeling it into focusing on the external world - rather than inward towards yourself. During dissociation, especially, people can be overwhelmed with the amount of detachment they feel from the immediate world around them; the world may seem foreign or completely silly, so think of "grounding" as a form of distraction or a safe place away from the jumbled mess of emotions.
Why do grounding?
When people get overwhelmed with emotional pain, detachment from that pain can go a long way in gaining control over your feelings - these grounding techniques "anchor" you to the present and, more importantly, reality. Many people who suffer from things such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, overwhelming emotions/memories or even the numbness that dissociation brings use the grounding techniques to allow themselves to feel better, as well as feel more comfortable in a seemingly intense roller coaster of emotions.
Here's some general guidelines, or some answers to frequently asked questions:
Ways of grounding.
- Grounding can be done at any time and any place that you feel as though you could be triggered or already have been triggered.
- Use grounding whenever you are faced with a trigger, dissociated or whenever you feel as though your emotional pain goes above a "6" on the scale from 0-10.
- Keep your eyes open, scan the room and turn the light on to stay in touch with the present.
- Rate your mood before and after grounding, to test whether it worked. Before grounding, rate your level of emotion pain (0-10, where 10 means "extreme pain"). Then re-rate it afterwards. Has it gone down?
- No talking about negative feelings or journal writing - you want to distract away from negative feelings, not get in touch with them.
- Stay neutral - avoid judgement of "good" and "bad". For example: instead of "the walls are blue, I dislike blue because it reminds me of depression," simply say, "The walls are blue" and move on.
- Focus on the present, not the past or future.
- Note the grounding is not the same as relaxation training. Ground is much more active, focuses on distraction strategies and is intended to help extreme negative feelings. It is believe to be more effective than relaxation training.
There are multiple ways to ground; the three most prominent ways are - "Mental", which means focusing on your mind; "Physical", which means focusing on your senses such as touch, hearing, etc.; and "Soothing", which means talking to yourself in a very kind way. You may find that one type works for you more than the rest - some people have better luck with mental than physical, it just takes some trial and error.
I will proceed to list some great methods for each grounding, all taken from one source. I believe quoting all of it would completely take up the page with an enormous box, so I'll just leave the source at the bottom of the page. This was taken from Behavioral Health Resources.
- Play a game of "categories" - try to think of "types of dogs," "jazz musicians," "states that begin with 'A'".
- Do an age progression. If you have regressed to a younger age, you can slowly work your way back up until you are back to your current age.
- Describe an everyday activity in great detail - example: describe the meal that you cook.
- Say a safety statement. "My name is _"; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not in the past."
- Read something, saying each word to yourself. Read each letter backwards so that you focus on the letters and not on the meaning of the words.
- Use humor. Think of something funny to jolt yourself out of your mood.
- Count to ten or say the alphabet, very ..slowly..
- Run cool or warm water over your hands.
- Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can.
- Touch various objects around you: a pen, keys, your clothing, the wall.
- Dig your heels into the floor - literally "grounding" them! Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this.
- Carry a grounding object in your pocket, which you can touch whenever you feel triggered.
- Jump up and down.
- Notice your body: the weight of your body, the feel of your chair against your back.
- Stretch. Roll your head around; extend your fingers.
- Clench and release your firsts.
- Walk slowly; notice each footstep, saying "left" or "right".
- Eat something, describing the flavors in detail to yourself.
- Focus on your breathing, notice each inhale and exhale.
What if grounding fails?
- Say kind statements, as if you were talking to a small child - for example, you are a good person, you'll get through this."
- Think of favorites. Think of your favorite color, animal, season, food, time of day.
- Picture people you care about, look at a photograph of them.
- Remember the words to an inspiring song, quote or poem.
- Remember a safe place. Describe the place that you find so soothing.
- Say a coping statement: "I can handle this."
- Plan a safe treat for yourself, such as a certain desert.
- Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week - perhaps time with a friend, going to a movie, etc..
Grounding works, but practice makes perfect. Practice as long as possible, even when you feel as though you may not need it - when you do practice it, try it for a long time, possibly even a half an hour. Take note of the methods that you enjoy and start grounding early in a negative mood cycle to get the best effect. Like I said, grounding does work, you just have to give it some time, practice and consideration - what else do you have to lose, eh?
Nov 15 2013 11:27 AM
Thanks for writing this man!
Nov 18 2013 04:13 PM
Yay... Well done Solomon!
People on this site need to ground regularly.
Mar 09 2014 04:17 PM
love looking at this when I feel lost thanks friend
Mar 09 2014 05:06 PM
love looking at this when I feel lost thanks friend
Anytime, man, anytime.