"Grounding" is a technique that you can use to help you feel calmer and more in control.

When we have experienced trauma, we can, at times, feel overwhelmed by memories, thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we feel ‘triggered’ and experience very strong symptoms of trauma such as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and dissociation. Sometimes for no apparent reason we can start to feel really emotional, perhaps we  feel scared or perhaps we get really sad and tears start welling up and we’re not sure why, this can be when our body remembers something, is triggered into an old memory,  but perhaps our brain consciously doesn’t so we feel disconnected and unsure of what is going on. 

Grounding techniques are designed to help you be ‘grounded’ in the here and now – not thinking about the past or being overwhelmed by your thoughts or feelings.

They include ways that can help you feel more connected with your body and your surroundings. They also include techniques that refocus your attention away from unwanted memories, distressing thoughts or overwhelming feelings.

Grounding techniques can help you when you:

  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Experience a trigger
  • Feel panic or anxiety
  • Have distressing emotions
  • Have flashbacks or intrusive memories
  • Feel dissociated
  • Have the urge to self-harm

Grounding can be done anywhere, any place or any time and no one needs to know you are doing it. You can use grounding techniques when you are experiencing a trigger, when you feel a strong emotion, when you feel like using substances, are having a panic attack, or when you feel yourself dissociating. When this happens try and keep your eyes open to stay in touch with the present, try and focus on the here and now, not the past or future.

Here are several different grounding techniques, we have categorised them into three types: Mental Grounding, Physical Grounding and Soothing Grounding. Just remember some of these techniques might work for you but  some might not, but if you can keep trying to find the ones that help you most.

 

Mental Grounding

  1. Have a good look around and describe what you can see in detail, either in your head or out loud, for example. ‘I am in the park, I can see two big trees, there is a swing, leaves on the ground…….’
  2. Mental games, for example go through the alphabet thinking of different things such as cities, for example A is for Atlanta, B is for Barcelona, C is for Calais etc.
  3. Describe an everyday activity in detail, such as how to make a specific recipe, do it step by step, start by getting each ingredient out of the cupboard one by one, weighing them, putting the cooker on, mixing the ingredients one by one.
  4. Imagery, for example imagining a stop sign in your head, gliding on skates away from the pain, changing the ‘TV channel’ in your head to a better ‘show’ or imagining a wall as a buffer between you and the pain.
  5. Safety statements, thinking ‘I am safe now, I am in the present not the past, I am in this location and the date is……
  6. Use humour, think of something funny.
  7. Use concentration, say the alphabet backwards or count backwards from 100 in 7s.

 

Physical Grounding

  1. Run warm or cool water over your hands.
  2. Focus on your breathing, notice each breath in and each breath out, slow it down.
  3. Grab tightly onto your chair as hard as you can.
  4. Touch different objects, your pen, your keys etc.
  5. Dig your heels into the floor or stamp your feet; remind yourself that you are connected to the ground.
  6. Carry a grounding object in your pocket, a small pebble, a shell etc. in your pocket that you can touch whenever you feel triggered.
  7. Stretching, extend your arms fingers or legs as far as you can.
  8. Clench and release your fists.

 

Soothing Grounding

  1. Think of a safe place, it could be real or imagined, for example the beach, mountains etc.
  2. Say coping statements such as I can handle this, I have done it before, I'm safe now etc.
  3. Plan a safe treat such as a nice dinner, a nice long bath etc.
  4. Think of things you are looking forward to, like seeing a close friend.

 

What if grounding doesn’t work?

People who have used grounding say it does work but requires practise to make is as effective as possible. The more you practise it the better it will work, so try to do some every day, it will become automatic after a while. You don’t have to use the methods listed above, you can think up your own, you may find that it works far better for you. Try to start grounding as early as possible in a negative mood cycle, for example when you start to feel a little anxious, perhaps your hands start to feel a bit clammy, your heart starts to beat a little faster, your chest feels a little tight, or just after a flash back, try not to leave it until later. You can also teach family and friends about grounding so they can help if you become overwhelmed. Notice which method works best for you and lastly, don’t give up!