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Grounding techniques: A coping strategy to ground you in the present moment


Grounding is a particular type of coping strategy that is designed to "ground" you in, or immediately connect you with, the present moment. Grounding is often used as a way of coping with extreme emotions or experiences such as flashbacks or dissociation. Dissociation is a disconnection between a person's memories, feelings, behaviours, perceptions, and/or sense of self. This disconnection is automatic and completely out of the person's control. Dissociation is one way the mind copes with too much stress, such as during a traumatic event or if memories of this event are triggered in the present.

Because of its focus on being present in the moment, grounding can be considered a variant of mindfulness. It can also be a method of distraction to get you out of your head and away from upsetting thoughts, memories, or feelings.


Grounding is highly personal. What may work for one person may trigger anxiety or flashbacks in another. You may need to do some trial and error before you figure out what grounding techniques work best for you.


Grounding Techniques

To connect with the here and now, do something (or several things) that will bring all your attention to the present moment. Be sure to keep your eyes open while you're grounding yourself so you're aware of everything that's going on around you.


If you notice that you're slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, try some of these grounding techniques.


Sight

  1. Complete a crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search, or other puzzles.

  2. Count all the pieces of furniture around you.

  3. Play a distracting game on your tablet, computer, or smartphone.

  4. Put on your favourite movie or TV show.

  5. Read a book or magazine.

  6. Take a mental inventory of everything around you, such as all the colours and patterns you see, the sounds you hear, and the scents you smell. Saying this out loud is helpful too.

Smell

  1. Get some essential oils that remind you of good times (freshly cut grass, rain, clean laundry, or sugar cookies, for example) and smell one.

  2. Light a scented candle or melt scented wax.

  3. Sniff strong peppermint, which also has the benefit of having a soothing effect.

Sound

  1. Call a loved one.

  2. Put on some nature sounds such as birds chirping or waves crashing.

  3. Read out loud, whether it's a favourite children's book, a blog article, or the latest novel.

  4. Talk out loud about what you see, hear, or what you're thinking or doing.

  5. Turn up the radio or blast your favourite song.

Taste

  1. Bite into a lemon or lime.

  2. Let a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth, noticing how it tastes and feels as you roll it around with your tongue.

  3. Suck on a mint or chew peppermint or cinnamon gum.

  4. Take a bite of pepper or some hot salsa.

Touch

  1. Cuddle and pet your dog or cat if you have one.

  2. Drink a hot or cold beverage.

  3. Grab an article of clothing, a blanket, or a towel and knead it in your hands or hold it to your cheek. Concentrate on what it feels like.

  4. Hold an ice cube and let it melt in your hand.

  5. Massage your temples.

  6. Pop some bubble wrap.

  7. Put your hands under running cold water.

  8. Rub your hand lightly over the carpet or a piece of furniture, noting the texture.

  9. Take a hot or cool shower.

Other

  1. Dance.

  2. Go for a walk or run.

  3. Send a letter or card to someone you care about.

  4. Sit in another room or area for a change of scenery.

  5. Stretch your arms, neck, and legs.

  6. Take 10 slow, deep breaths.

  7. Write in a journal about how you're feeling or keep a list of prompts handy that you can use to decide what to write about.


Grounding Can Be Done Anywhere


The nice thing about using grounding as a coping technique is that many of these techniques can be done in any environment. You might be home alone or out in public, but once you feel that flashback or dissociation coming on, you can use grounding to move your focus back to the present.


Working on grounding takes dedication and it becomes easier over time. If these particular grounding techniques don't work for you, try something else. For example, some people find that a rubber band on their wrist is useful to snap them back to the moment. The ultimate goal is to live in the now and focus on the present when the past starts coming up. Watch this short video for some examples of grounding.




Dropping anchor


Another technique that uses the metaphor of yourself as a boat and your experiences such as thoughts, emotions, memories as the stormy sea. The aim is for you to drop your anchor to stabilise emotions. Watch the short video below:




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