A grounding technique is simply a type of tool within the cognitive behavioural therapy framework used to help an individual learn to ‘ground’ him or herself and in doing so to be better able to keep themselves in the present.
There are a variety of conditions which may result in a person feeling such extreme levels of anxiety that causes the person to feel numb, as if the individual is in a dream, or feeling that they have lost touch with the present environment.
Individuals who may be likely to benefit from learning self-grounding methods include those suffering from anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder and especially in situations where a person may be suffering flashbacks as a result of trauma, such as rape or physical abuse.
Below is a list of grounding techniques that I have compiled over the years. Once you have found grounding techniques that work for you, write them out and keep them handy to ensure you use them when you need them.
- Stomp your feet to remind yourself where you are. Press your feet firmly into the ground.
- Try to notice where you are, your surroundings, including the people or the sounds around you, like the TV or radio.
- Concentrate on your breathing. Take a deep, cleansing breath from your diaphragm. Count the breaths as you exhale. Make sure you breath slowly so you don’t hyperventilate.
- Cross your legs and arms. Feel the sensations of you controlling your body.
- Call a friend and ask them to talk to you about something you have recently done together.
- Take a warm, relaxing bubble bath or a warm shower. Feel the water touching your body.
- Keep a rubber band on your wrist and pluck it. Feel the slight sting as it touches your skin.
- Find your pulse on your wrist and count the beats per minute. Concentrate on feeling the blood pulse throughout your body.
- Go outside and sit against a tree. Feel the bark pressing against your body. Smell the outside aromas like the grass and the leaves. Run your fingers through the grass.
- If you are sitting, stand. If you are standing, sit. Pay attention to the movement change. Reminding yourself, you are in control.
- Rub your palms, clap your hands. Listen to the sounds. Feel the sensation.
- Speak out loud.
- Hold something that you find comforting. For some it may be a stuffed animal or blanket. Notice how it feels in your hands.
- Eat something. How does it taste? Sweet or sour? Is it warm or cold?
- If you have a pet, pat them and feel their fur beneath your hand. Say the pet’s name out loud.
- Go to a mirror and make yourself smile. Watch your reflection as your expression changes. How does it make you feel?
- Visualise a bright red STOP sign, to help you stop the flashback and/or memory.
- Step outside. If it is warm, feel the sun shining down on your face. If it is cold, feel the breeze. How does it make your body feel?
- During a non-crisis time, make a list of things that are in your house and what room they are in. Give this list to friends that you can call so they can remind you what is around you.
- During a non-crisis time make a list of positive affirmations. Print them out and keep them handy for when you are having a flashback. Read the list out loud.
- Take a walk outside and notice what is there. Pay attention to houses and count them.
- Listen to familiar music and sing along to it. Dance to it.
- Make a list of known triggers and give it to your counsellor. Ask them if they can help you find a way to desensitise those triggers so they aren’t quite so powerful.
- Write in your journal.
- Imagine youself in a safe place. Feel the safety and know it.
- Watch a favourite TV program or video. Play a video game.
- Meditate, if you are comfortable doing it.
- Exercise. Ride a bike, lift weights or go for a walk.