Grounding is a set of strategies to help you detach from emotional pain. It can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by your feelings and memories. By focusing your attention on the present you can lower your anxiety and reduce the symptoms of dissociation.
There are 3 ways to ground:
- Physically, by keeping your attention on the world around you.
- Mentally, by engaging your mind in a task.
- Soothing, which is a form of comforting yourself.
Try them all. Notice which methods work best for you and your parts.
- Run cool water over your hands.
- Lean hard into the floor with your heels, or stand up and stamp your feet. Notice how firm the ground is, and the pressure of your connection to it.
- Use the tips of your fingers to feel the surfaces around you, focusing on the feeling of the material. Describe it out loud.
- Carrying a grounding object, something with a distinct feeling that you can recognize, stroke or apply pressure to. Chair arms work for this too 🙂
- Wiggle every muscle in your body, starting at the toes and working your way up.
- Clench and release your fists in time to your breath.
- Take a walk and say ‘left’ or ‘right’ with each step respectively. If sitting, do it by tapping your feet.
- Name out loud every color you can see, then every square or circle.
- Play ‘categories’ with yourself. Name 5 thing in a category like: “foods that are red”, “wild animals in Australia”, “best Marvel villains”, “people who captained the Enterprise”. Try a theme, like 5 foods that are yellow, 5 that are green, and so on.
- Count forwards in multiples of a number, for example, count from 0 to 100 in multiples of 5. Once you’re stable with this, pick harder numbers, and do from 100 to 0 instead.
- Describe a boring task with several steps, like how to cook the most elaborate dish you know how, or how to change a tire.
- Make kind statements to yourself, as if you were talking to a child you love.
- Think of your favorite color, animal, food, tv show, book, game, etc, and imagine playing it.
- Close your eyes (the one exception!) and remember a safe place. Describe it, using all 5 senses, and describe how it makes you feel being there.
- Think of an upcoming event you’re excited about. If there are none, plan a treat for yourself. Even if it’s something simple and small, plan it. (And do it, ofc, after you calm down).
Putting It All Together
Write yourself a grounding strategy. It’s just a bullet point list of things you’ll try. It should have enough content to keep you busy for at least 10 minutes, ideally 20.
Put it everywhere you might need it. Phone, bathroom, closet, car, etc. Make a reminder to practice daily,so that when you need this muscle, it’s strong.
Tips for Beginners
- Get the app “PTSD Coach”, by the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). It includes grounding exercises and a sweet “3 minute calm down” guided recording to stop panic. Free on Andriod and iTunes.
- Lights on, eyes open. This is not a relaxation exercise, treat it like a workout.
- If it’s not distracting enough, make it more complicated and go through the list faster.
- Rate your mood on a scale of 1-10, before and after. Validate if what you’re doing is helping.
- Notice which methods work best for you and your parts.
That’s what’s in my DID toolbox, what’s in yours? Reply in the comments or hit me up on social media.