Grounding techniques are used to help us stay in the present moment, to bring us back from the past, to help us stop worrying so much about the future. They help us come back to reality and can be extremely helpful in managing anxiety, stress, and other overwhelming emotions. Grounding techniques have the ability to help a person regain control of their body, their mental focus, and perhaps their breathing. Grounding is also often used as a way of coping with flashbacks or dissociation for those who may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or disassociation. Not only are grounding techniques helpful for assisting us in returning to the present, decreasing stress and anxiety, and increasing our overall mood, they also have the ability help with immune support, more restful sleep, reducing inflammation, and improving blood flow.
Using grounding techniques is a great coping mechanism that can help get you out of your own head. Often times we get stuck in an uncomfortable spiral, and forget that we are in control and have the ability to work through the discomfort and bring ourselves back. Grounding techniques often (but not always) use the five senses—sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight—to immediately connect you with the here and now. Often times when clients are struggling, either individually or in a group setting, pausing and facilitating a grounding technique can be beneficial for either the individual or the group. It is a beneficial skill to learn as it can be done virtually anywhere, and there are a number of helpful techniques so it's likely there is one that can work for you.
For example, I had a group who became dysregulated during talk therapy, I paused the group, and explained that we were going to try something together. We all took a moment to see what we could hear, what we could smell, what, if anything we could taste, to notice touch of some sort, for many it was what the chair felt like against their bodies, or what the fidget they may have been using felt like, lastly and smells in the room. Each participant heard something slightly different, they all smelt the same essential oil in the space, they saw something they were able to focus on, described the item in their hand in a very specific way or how the chair felt against their body, only one group member had something for taste. In discussion, everyone overall reported less anxiety, that it became easier to breathe, and that the felt slightly better than before this practice. Several days later it was reported that they had been doing this on their own, and that they were able to fall asleep easier, and bring themselves back from distressing moments.
Grounding techniques can be something as simple as rubbing lotion into your hands and noticing the sensations, or eating a spicy or sour candy. Deep breathing and other breathing techniques may also help ground us. Journaling, doing a brain dump, writing a letter to someone or yourself can all help and be considered grounding exercises. Change of scenery or temperature, this may simply mean walking outside, walking your pet, or standing in front of a fan. It could also be running your hands or feet under cold water or ice diving. Coloring, listening to music and singing along, focusing on your routine and getting ready for the day or for bed, looking for 5 objects that are round, red, blue, square, ect.. can also be helpful.
You may have to practice these things in order for them to be truly beneficial and get the most out of them. What works well for one person may not work as well for someone else, there is some trial and error involved, but it's recommended to keep trying! Many grounding techniques can be done anywhere, home, school, work, and in public. They help us come back to or remain in the present moment. Utilizing grounding techniques helps us re-center our mind, body, and soul to return to a calm or neutral state. Being present can be uncomfortable, however, its imperative for ones overall well being. Remaining un-grounded means that we are more vulnerable. Most of the stress and anxiety come from the disconnect from our bodies, the more centered and rooted you are, the less intense these uncomfortable feelings will be, and perhaps they will be less frequent or intense.
Here is a list of my top 10 favorite grounding techniques:
Take a short walk, being mindful of your surroundings, what can you hear, are there any smells in the air? what does the air feel like on your face? What can you see?
Deep breathing. Slowly inhale, then exhale. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath, or perhaps "inhale" and "exhale".
Move your body. Stretch, practice yoga, jumping jacks, push ups, ect. Pay attention to your body, how does it feel with each movement? What do you notice? and what, if anything comes up for you.
Try the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Notice things using your scenes, working backwards from 5. An example is 5 things you see, four things you hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you smell, and 1 that you can taste.
Spend time with a pet. Notice how they feel to touch, is they have a slimy or rough tongue if they lick you, can you hear or see their breathing.
Visualize your favorite place. Perhaps it's the beach, what does the sand feel like under your toes? what does the water sound like? what can you see around you?
Listen to your favorite song. Focus on the words, the beat, the instrumentals.
Squeeze an ice cube. The cold sensation in your closed fist will make it hard to focus on much else, and the cold changes your body temperature, and the water starts to drip through your fingers.
Use spicy or sour candy. A fireball or warhead is sure to steal your attention and bring you back to the present moment.
Practice self-kindness. Repeat kind words to yourself, be compassionate with yourself. positive self-talk goes a long way!