Grounding techniques are often recommended to help you calm down and refocus on the present by pulling away from negative or challenging thoughts and feelings, unwanted memories, stressors/anxiety, or flashbacks.
During moments of panic, stress or trauma flashbacks you can lose control over your thoughts and physical responses. Grounding techniques are tools that disrupt these responses and can allow your mind and body to return to a space of feeling safe and in control.
Not only can grounding benefit you in high moments of stress but if you incorporate it into your daily routine it can also be helpful with:
- Dissociation/Zoning Out
- Immune System Response
- Natural Detoxification
- Cell Repair
- Improve Blood Flow
- Reduce Inflammation
- Reduce Pain
- Improve Digestion
- Improved Sleep Cycle and Energy Levels
- Oxygenate Tissue
- Blood Sugar Regulation
- Adrenal Function
So How Can You Implement It?
It’s important to remember the phrase “practice makes perfect”, not all techniques will be effective or even work immediately, so it’s essential that you start with only a couple of techniques and initially only use them when things start to feel mildly stressful.
Sticking with one or two techniques at a time and using them repeatedly in moments of mild-to-moderate stress can allow you to practise the actions/thought processes that get you out of this state of distress and into a calm safe space so that when higher stress warnings come along it’s easier for you to react with those techniques.
Practise can also allow you to discover which techniques work best for you.
There are many different grounding techniques most of which involve focusing on your five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) and all of them require you to focus on your breathing, be sure that when you’re using these techniques slow your breathing and use big deep breaths.
Here are a few grounding techniques you can try, to get started and lead you to find what works best for you:
- Nature Immersion Therapy: lay down, sit, stand barefoot, or even walk on the grass/sand/dirt.
- Submersing in Water: walking through a clear lake, swimming in the ocean, gently floating in a bath, sitting/standing in the shower, putting your hands in running water and slightly change the water temperature to feel the difference, even splashing water on your face.
- Body Scan: Focus on points of contact – if you’re seated (the parts of your body touching the chair, how they feel, how the chair feels) or standing (where your feet are touching the ground, how are you standing), what do the clothes on your body feel like against your skin, when breathing how does your chest move (continue your focus out) what are your abdominal muscles doing in response and so on.
- Spatial Awareness: What’s around you and where are you in relation to it, use your five senses what can you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? Is there one sense in particular you can focus on, if not all, for example, what do you hear right nearby and continue out until you reach as far as you can hear?
- Anchoring Phrase: Say who you are, your age, where you are, what you just did, what you are doing, what you’re going to do next. You can add more statements, change some and use as much detail as you want.
- Breathing: Sometimes just breathing can help, take ten breaths, make sure they’re deep and slow, focus on the air as it comes in and as it goes out, focus on how it feels to have the air enter and exit your lungs, and quietly say the number of the breath with each exhale.
- Food and Drink: do you have a glass or mug in your hands, hold it and feel the temperature as it moves through your hands and slightly up your arms. What does your drink or food look like, what is it doing to the air around it, is there steam or does the air feel cool when you put your hand close to it? Have a small sip or bite of something and move it around your mouth, how does it taste and feel? Is there ice or condensation, how long does it take to start melting, allow the melting process to capture your full attention and solely focus on that.
- Movement: Get up and walk around, stretch, stamp your feet or clap your hands, feel that sensation of impact and connection as your feet touch the ground with every step, and listen to the sounds made.
- Gardening: If you have a garden or like gardening, connect with the soil and plants through your fingers by tending to them.
- Visualisation: Imagine roots growing from where you are connecting with the earth, see how it stabilises you, anchoring you in place, as you breathe deep and slow breaths the roots grow, they’re not constricting, they’re just here for support and stability, allow yourself to take comfort in yourself and your location.
- Grounding Equipment: There are also grounding mats, sheets, socks and other equipment that replicate the electric current of the earth so that you may ground yourself indoors if going outside isn’t an option.
These are just a few examples of the many different grounding techniques out there that you could try.
Many grounding advocates recommend being outside when using grounding techniques as that can make them more effective (be sure to practice any of these actions safely and away from dangers).
Grounding isn’t always going to be easy, it can take some time to learn the techniques and find what works for you in which situations so it’s important to practice, not overthink your actions, stick with what makes you feel comfortable, don’t focus on how you mentally or emotionally feel during the exercise and check in with yourself to see what’s working and what isn’t by taking note of your distress before and after your exercises if you can.
You might even find keeping track of the grounding exercises you’re doing and what about them worked, what didn’t and what you might want to change in the future can help you find or even create the best grounding techniques for you.
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