It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, or worried from time to time. The goal is to not stay there. Grounding techniques can be very helpful in regulating mood and directing attention away from debilitating stress and/or to help de-escalate anger. Grounding helps to channel calmer feelings and redirect painful, damaging, or negative thoughts and feelings to bring attention to the present moment.
Grounding can be implemented in multiple ways, making use of our senses (what we feel, smell, taste, etc). Imagine, for example, sitting on a park bench, and refocusing your attention from something stressful to attention to how your fingers feel wrapped around the slats of the bench along the side of your thighs, almost as though cradling you snugly in place. Grounding can be a refocusing on facts instead of thoughts. When we feel badly, our thoughts are often skewed; our interpretations are not necessarily based in reality and decisions made at such times may not be in our best interest or the interests of our loved ones. It can help very much to thus engage in self-soothing techniques to better regulate our feelings and feel more stable so that we are better positioned to optimize our cognitive resources and make responsible choices not rooted in unstable feelings.
Grounding techniques can help in many types of situations where you’d want to redirect/replace disturbing thoughts or feelings and can be especially helpful in regulating and reducing anxiety; post-traumatic stress disorder; food, smoking, or substance use cravings; dissociative episodes; depressive episodes or suicidal thoughts; pain; and anger among many other conditions.
HealthLine posted a great article with 30 Grounding Techniques to Quiet Distressing Thoughts. A few that are easy to begin using right away in most scenarios include:
- Focus on biographical facts: In your head (or outloud in private), recite your childhood address, full names of your parents/children/siblings, age of your family members, name of your childhood schools/university; date of birth of significant family members, etc. Specifically focus on data that is least likely to activate negative emotions.
- Put your hands in water: Focus on how the water temperature feels and how this sensation feels on your fingertips, palms, backs of your hands. What parents of your hand/fingers feels different? Try to avoid analyzing why a sensation would feel different, and simply observe what you notice objectively. Notice how different water temperatures feel.
- Pick up or touch items near you: Touch can be a powerful sensory distraction. Have you ever noticed some people keep a rabbits foot in their pocket? For some, this serves superstitious comfort; for others, this is a great sensory aide. The feeling of the fur among their fingers can be a very comforting subject for focus, helping to get their attention away from negative stimuli and only something soft. Some imagine a warmth when touching soft, furry objects, similar to the sensation of petting a dog/cat. You might also consider the weight of the object you touch. Is it heavy? Light? What is the texture, rough? Soft? Textured? Does an image come to mind when you touch it? What colors do you notice? The more creative and specific, the more effective the use of this technique. Please consider hygiene factors, and use proper hand-washing techniques if using this one.
- Listen to your surroundings: Focus on noises around you. What do you notice? What do you hear? Do you hear the sound of people talking? What do you notice about the sound of their voice? Is there an accent? Be careful not to make assumptions about what they may be saying or interpreting how they might be feeling/communicating. Focus on the words, not interpretation. Interpretations are dangerously like assumptions absent facts/data. What else do you hear? Do you hear the sound of the wind? Birds or dogs? Traffic? Sirens? Horns? Phones?
- My personal favorite: The 5-4-3-2-1 methodbecause it engages your cognitive resources more deeply as a positive distraction. Work backward from 5 and again use your senses to list things you notice around you. You can set each number as you wish. The example offered byHealthLine suggests: You might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting/standing, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Again, please be careful of hygiene/safety factors and eat only items that are nutritionally sound. Notice the little things you might otherwise overlook, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet, th or the hum of your computer. Notice the richness of the green of the grass or leaves around you, the base of music that might be playing, etc.
Definitely check out the HealthLine article for more fabulous suggestions on grounding and consider sharing with others in your network!
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