21 grounding techniques to get you back in the moment

by | Jun 20, 2018

grounding

Sometimes what’s going on in the moment is so overwhelming that we find ourselves in another dimension. And as badly as we want to return to “normal,” we don’t know how. Let’s talk about grounding techniques…

According to PTSD pro Dr. Matthew Tull, grounding is a specific coping strategy designed to, well, ground us, immediately establishing a (re)connection with the present moment.

Article reviewed and updated 5.8.23.

I know you can relate: trauma, PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder – any of them can take us from the moment to dimensions we want nothing to do with.

To the max, that can include dissociative states such as derealization and depersonalization.

Yikes!

I’ve been there, and I know that when it happens the one and only thing you want to do is get back to “normal” – now.

So how are we going to do that? Grounding techniques.

What is grounding?

According to PTSD pro Dr. Matthew Tull, grounding is a specific coping strategy designed to, well, ground us, immediately establishing a (re)connection with the present moment. Tull considers grounding a variant of mindfulness.

In addition to reestablishing our connection with the moment, Dr. Tull believes grounding reduces the likelihood of slipping into, say, a dissociative state or a flashback.

He emphasizes that for grounding to be effective the chosen technique has to be sufficiently attention-grabbing.

But maybe most important of all, the technique becomes easier to do and works faster and better with practice.

Let’s get to our list…

21 grounding techniques to get you back in the moment

Do I have PTSD

It can be that simple

As you review the list, please keep in mind that “warm and fuzzy” isn’t always the rule.

This is about attention-grabbing, and something “cold and scratchy” may work better for you.

And notice the techniques may use all five senses, as well as doing things that involve supporting the weight of the body.

Finally, to use some of the techniques you’ll have to have some props readily available.

Here we go…

  1. Press your feet firmly into the ground, reminding yourself where you are
  2. Take an inventory of everything around you. Identify the colors, patterns, and styles you see – count the pieces of furniture.
  3. Touch textures: fabrics, wall coverings, clothing
  4. Listen to or create music or sounds, especially feeling the vibration
  5. Hold on to an ice cube or rub it on your skin
  6. Sniff strong peppermint
  7. Cut your fingernails
  8. Bite into a lemon or lime
  9. Move your hands along the physical outline of your body
  10. Move: change your position, cross your legs or arms, tap your feet, wiggle your fingers, jump up and down
  11. Quickly crank up the volume on whatever you’re listening to
  12. Run your fingers through your hair, tugging on it every few passes
  13. Significantly change the temperature of your immediate surroundings
  14. Get your voice going: call out your name, read something aloud
  15. Write or draw, even if it’s purposeless doodling
  16. Rub, handle, or play with a polished stone, soft or rough piece of cloth, beads, or a chain
  17. Stretch, massaging specific muscles that you know need to loosen up
  18. Put a piece of hard candy or something crunchy, even sour, in your mouth and do some quick sucking and chomping
  19. Grab a pen and click away to your heart’s desire
  20. Count something: floor or ceiling tiles, cars, people
  21. Make sustained low-pitched humming sounds

So there you have it. Now, that’s only 21 “grounders.” Surely you know there are many more. Get creative.

One other thought. We’ve been talking about using grounding techniques in response to disorder-driven immediate distress. But what if we’re consistently doing these things and have no idea some sort of disorder may be at play?

Seems like a valuable hint to me.

You just never know

Most anyone enduring trauma, PTSD, an anxiety disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder knows how unsettling it is when being in the moment feels threatening.

I encourage you to find grounding techniques that work well for you – and practice them. You just never know when they’ll come in handy.

The scoop on Dr. Matthew Tull.

Thanks to James Madison University Counseling Center for the info, as well as Heidi Hanson at The Art of Healing Trauma.

There are tons of Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles waiting for you. Please check out the titles.

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