Would you believe this is the third time I’ve attempted to write and upload this post? They say three’s the charm, right? So let’s talk about grounding; what it is and why it’s important.
When a person dissociates or is suffering from derealisation or depersonalisation, they feel disconnected from themselves, their environment and reality. Grounding is a way of bringing a person back to the present in safe and creative ways. There are so many different types of grounding techniques, and it would take too long to list them all, so I’ll just mention a few of the main ones and you can always google others or even come up with your own techniques! Grounding is also a great way to relieve or even prevent anxiety and panic attacks brought on by flashbacks and triggers. Here is a list of types of techniques that you can try. Remember, don’t lose hope if some don’t work for you. Keep trying different ones until you find some that work. It might be helpful to have a pen and notebook with you when you try them so you can record how they worked or didn’t work. Don’t forget to mark the date, because if one doesn’t work one day, it might another day!
The 5 Senses
All grounding techniques use senses or cognitive/mental abilities. They’re designed to help you to focus on the ‘here and now’. The 5 senses we’ll talk about here are Sight, Sound, Smell, Taste and Touch. Try this:
· 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. ...
· 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. ...
· 3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. ...
· 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. ...
· 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.
It might help to have a small box (small enough to sit on your lap) with various objects that trigger your 5 senses. This can be your Self-Soothing go-to box for when you’re feeling dissociated or stressed. For example:
· Something textured that you can touch
· Some essential oil or perfume to smell
· Some extra strong mints to taste
· A bell or whistle to hear
· Something interesting like a shell, rock or a photo to see
· (Extra) Something that makes you happy
Sometimes you need something extra shocking to your senses to help ground you if you’re feeling particularly stressed or in danger of harming yourself. You might have tried the regular 5 senses techniques but found you’re still in a heightened state of Fight or Flight and need something more. Here are some ideas that are designed to cause a safe shock to your body for that instant relief:
· Hold ice-cubes in your hands (over the sink!) for as long as you can
· Take a cold shower
· Plunge your face or hands into a bucket of iced water
· Eat something very sour or spicy
· Eat a chili
· Wear a rubber band (loosely) around your wrist and ping it against your skin
Cognitive, Mental and Physical Grounding
Once you have managed to successfully bring yourself back to the present, it’s important to try to remain in the present. If whatever caused you to dissociate or become anxious is still around, you’ll need strategies to prevent a relapse. This is where using your brain power and physical body is great. It’s all about stretching your mental and physical muscles and becoming focused. Here are some ideas:
· Do a crossword puzzle
· Do a jigsaw puzzle
· Do a word search or Sudoku
· Learn a new skill
· Read a book
· Recite some poetry or read out loud from your favourite book
· Listen to music
· Go for a walk
· Paint or draw
· Do some baking/try out a new recipe
· Engage in conversation with someone
· Enjoy a cup of your favourite beverage
· Stroke a pet
The list goes on and on and what I’ve written here is by no means exhaustive. There are so many different grounding techniques and a quick Google search will reveal many different types. Find out what works for you. If you’re anything like me, it might take some time, but there will be something that works. So far I’ve only found 2 techniques that work for me, but I’m still looking and trying them. Don’t give up!
I’ll link some further resources below for you to check out. Leave me a comment and let me know what works for you! Happy grounding!
Grounding Safety Box – Multiplicity and Me
6 Grounding Tools for Coping with Anxiety – The Entropy System
Guided Meditation for Grounding – The Entropy System
All About Depersonalization and Derealization Disorders – The CTAD Clinic