• Grounding Techniques: Helping People with PTSD Stay in the Here-and-Now


    Several months ago, I accompanied my good friend Wanda for an eye exam. During the procedure, the doctor shined very bright lights into her eyes. In one second, the adult Wanda “went away.”

    The lights triggered a trauma response rooted in an unknown event in her past.

    The trigger was one Wanda had never experienced before, and it took several weeks for her to process the trauma. During those weeks, it was hard for her to focus, and she frequently zoned out. But since processing that experience, she’s learned hope to cope with the bright lights that are part of her regular eye exams. And the answer is using grounding techniques to stay in the here and now.

    Grounding techniques are simple strategies that help a person stay in the here-and-now when they detach from emotional pain.

    When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain, you need a way to detach so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. Grounding “anchors” you to the present and to reality. Grounding techniques are helpful for those who have PTSD, experience dissociation (zoning out), rage, or feel overwhelmed by their emotions.

    Use grounding when you feel triggered, enraged, dissociating, are having a craving, or when ever your emotional pain elevates above 6 (on a 0-10 scale). Grounding is active and focuses on distraction techniques.

    Types of Grounding:

    Mental grounding: Create categories: types of fruits, names that begin with H, breeds of dogs. Describe an activity in great detail, such as how to create a recipe or how to do something with a number of steps. Read something or recite something from memory. Do simple math problems.
    Physical grounding: Rub your hands together and focus on the warmth. Hold a cold can of soda. Count the charms on a bracelet and focus on the textures and shapes. Touch objects around you and name them. Rub your fingers over a smooth stone.
    Soothing grounding: Picture yourself in a safe place. Think about the people you love. Think about something you’re looking forward to. Think about an accomplishment you’re proud of. Sing a favorite song.

    Grounding needs practice. Don’t give up. The brain CAN be redirected away from the traumatic memory as you learn to refocus.

    What grounding techniques have you found to be effective?

6 Responsesso far.

  1. Maureen King says:

    This PTSD article is amazingly helpful! Thank you so much for sending it! It gives so much help and hope!

    • admin says:

      We’re so glad that you’ve found it helpful, Maureen. Sometimes small things can make a big difference in the day-to-day challenges we face. Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. mari says:

    Have PTSD. Found these tips most helpful. Also tried hypnotherapy and can now sleep at night without sleep aids.

    For me one trigger is violence on TV

  3. […] Grounding is a wonderful psych technique that is helpful for mental disorders like PTSD, Complex PTSD, and anxiety, all disorders that are frequently the cause of overwhelming or intrusive thoughts that won’t shut the heck up. Most caregivers probably don’t have any of those disorders, but it is my contention that this exercise would be most helpful to many under a great deal of stress or reaching unmanageable levels of anxiety associated with caregiving and its host of problems. I suppose I was reminded of yoga because of the emphasis on focusing on a particular thing (for different reasons). […]

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